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From Academia to Startups – Common Founder Foibles (celinehh.com)
45 points by apsec112 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 13 comments

The interesting thing is how even the author never fully understood academia. Two of their points are actually interesting in this regard: “Naive view of the world” and “Unclear communication” are actually not at all representative of academia but of amateur academics: someone who has just done a PhD and (arguably not a good) postdoc would come to these conclusions. A person who has written grants, gone to conferences to publicise themselves and sat through grant and tenure review panels would not come out of it with any naive view of the world, only possibly the opposite. And a person who cannot write or present concisely will very quickly get weeded out of academia or relegated to a corner where they are not disturbed much.

I have sat through job talks given by postdocs from Nobel laureate labs and have never seen a more impeccable presentation of ideas in such a concise manner. Once my professor spent three full days working on 6 slides she was going to talk about for five minutes. The majority of the time my professors spend is on the politics of grants and spending and hiring more than actual science and that was actually the biggest issue. None of these sound naive or meandering to me!

If this author’s experience is the opposite this suggests my suspicion about biotech entrepreneurs - they’re often people who got out of academia a little too early and with a view of it that’s far too amateur. Not defending academia at all but I can only wonder if that selects for the type of person that might be more or less suited for entrepreneurship.

> Not defending academia at all

But you just spent 2 and a half paragraphs doing just that. Don’t try then to distance yourself from the opinion you’ve just given.

I did not defend academia, but pointed out that the author never understood it. I never said that these academic qualities (conciseness or not being naive) were actually good. The author said they are not learned in academia and I said that’s not true.

Conciseness is a good thing; it’s a minimum requirement in academia while you can get by elsewhere without it. The lack of naïveté is actually not a good thing necessarily. People in academia learn to play the game and not actually do proper science. A quick perusal of my comment history would reveal I am no friend of academia, I too ran away from it with just a PhD!

The author wasn't really talking of academia on its own but rather how well academics transition to industry.

It does seem the author's description fits recent phd's better than experienced academics for the two points you refer to.

I don't know that "amateur" is the right word for someone who just graduated. They should have been trained to be a legitimate world-class researcher, despite their possible inexperience in the others sides of tenure-track jobs specifically. Unless you're suggesting they leave but still dabble in academic research on the side or something.

>Politics, relationships, patterns, and money drive many interactions in the ‘real world’. Most scientists spend their 20s and 30s protected from this reality by academia’s walls (academia is far from exempt from politics et al, but in my experience, it’s the professors who feel this, not the graduate students). Personally, this was one of my steepest learning curves.

Believe me if you are at a lower-tier R1 university with revolving door faculty you are not insulated from these things as a grad student.

The biggest difference not captured here

In Academia (at-least in CS where I did a PhD), you have to be working on a novel idea. It doesn't matter how many people actually care about the problem you are working on and/or will be impacted - as long as the idea is new and you are the first one.

Completely opposite in the startup. The problem has to be relevant. It doesn't matter if 5 other startups before you have worked on a similar problem - as long as you can out execute them.

This switch requires some serious "unlearning"

True. Another difference is that in a stratup you get frequent and continuous feedback about your idea, and as long as you manage to adjust accordingly you have good chances to survive.

In academia, instead, there can be gaps of years between starting an experiment and seeing the first results, so "moving slowly" and "de-risking each step" is really the only way to achieve anything.

Yes this is my impression as well.

From my (extremely limited) experience, I feel that as a startup you want to be working with tech/tools of 50-75% of the complexity that you are able to handle and work with. You (probably) don't want to be working right up against cutting edge unless you are very confident about it or your unequivocally an expert. Otherwise all the variance and errors that come with running a startup is just going to render your product/service/whatever unusable

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but expressing broad characterizations like "Scientists are often trained to work sequentially, not in parallel", "Being dogmatic", "Naive view of the world" from somebody who didn't even finish their PhD look a bit weird. (I'm an academic myself; and there are certainly plenty of interesting differences between working in the real world vs in science, but this article didn't really tell anything insightful (to me at least))

It is not just academia that these problems are visible. It is same for engineers who have spent more time behind the desk in a software product oriented company.

A depressing article IMO

And yet it seems pretty accurate to me...

Care to elaborate?

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