10 Traits Academics and Startup Entrepreneurs Have in Common

Most academics have no business training and no experience starting a company. But they have many of the traits needed to be a successful startup entrepreneur. 

  1. Problem solving. Academics solve problems for a living. If an experiment doesn’t work, they must try different approaches until they get the answer they need. Entrepreneurs are also excellent problem solvers. They are always being thrown new obstacles that must be overcome when starting or building a company. 
  2. Bootstrapping.  With the current funding squeeze, academics must be adept at stretching their money as far as possible. Entrepreneurs encounter the same problems when starting up and must do as much as possible with as little money as possible.
  3. Hard working. Many academics think nothing of working an 80+ hour week for a very low salary. Startup entrepreneurs also often work for nothing to build their company to a stage where they can get funding.
  4. Pitching. Academics may not realize it, but they are constantly pitching their work, at conferences and invited presentations and in grant proposals. The most successful academics are those with a great elevator pitch. The same goes for startup entrepreneurs. They must have an excellent pitch to find funding and grow their company.
  5. Creativity.  Academics must be creative with their approaches to experiments and with finding new funding sources. Entrepreneurs must be creative in everything they do from product development, to marketing, to pitching for funding.
  6. Adaptability. For long-term success, academics must be able to adapt. If funding dries up for their research topic, they need to change their focus. In business terms that is called pivoting and something every entrepreneur must do on their startup journey.
  7. Resilience. The people who succeed in academia never give up. They are prepared to always write one more grant proposal, to start one more collaboration, to woo one more philanthropist to survive. The successful entrepreneurs are also those people who refuse to take no for an answer and continue on doggedly until they make it.
  8. Self belief. Academics can only survive if they believe in themselves—in their research and in their ability to do it. The same goes for entrepreneurs. They must truly believe in the worth of their startup idea and in their ability to turn it into a company.
  9. Willingness to learn. Academics are always learning—new technologies, new research areas, new experimental approaches. Entrepreneurs are also always learning—learning from mistakes, learning how to better serve customers, learning how to better manage people.
  10. Connections. In academia it’s all about whom you know. If you know people on grant review boards, you are more likely to get funding. If you know editors, your paper is more likely to be accepted. It is the same in the world of business. If you know a VC or two, you are more likely to get funding. If you know a crack PR firm, you are more likely to get press coverage.

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