What’s the difference between an academic and an entrepreneur? No, this is not a cheesy joke, with a slapstick answer. . . but in reality there are a lot of similarities in working in academia and working in a startup. Both are very driven to succeed, having tested assumptions (to either a “yes it works” or “no it doesn’t” answer), followed processes through great uncertainty (both in their ideas and their income!) in order to follow a path they believe in.
The blog Pragmatic Startups suggests that both the academic and the entrepreneur have the same hopes and dreams (broadly speaking) and same fear of failure, while working in a very complex and sometimes unforgiving environment.
Assumptions: The starting point for both an entrepreneur and an academic is an assumption.
Process: Measure, test and determine if the idea is good, and if not, why not? Are tangents better to explore (aka the pivot)
Environment: intellectually stimulating, and full of uncertainty, including if someone is going to steal your idea and make millions.
Broke: Both generally have little money in the beginning. Both are usually looking for funding of some sort.
Binary payoffs: It either works or it doesn’t. Yes or no.
Cause driven: Most of the time, both academics and entrepreneurs are doing it because of passion, driven by a need to make a difference in some way. The validation of their ideas.
Timing: Timing is everything. . . researching or developing something topical will inevitably help your research or venture.
Testing a hypothesis or questioning assumptions. . . same thing said differently. Not so different after all!