Every entrepreneur savors the possibility of turning the latest technological discovery into the next great American consumer product.
Scientific entrepreneurs have an obvious advantage over the rest of the entrepreneurial field, but commercializing research still isn't easy. Here are some tips to help get you started . . .
Scientists generally tend to be cautious people. They prefer to delay action until they have all the facts about the subject they are studying. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are risk-takers. They understand that there is a certain amount of risk inherent in every business decision. As a scientific entrepreneur, you need to strike a balance between the two. Get as many facts as you can, but don't hesitate to take a risk when the situation calls for it.
Taking research from the lab to the marketplace requires no small amount of technical expertise. In addition to understanding the science behind the discovery, you need to understand its commercial applications, the patent process, and any number of business-related issues. Even if you have a scientific background, you probably don't have all the expertise you need to turn the research into a commercially viable product. Don't let your pride stand in the way of tapping into other people's expertise when you need it. Tap into other people's expertise early and often.
One way to broaden your knowledge base is to create strategic partnerships with individuals and organizations. The key is to pursue partnerships capable of strengthening your weak areas. If your expertise lies in the science but not the business, consider partnering with an experienced entrepreneur. Conversely, if you are experienced in business but the science is over your head, a partnership with a university or a scientific professional may be in order. Although a partnership will undoubtedly require you to share your profits, the alternative may be a product concept that never makes it off the drawing board.
Work a Schedule
For the most part, scientists avoid setting schedules since the research itself determines the timeline. Entrepreneurs, however, live and die according to their ability meet predetermined deadlines. As a scientific entrepreneur, you need to keep in mind that unlike pure research, the commercialization process requires adherence to a firm schedule. Investors and other interested parties need a reasonable estimate of how long it will take for the product to hit store shelves in order to make an informed investment decision. If you are unable to provide a reasonable timeline, then you should probably bring in additional expertise or wait to move forward until the research is further developed.
The commercialization process needs a cheerleader – someone who will continue to move the process along and troubleshoot problems when they arise. Even if you are forced to rely on someone else's expertise at certain stages in the process, it's important to stay involved and provide the momentum that is needed to move the project forward.