An innovation management professor and venture investor with links to Massachusetts and Belgium, Jean-Jacques Degroof has a strong interest in initiatives such as the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC), which announced the awarding of prizes totaling $1.6 million to startups committed to broadening global opportunities.
One of the winners of the $250,000 grand prize was the mobile platform JobGet, which is designed to match employers with qualified low-income job seekers. Another winner, Reaktor Education, provides education on artificial intelligence through online coursework. Agros combines precision agriculture and remote sensing in providing small Latin American farmers with strategic assistance, while the online lender TiendaPago is designed to provide short term loans to “mom-and-pop” retailers.
An MIT Sloan School of Management principal research scientist described the importance of the award in encouraging positive dialogue about technologies among those who have become overly pessimistic as to the potential of automation to take away jobs. The award represents an opportunity to fund worthy projects while shifting the conversation toward the economic choices and advancements that technology also brings.
Jean-Jacques Degroof is a venture investor and professor of entrepreneurship with links to Massachusetts and Belgium. Through his extensive background in economics, Jean-Jacques Degroof was interested in the recent news that those honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics were focused on tackling inequality and poverty.
The three economists, Professor Abhijit Banerjee of MIT, Professor Micheal Kremer of Harvard University, and Professor Esther Duflo of MIT, undertook poverty research demonstrating that in poor countries, access to education is not always limited by a lack of resources. In many cases, the issue is that teaching is not adapted to the actual needs of individual learners and their life circumstances. Another core finding was that temporary fertilizer subsidies were more effective than permanent fertilizer subsidies in enabling poor farmers to boost productivity.
As described by the Financial Times, this type of work is not isolated but reflects “two very healthy tendencies” among economists over the past decades. One involves a focus on empirical theoretical modeling that better measures what occurs in the real world. The second is an openness to new methods of investigation, which includes learning from other academic disciplines.
In addition, the work focuses on those in need as “autonomous decision-makers” who confront informational, institutional, cognitive, and monetary limitations that prevent them from raising their standard of living. Through the work of economists such as those recently honored, fundamental problems faced by humanity may be tackled and resolved.
A venture investor and an entrepreneurship mentor at a variety of European business schools, Jean-Jacques Degroof frequently works in both Boston, Massachusetts, and Brussels, Belgium. Credited with growing several successful ventures, Jean-Jacques Degroof previously served as a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and supported to the MIT chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB).
Established in 2006, EWB-MIT seeks to promote the involvement of the MIT community in international development initiatives. While some international development programs focus exclusively on implementing new technologies, EWB-MIT instead emphasizes capacity-building for organizations and communities. Through a four- to five-year-long collaboration, EWB-MIT helps underdeveloped communities acquire the knowledge and resources needed to become more self-sustaining.
A past project of EWB-MIT involved helping 5,000 residents of Ddegeya, Uganda, who lacked a clean water source, basic medical services, and an energy source other than a limited supply of firewood. The EWB team worked with the community to develop a water filtration and distribution system, explore sustainable energy options, and implement an HIV prevention program.
An experienced investor and educator, Jean-Jacques Degroof currently works as a teacher of entrepreneurial subjects at various European business schools, as well as a mentor of young entrepreneurial teams. He spends additional time investing independently in a number of diverse business ventures. A graduate of the Catholic University of Louvain and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jean-Jacques Degroof studied management and industrial relations. Mr. Degroof also maintains an interest in the intersection of technology, entrepreneurship, and the arts, which can be seen at events like the annual MIT Creative Arts Competition.
Originally established in 2013, MIT’s Creative Arts Competition intends to foster start-ups focused on the arts. Winners receive $15,000 grants to help launch their businesses, as well as access to the START Studio, MIT’s makerspace and incubator for arts entrepreneurship. Participants spend the year-long competition working with mentors, including past winners, MIT alumni, and faculty members, to develop their business plans and prepare their pitches. In April, finalists present to a panel of judges before winners are chosen.
The 2019 first prize winner was Teach to Learn, a free online tool to connect musicians in countries with limited resources with mentors in the United States. Second prize went to Sky International Music Education, a program designed to bring music education resources to China through online lessons and the integration of AI to enhance learning. ArtNext, which uses a subscription-based model to provide curated art along with in-home curatorial services, took third prize at the competition.
Independent investor Jean-Jacques Degroof uses his experience to invest in numerous business ventures while supporting the translation of academic research into innovative solutions. To accomplish this, he spends time teaching several entrepreneurial classes at different business schools across Europe and mentoring young teams of entrepreneurs. Jean-Jacques Degroof completed studies in management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and maintains an interest in MIT’s programs, including in his work as a member of MIT Solve.
A hybrid between an idea marketplace and a business incubator, MIT Solve developed in 2015 as a natural extension of the school’s commitment to open innovation. Its mission is to bring together tech entrepreneurs to help develop and advance solutions to pressing problems across the world. By bringing these entrepreneurs together, MIT Solve can broker partnerships throughout the global community, helping to drive the innovative work taking place to create lasting change.
Each year, MIT Solve accepts applications to its Global Challenge initiative, where applicants submit solutions to world problems. Applications are accepted between March 1 and July 1, with finalists presenting their solutions at the Solve Challenge Finals. The finals take place in the month of September during the UN General Assembly Week in New York City. Finalists have the opportunity to access MIT Solve’s supportive community, and may also receive funding for their solutions. Applications are closed for 2019, but interested applicants should subscribe to the MIT Solve newsletter and watch for applications to open in 2020.
Jean-Jacques Degroof is committed to both venture investing and counseling young entrepreneurs. With a commitment to investing in projects that aim to make the world a better place, Jean-Jacques Degroof has maintained a close relationship with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including supporting research related to the Aging Brain Initiative.
Among its recent news, the Aging Brain Initiative has produced research results suggesting that sound and light treatments can improve memory and reduce cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's patients. The new research was completed on mice and based on the hypothesis that Alzheimer’s patients experience reduced gamma oscillation functionality.
Researchers achieved better outcomes when using the sound and light treatments in combination rather than separately. The non-invasive treatments induced gamma oscillations that reduced amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau protein, two Alzheimer’s-related pathogenic markers. Further, the treatments worked in multiple parts of the brain. After completing a trial on healthy human volunteers, the researchers plan to begin testing the treatment on individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
A teacher and venture investor, Jean-Jacques Degroof has furnished business counseling services to young entrepreneurs with a focus on technology since 2000. To this practice, Jean-Jacques Degroof brings experience as a teaching assistant and affiliate researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Soon after President John F. Kennedy announced what would become the Apollo space program, the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory received a contract to complete work for the initiative. While MIT has received recognition for creating the guidance and navigation system fundamental to the journey to the moon, the institution's role in the Apollo program also extends to the areas of biomedical studies, simulation technology, geophysics, and mechanical and computational engineering. Here are three lesser-known contributions MIT made as part of Apollo.
Seismic Monitoring Station
Professor Nafi Toksoz developed an innovative seismic monitoring station to be placed on the moon that would reveal insights into the moon's formation and structure. One of the first discoveries was that the moon has almost no water.
A Pioneering Compiler Language
One of the first compiler languages ever written for the purpose of computer programming was developed by MIT Instrumentation Lab engineer Hal Laning. Called MAC, the language was rooted in a system of "verbs," or actions to be performed.
Astronauts on the Apollo 11 mission and those that followed it returned with lunar rock samples, and MIT professor Gene Simmons and others at the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Atmospheric Sciences (EAPS) have studied them ever since. The rocks have helped scientists understand how the Earth and other planets were formed.
Since 2010, Jean-Jacques Degroof has counseled young entrepreneurs in Europe and the United States. A graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Jean-Jacques Degroof leverages his experience as a former teaching assistant and researcher at the Sloan School of Management to his mentoring and teaching services.
An institution of higher learning based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT has helped the members of its community who possess promising business ideas through its Venture Mentoring Service (VMS) since the year 2000. In addition, VMS expanded with its outreach program launched in 2006 as a way to spread the unique program to other organizations and since became a model for other educational organizations seeking to embrace the topic of entrepreneurship.
The VMS program centers on building a collaborative partnership between young entrepreneurs and experienced mentors through confidential meetings. The meetings feature a rigorous structure to avoid conflicts of interest. Anyone who is a member of the MIT community can begin using VMS, regardless of whether they are working on a new or evolved project. Mentors provide their services voluntarily.
With more than 30 years of experience in investments and finance, Jean-Jacques Degroof is a mentor and teacher who focuses on young entrepreneurs. Jean-Jacques Degroof has been heavily involved with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including as a student and a researcher. He also has been a supporter of MIT’s mentoring program, the Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), which began almost two decades ago.
The VMS, a team-based mentoring program, continues to grow, and is now being used at other institutions. The program gives budding entrepreneurs access to a team of volunteer mentors who provide support and advice as they grow their business through a structured process in all confidentiality.
Ariane Martins, VMS' Outreach Training Project manager, notes that the structured, team-based approach to mentoring has provided tangible value to entrepreneurs in the past few years as they have sought to grow their businesses. In 2019, VMS had assisted more than 2,500 entrepreneurs belonging to 1,450 ventures, which raised in investment and grants in excess of $1.44 billion.
A summa cum laude graduate of the Catholic University of Louvain (UCLouvain) in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, Jean-Jacques Degroof went on to earn his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As an educator and venture investor, he has long championed technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship. Jean-Jacques Degroof was instrumental in establishing an MIT Global Startup Labs (GSL) at UCLouvain in the summer of 2018.
The MIT GSL at UCLouvain, a free program, involved the selection of 20 students, young professionals, or researchers from UCLouvain partner companies. These young individuals must be enthusiastic about establishing a startup. The selected participants were immersed in a 6-week program of lectures and workshops in the summer of 2018 under the tutelage of 4 to 5 MIT student/instructors. The attendees then participated in a one-day demo event.
Launched in 2000, the MIT GSL fosters development by partnering with universities in emerging/chosen regions and formulates advanced courses handled by MIT instructor/students. Internet and mobile technologies are the focus of these courses, which are designed so that participants become aware of the technologies' business potential. To date, over 2,750 entrepreneur participants in 15 countries have undergone this real-world startup incubation mentorship.