Starting a Company Based on Your Research: the Culture Shift

Some academic researchers have entrepreneurial ambitions; these can come in the form of wanting to commercialize research, license IP, or fully shifting careers from researcher to startup entrepreneur.

For researchers who are looking to collaborate on a project with a commercial partner or create their own venture based on university research, a culture shift will be part of the learning curve. There are some key differences between academia and the startup world that are vital to make the transition a success.

For example, there is a difference between writing academic papers and grants, and writing a compelling pitch. Mastering the latter requires some skill development for new entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are expected to communicate how what they are working on will impact an industry, society and the world – and how they plan to make money along the way.

There are many resources available to help researchers communicate their ideas in a compelling way. For example:

1. Attend startup demo days.

There is no better way to understand what makes for a strong business case than to see other hopeful startups pitch their ideas live. Some pitches flop. Some pitches make the audience buzz with excitement. Watching pitch sessions at conferences and incubators are a great way to learn best practices.

2. Stay on top of the news.

A researcher who wants to commercialize a novel recycling method should track related terms, focusing on academic journals and trade publications. They should know about the startups or research teams that are working on the same topic, and keep track of their progress.

3. Use the university’s entrepreneurship resources.

Most universities have resources to help new startups get off the ground. (Your TTO may be able to help you join .)

Working on Corporate Time

Deadlines are different in the business world. Businesses operate in accordance to their bottom line and profitability, while researchers strive to complete a goal or discovery.

In the context of a partnership, the distinction between academic deadlines and business deadlines can pose a challenge due to the nature of researchers’ obligations at the university. Expectations should be well understood ahead of an agreement.

In a startup context, even before a partner becomes involved, it is important to understand the new time pressures for startups. In an academic research environment there is more room to think about a project, problem, and potential solutions. In a startup environment, timelines and deliverables are king.


To publish or not to publish?

Industry is notoriously secretive about R&D whereas university researchers are typicall eager to publish results.  As an entrepreneur, some considerations must be made before sharing successes.

Interested in connecting with enterprise partners, technology transfer offices, and research labs? Join seedsprint. Researchers and startups join free.



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