Your life-science startup might have breakthrough science and a rock-star team, but as long as the company is “new,” it’s inherently at high risk of failure.
If you had to choose an industry that lends itself to poor corporate reputation, it very well may be commercial airlines. Customers have been dragged off of planes, employees have resigned in dramatic fashion, and operational meltdowns seem the norm.
During the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, lenders and service providers struggled to assess the creditworthiness of small companies; even well-established small firms were hit with high interest rates and onerous collateral requirements.
While working as a principal scientist at the biotechnology company Chiron in the 1990s, our team published and presented at a furious rate on our inventive combinatorial chemistry methods. It was a highly competitive field, and we had to conceive, reduce to practice, and file patents on our intellectual property (IP) before anyone else did.
When working with first-time life science entrepreneurs, I often coach them on making the difficult transition from academia to industry, and on the importance of creating a place where people can work hard on things they love. Starting a company requires intense, dedicated focus and suppression of nearly all else. It isn’t easy to comprehend the magnitude of that—and most of us do not know what to expect before we take the plunge.
There comes a time when all graduate students and post-docs in the life sciences face a daunting decision that will shape their career path. They can continue down the academic route or they can seek a job in industry.
If you’ve ever visited Tokyo, you’ve likely passed through the imposing Tokyo Station, a thriving hub of interconnecting commuter rail and subway lines. It’s fascinating to watch the flow of people at rush hour — every individual navigating the hallways with intent focus to ensure they catch their train on time. You see competition for space, but also cooperation so that everyone reaches their destination. Navigating Tokyo Station for the first time can be intimidating. But with a bit of experience (at least in my case), it can be an energizing endeavor.
Forty years ago, life science entrepreneurs didn’t have nearly as many resources as they have today. The biotech industry was just blossoming. And for the first time, university researchers were exploring the idea of commercializing their discoveries.
London can be a perilous place for me. Don’t get me wrong, London is a great city. I love it, visit it whenever possible, and love to photograph its beautiful cityscapes. However, on at least two occasions, I have been nearly taken out by a red double-decker bus.