Many founders start their companies because they’re looking to build a career around finding a solution to a problem or pain point. Scientists are no different, and yet, you don’t see as many scientists becoming founders as you would engineers or operators.
It’s common to see biotech firms started by scientists and researchers, but many other fields have companies that utilize and base their work on research done by scientists who are unlikely to become entrepreneurs.
So why is it so common to see outsiders bringing research out of the lab and not the scientists themselves? Sure, some scientists would rather focus all of their time on research, but bringing the fruits of that work into the real world is generally the only way to apply them to the problems all that labor was meant to solve in the first place.
It’s a complex knot to unravel. First off, there is the stigma in the startup ecosystem that scientists generally don’t make for good founders. This opinion seems to largely exist because they often hail from academia, which can be a pretty isolated field with very different structures and nuances than startups or most businesses. That gives rise to the notion that they wouldn’t have the skills needed for the job.
But like all generalizations, it’s often not true. Stacy Blain, the co-founder and chief science officer at Concarlo Therapeutics, said on a recent Found podcast episode that she’s heard all the reasons why certain investors don’t think scientists make strong founders, and she doesn’t buy it.
Blain came to entrepreneurship after spending more than two decades researching the same type of protein that could lead to treatments down the line for drug-resistant cancers. But she realized it was time to launch a company when her research was moving toward developing drugs, which caused her grant requests to be denied.