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I almost mentioned that. I did start-ups my last year in grad school (and for the year after I graduated). It almost killed my Ph.D.

Now that I'm a prof, I'm actually recruiting locals in start-ups to come get a Ph.D. with me. I feel like folks that can excel at a start-up can also excel at a Ph.D.

I also assert that someone with a start-up mentality should be able to get a Ph.D. much faster than a "regular" Ph.D. student.

The razor-sharp focus that a start-up needs is perfect for blasting through a Ph.D.

I'm looking for ways to make the two experiences synergistic and complementary instead of antagonistic.

Some universities are better at this than others. My alma mater, University of Bristol, actively encouraged their faculty and students to create startups inside their incubator, giving them a bunch of money (usually alongside other VC AFAIK). You had about a year to pop, if nothing happened you went back to your day job, if it did, the company span out at UoB held onto their equity. I'm sure this is a model you'll see at other top universities such as Stanford.

I'm now at UC Santa Cruz, and despite being 40 minutes from Silicon Valley, I see absolutely zero of this entrepreneurial spirit. The administration is wasting their talent from top to bottom. They had a business plan competition. Top prize: $500. Not an incubation offer. No VCs invited. Nothing.

Even my Computer Science Masters at UoB had a business plan class baked in, and the final project pitch was to a board including the head of CS, the head of the business incubator, another faculty member, and an invited VC. You had to impress all of them to do well. Apparently the VC was the only person who didn't like my pitch :) But UCSC is doing nothing like this anywhere. It's a terrible waste.

How did the process work for you? I'm in exactly the same place. I'm struggling between applying for an academic job now or delaying to pursue a start-up idea for my last year and year after graduation. The academic path is safe and has appeal, but I've been thinking about a startup for the last year and feel somewhat lame giving up on it before I know whether it will work.

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