Scientific development and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.
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But most entrepreneurs don't have a background in science. They rely on entrepreneurially-minded scientists for the expertise their goals require. So how do you spot one of these scientist-entrepreneurs when they come along?
Ideally, you are looking for someone with one foot in science and the other in business. The problem is that you will rarely encounter someone with both a PhD and an MBA. It's usually not that clear cut. In other words, you will need to keep your eyes open for scientists who have the personality and characteristics to help you transform the science into a marketable product.
Above all else, scientist-entrepreneurs are innovative. Rather than trying to do what everyone else is doing, these folks are always searching for ways to improve on current designs and take them one step further than everyone else. Since innovation is an entrepreneurial trait, you shouldn't have a hard time noticing innovation when you see it in someone else.
Along with innovation, scientist-entrepreneurs embrace risk when necessary. Scientists are often risk-averse, so when you see one who is willing to take risks, it's usually an indication that they are suited to the high-risk climate of today's business world.
If your scientist finds timelines and schedules intimidating, then he probably isn't a good candidate for an entrepreneurial endeavor. Imagine telling a bank or an investor that you need a $1 million to create a product with an indeterminate target roll-out date. They would laugh you out of the meeting room because business doesn't work that way. However, if you partner with a scientist who scoffs at schedules, that is the kind of scenario you can expect to endure on a daily basis.
Science and applied science are two different things. Although a discovery may be groundbreaking from a scientific perspective, it's of no use to you unless you are able to comprehend the full range of its commercial applications. Effective scientist-entrepreneurs appreciate science for its own sake, but also understand that the goal is to create commercially successful applications from the research. Be on the lookout for scientists who consistently engage in research likely to produce commercial applications.
The process of taking a product from the research lab to store shelves hinges on collaboration. Individuals who spend significant amounts of time alone in a lab are not always the best collaborators. Make sure your candidate has a history of successful collaboration and understands that the highly collaborative nature of the work ahead.
It isn't necessary for a scientist-entrepreneur to be an expert in the nuances of business. However, he at least needs to understand the basics of business and demonstrate a willingness to learn more along the way. A scientist who loathes the mechanisms of free market capitalism is clearly not a good candidate for an entrepreneurial partnership.