University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: What South African Institutions Can Learn

University entrepreneurship and spinout companies related to them have seen an enormous amount of venture capital interest in recent years. Universities play an essential role in promoting entrepreneurship and supporting the growth of spinout companies, and the University of Cambridge, MIT, Stanford, INSEAD, and Berkeley are prime examples of such institutions. These universities have created a culture of entrepreneurship that has resulted in the development of successful spinout companies, job creation, and economic growth. Often working hand-in-hand with business incubators, accelerators and venture capital firms, there success is certainly noteworthy and important to learn from.

In February this year, The British Council showcased the success of its pilot program, Innovation for African Universities (IAU), during a panel discussion at the AIEA Annual Conference for Leaders of International Education in Washington DC. 

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies

The University of Cambridge, for instance, has launched more than 300 spinout companies, including Cambridge Display Technology and ARM Holdings, which have generated significant economic benefits. One key lesson that South African universities can learn from the University of Cambridge is the importance of strong technology transfer and commercialization offices. Another lesson is the significance of strong networks and partnerships with industry, government, and investors to help support the growth and success of spinout companies.

MIT has a strong culture of entrepreneurship that is fostered through a range of initiatives, including entrepreneurship courses, hackathons, and mentorship programs. MIT has also established resources and programs such as the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, which provides mentorship, resources, and funding to students and alumni looking to start companies. South African universities can learn from MIT’s approach to entrepreneurship by integrating entrepreneurship education into the curriculum and providing resources and support for entrepreneurs.

Stanford, on the other hand, has a strong culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that encourages researchers and students from different disciplines to work together on entrepreneurial projects. South African universities can foster similar collaborations to support the development of innovative and successful spinout companies.

In addition, universities can learn from these institutions’ efforts to create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship by establishing similar initiatives, such as entrepreneurship programs and initiatives that help students and faculty develop the skills and mindset needed to succeed as entrepreneurs. South African universities can also establish networks that connect their alumni, industry experts, and investors with current students and aspiring entrepreneurs to facilitate the flow of ideas, knowledge, and capital necessary for startup success.

Let.s look at some of these examples more closely.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: Stanford University

Stanford University is known as a global leader in entrepreneurship education and innovation. Its position in Silicon Valley has played a crucial role in its success, but it is also due to its unique approach to entrepreneurship education and its commitment to fostering a culture of innovation. There are several valuable lessons that other universities can learn from Stanford’s approach to creating a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Firstly, Stanford’s approach emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration. The university’s engineering, business, law, and design schools all work together to support entrepreneurship and innovation. This approach has enabled Stanford to develop a holistic approach to entrepreneurship that emphasizes problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. For example, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, known as the “,” brings together students and faculty from across the university to work on real-world problems and develop innovative solutions. The’s design thinking methodology has become widely recognized as a powerful tool for innovation and problem-solving.

Secondly, Stanford’s entrepreneurship program emphasizes experiential learning. The university offers a range of courses and programs that provide students with hands-on experience in entrepreneurship. For instance, the Stanford Venture Studio provides space, resources, and mentorship for student startups. Stanford also has a robust internship program that connects students with startups and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. This emphasis on experiential learning helps students develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Thirdly, Stanford’s commitment to innovation extends beyond the classroom. The university has a strong culture of entrepreneurship, and its alumni have founded some of the most successful companies in the world, including Google, Yahoo!, and PayPal. Stanford’s proximity to Silicon Valley and its network of alumni and industry partners also provide valuable resources and connections for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Stanford’s approach to entrepreneurship education has led to highly successful university spinouts. For instance, Google was founded by Stanford PhD students Sergey Brin and Larry Page. In 1998, Brin and Page started Google as a research project while they were still students at Stanford. Today, Google is one of the most successful companies in the world, with a market cap of over $1 trillion.

Another successful spinout from Stanford is LinkedIn, which was founded by Reid Hoffman, a graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Hoffman was inspired to create LinkedIn after his experience working on the founding team of PayPal, which was also founded by a group of Stanford alumni. Today, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking platform, with over 700 million members.

In conclusion, Stanford University’s approach to creating a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, experiential learning, and a culture of innovation. These principles have led to the creation of highly successful university spinouts such as Google and LinkedIn. Other universities can learn from Stanford’s approach by fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, providing students with hands-on experience in entrepreneurship, and promoting interdisciplinary collaboration. By doing so, universities can help to produce more successful entrepreneurs and contribute to the growth and development of their local economies.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: The University of California, Berkeley 

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is known for its research in engineering, entrepreneurship, and technology. Its entrepreneurship programs, including the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, provide resources such as mentorship, networking, and funding for students to start and grow their businesses. UC Berkeley has an extensive innovation ecosystem, including the Berkeley Innovation X Lab, the Skydeck accelerator, and the CITRIS Foundry startup accelerator, which offer aspiring entrepreneurs access to resources and networking opportunities with successful entrepreneurs and industry experts.

UC Berkeley’s success in producing successful entrepreneurs and spinout companies can be attributed to its research-driven culture and emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration. Students and faculty explore new ideas and technologies, identify commercial opportunities and work together to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. UC Berkeley has a rich history of successful spinout companies, including biotech company Gilead Sciences, semiconductor manufacturer Intel, and software company VMware.

South African universities can learn from UC Berkeley by fostering an entrepreneurial mindset and culture among students and faculty, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, and creating a supportive ecosystem that provides access to resources and networking opportunities with industry experts, successful entrepreneurs, and investors. This can be achieved by establishing entrepreneurship programs, accelerator programs, and incubators that encourage students from different faculties and departments to work together to develop innovative solutions. By adopting these principles, South African universities can produce successful entrepreneurs and spinout companies that contribute to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: The University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship. Its world-renowned research capabilities and close ties with industry have allowed it to establish a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem. In this essay, we will explore what we can learn from the University of Cambridge in creating a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem, with examples of highly successful university spinouts.

One of the key strengths of the University of Cambridge’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is its focus on translational research. The university’s research capabilities are well-known, and its technology transfer office, Cambridge Enterprise, is responsible for commercializing its research outputs. This allows researchers to develop their ideas into commercial products or services, creating spinout companies that can benefit both the university and the wider economy.

One example of a highly successful university spinout from the University of Cambridge is ARM Holdings. Founded in 1990, ARM is a world-leading semiconductor company that designs microprocessors used in a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles. ARM’s success can be attributed to its founders, who were researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, and their ability to commercialize their research.

Another key strength of the University of Cambridge’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is its support for startups. The university provides a range of resources and support for startups, including mentorship, access to funding, and incubation space. The Cambridge Innovation Center, for example, provides incubation space for startups, while the Cambridge Angels network connects startups with angel investors.

A notable example of a startup that has benefited from the University of Cambridge’s support is Darktrace. Founded in 2013, Darktrace is a cybersecurity company that uses artificial intelligence to detect and respond to cyber threats. The company’s founders were researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, and they received support from the university’s technology transfer office, Cambridge Enterprise, as well as the Cambridge Angels network. Today, Darktrace is valued at over $3 billion and has offices around the world.

Another key strength of the University of Cambridge’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is its focus on collaboration. The university works closely with industry partners to develop new products and services, and its researchers often collaborate with industry partners on research projects. This helps to ensure that research is relevant to industry needs and can be commercialized more easily.

An example of successful collaboration between the University of Cambridge and industry is AstraZeneca. The pharmaceutical company has a long-standing partnership with the University of Cambridge, with researchers from the university collaborating on drug discovery projects with AstraZeneca’s scientists. This collaboration has led to the development of several successful drugs, including Lynparza, a treatment for ovarian cancer.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: Insead Business School

Insead is a globally renowned graduate business school with campuses in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is consistently ranked as one of the top business schools in the world, particularly in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation. Insead has successfully fostered entrepreneurial mindsets among its students and faculty, leading to the creation of many successful startups and spinout companies. South African universities can learn a great deal from Insead’s approach to entrepreneurship.

One of the key strengths of Insead is its emphasis on experiential learning, particularly through its startup accelerator program, Launchpad. This program provides students with practical experience in developing and launching a startup, and connects them with mentors and investors who can provide valuable guidance and support. South African universities can learn from this approach by providing more opportunities for students to engage in real-world entrepreneurship activities, such as startup competitions, mentorship programs, and incubators. By providing students with the skills and experience necessary to launch and grow successful ventures, universities can help to create a culture of entrepreneurship that extends beyond the campus and into the wider community.

Insead also places a strong emphasis on collaboration and cross-disciplinary learning in entrepreneurship. The school encourages students to work across different disciplines and industries, and to learn from each other’s diverse experiences and perspectives. This approach helps to foster a culture of innovation and creativity, leading to the development of novel and disruptive ideas. South African universities can learn from this by promoting more interdisciplinary collaboration and creating opportunities for students to work on projects with peers from different faculties and departments. By encouraging cross-disciplinary learning and collaboration, universities can help to create a more diverse and innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies

Another key aspect of Insead’s approach to entrepreneurship is its global perspective. The school has a diverse student body from over 100 countries, and its faculty members have extensive experience working in different parts of the world. This global perspective is reflected in the school’s curriculum and research, which focuses on the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship in different regions and industries. South African universities can learn from this by adopting a more global outlook in their entrepreneurship programs and providing opportunities for students to gain international experience and exposure. By fostering a global mindset among its students and faculty, universities can help to create entrepreneurs who are better equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing and interconnected world.

Insead’s success in entrepreneurship is also due in part to its strong network of alumni and industry partners. The school has a large and active alumni community, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. In addition, Insead has established partnerships with a wide range of companies and organizations, which provide students with valuable networking and job opportunities. South African universities can learn from this by developing and nurturing their own networks of alumni and industry partners. By building strong relationships with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, universities can help to create a supportive and collaborative ecosystem that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies: MIT

MIT, the world-renowned research university, has become a hotbed for successful startups and spinout companies that have generated billions of dollars in economic value. What sets MIT apart is its unparalleled commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among its students, faculty, and alumni. So, what can South African universities learn from MIT’s approach to entrepreneurship and innovation?

The first and perhaps most important lesson is the need to integrate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum. At MIT, entrepreneurship is an integral part of the university’s mission and ethos. MIT offers a range of entrepreneurship courses and programs that are available to students from all disciplines and departments. These programs not only teach students the fundamentals of entrepreneurship but also provide them with hands-on experience and exposure to real-world challenges.

The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship is one of the most notable examples of MIT’s commitment to entrepreneurship education. It provides a wide range of programs and resources to help students and faculty turn their ideas into successful ventures. The center serves as a hub for entrepreneurship education, innovation, and collaboration at MIT. It also runs several programs that support social entrepreneurship, an increasingly important area of focus for many young entrepreneurs.

MIT’s focus on innovation and research is another key element of its approach to entrepreneurship. The university has a long tradition of groundbreaking research in science and engineering, which has led to the creation of numerous startups and spinout companies over the years. MIT has also recognized that innovation and entrepreneurship are not limited to the STEM fields. Therefore, it has created a range of interdisciplinary research initiatives and centers that bring together faculty and students from diverse disciplines to tackle complex problems and develop new solutions.

Finally, MIT’s strong support network has played a significant role in its success in entrepreneurship. The university has a vast network of alumni, mentors, and investors who actively support and invest in its startups and spinout companies. This network provides entrepreneurs with access to capital, expertise, and market opportunities, which are critical to the success of any startup. The MIT alumni network is also a source of inspiration and motivation for current students and aspiring entrepreneurs, who can learn from the experiences and successes of their predecessors.

University Entrepreneurship and Spinout Companies

South African universities have the opportunity to learn from the best practices of renowned institutions such as Cambridge, MIT, Stanford, INSEAD, and Berkeley. These institutions have demonstrated that by prioritizing entrepreneurship education, research, and support networks, and by cultivating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, they have been able to generate successful entrepreneurs and spinout companies. As global economies continue to evolve, driven by innovation and technology, South African universities must adapt to these changes and equip the next generation of entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed. By doing so, these institutions will play a vital role in driving entrepreneurial growth, job creation, and economic prosperity in the country.

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Matthew Musgrove

Matthew Musgrove

Matthew is an entrepreneur and business Advisor with a passion for change management and social empowerment. With a background in business accounting and advisory, as well clinical research project management, he strives to find strategic and sustainable solutions to business problems.



Mark Van Hoff comes from background of technical & production planning, budgeting & scheduling of major live events. As the first production co-ordinator at M-NET for Outside Broadcasts, Mark has managed major local and international productions including Miss South Africa, Miss World, multiple music events and major sports events, including the PnP Cycling Tour.​Mark co-founded Van-Man Productions in 1994, Page to Picture in 2000 and Move Media Networks in 2007. All three companies have achieved domestic success and have been well-regarded in the South African production industry.



Oluwaseun Adewuyi who is the Group Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Caban, is a Certified Chartered Accountant, with Fellowship status at both the ACCA as well as the Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, a UK Based industry body with a specific focus on the management of charities, not-for-profit organisations and NGOs.. Oluwaseun comes with strong business acumen and 20+ years of progressive experience in finance and operations management within well-reputed and high growth organisations Including Next Plc and Royal Mail. He has been heavily involved in impact investment across Sub-Saharan Africa and has been instrumental in the creation of a series of community schools in West Africa. Throughout his career, he oversaw a broad range of operations, including Business Strategy and Business Reorganisation, summarising the organisation’s financial status, and coordinating the preparation of tactical plans, financial forecasts, and budgets. Adept at developing and implementing effective internal control framework to maintain sound financial accountability.

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Tim Scholtz, who's is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Caban Investments, is experienced in implementing corporate governance guidelines, formulating risk management structures, process and cost optimization. Tim has a strong corporate background, having worked as COO at the South African Tourism board, was COO at the Nelson Mandela foundation and as a internal audit manager at Arthur Anderson earlier in his career.

Ben Botes


Ben Botes is Entrepreneur, VC, co-Founder, Author and Academic with a strong social conscience. Ben Involved with early stage and growth firms for the past 20 years and has been Co-founder of 9 separate businesses across Africa. Ben has directly and indirectly been involved in impact investment and the support of charities and non profits for the last 30 years. Ben is a regular speaker at the African Investment Conference in London and has been featured in Wall Street for Europe, The Guardian Small Business, BBC, the Mail and Guardian in the UK and BizCommunity, Channel 3 TV, Investors Weekly, The Cape Times, Radio 702 with John Robbie and Good Hope FM in South Africa

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Dave Romero is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur with a passion for making an impact. A qualified Professional Accountant, Dave has been a director in multiple financial institutions and was once the youngest Chairman on the JSE, in addition to being listed as one of Business Times’ Top 100 companies and the 40th fastest-growing company in South Africa. Dave is a core founder of the Caban Group, which aims to provide a comprehensive service offering to small businesses in return for equity. With a passion for nurturing entrepreneurs, Dave can often be found outside of the boardroom – offering advice, creating innovative funding solutions and building communities through sustainable practices.



Dr Ruben Richards is a truly inspirational South African leader. Through his peace-building seminars for criminal gangs, Dr Ruben has facilitated the longest ceasefire in the history of gang warfare on the Cape Flats. In addition to being Chairman & Founder of the non-profit Ruben Richards Foundation, Dr Ruben is an ordained cleric, company director, non-executive Chairman of Visual International Limited and was once the Deputy Director-General of the now-disbanded Scorpions.