Translating Academia to Startup Success

While there can be disparities between working in academia and working in a startup, oftentimes experience from both environments can be supplemental. While each has its individual strengths, when the two methods support each other, they are able to develop technologies and scientific breakthroughs that would be challenging for either party to accomplish on their own. 


While academia can be incredibly successful in the pursuit of knowledge on an array of subjects, a considerable delay can be observed in bringing products to market. Many academic professionals spend years researching a single subject, then record and publish their findings. This is oftentimes where their work comes to a halt, but where startups and other small companies become engaged. Startups tend to use these academic findings to create actionable products that generate revenue. Sufficient resources, like funding and external partnerships, give companies an added advantage over academia to act more quickly. This scenario is just one example of how startups and academia are able to work together.


A factor in academia’s ability to innovate is a general lack of funding. Academic investments can be challenging to secure, and take considerably more time than it takes for a startup to raise capital, due to a lengthy approval process and limited academic funding sources. Further, even if an academic research team receives approved funding, it’s often not nearly as much as what startups would be able to raise to develop a comparable product.


The Benefits of a Startup

While there are some limits to innovation in academia, startups have proven they have the ability to generate workable products rather quickly. This can be attributed to the entrepreneurial attitude of many startups, as it has the ability to create an atmosphere of creativity and determination to succeed. Startups work hard, and make it work.


Additionally, startups are advantageous for multitasking. There are countless moving pieces that must fall into place for a major project to reach its full potential, and startups possess tremendous agility compared to academia. As mentioned, a majority of academic researchers focus their work on a single topic, examining one scientific area in great detail in order to become an expert. Focusing one’s energy this way can be quite useful, but in a situation where a wider range of skills and knowledge is required, like developing a marketable product, researchers can come up short on their own.


In a startup, talent can be acquired from far and wide to get the perfect team, often leading to greater diversity that brings various skill sets and experiences to the table. This multiplicity is a huge advantage for startups, where it can yield diversity of thought and an optimal work environment where people are at their most productive.


Academia and the startup world are quite different, each with its own strengths. But when they work together is when the greatest breakthroughs can be observed. Combining the expertise of top educational institutions with the drive, agility and innovative capabilities of a startup can produce an end product that benefits the most people and solves issues globally.

Liam Lindsay