Are You an Inventor, or Are You an Entrepreneur?

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We hosted Russell Thomas, CEO of NIRvana Sciences, for a webinar tailored to inventors considering making a business out of their scientific discovery. This was a part of our Commercialization A-Z web series and was recorded for the benefit of the community.

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Examples were given for the types of personalities and skills needed in a new venture, noting along the way that management teams and investment approaches should be carefully considered. While the technology may have potential in the market, the people surrounding it will ultimately determine its commercial success.

Each year you see a few technologies so compelling that they are pulled into the market regardless of management, but for the other 95% it is the people that make the difference.
— Russell Thomas, CEO, NIRvana Sciences

“Do people bet on the jockey (management), or do people bet on the horse (technology),” asked Russell Thomas early on. “Each year you see a few technologies so compelling that they are pulled into the market regardless of management, but for the other 95% it is the people that make the difference.”

Are You an Inventor, or Are You an Entrepreneur? asked for introspective approaches by inventors to identify which roles in the new venture process they can handle and which ones they will need help with.

Mr. Thomas gave examples of the likely roles an inventor will play in a startup, such as supporting further development of a technology to de-risk it commercially or acting as a CSO. Realistically, more often than not an inventor will need to identify a CEO or COO with extensive entrepreneurial experience to drive the company and bring in additional support. Laid out were common approaches startup CEOs take along with the personality traits and skills required to successfully manage the position.

“The skills sets between inventing and being an entrepreneur are substantially different, and it is very rare that an individual overlaps with both of those worlds,” he says. “Many people are solely inventors and not entrepreneurs,” he stated in the spirit of honest introspection backed by his experience.

Beginning a new company is a complex and risky endeavor one should not assume they can handle on their own. Bringing together a competent team is critical, and whether or not your team understands the complexities and can proactively address them will determine if your technology bears fruit commercially.

Reported by Christopher Kinzel

Christopher Kinzel, Associate for Communication, is a biochemist with a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Molecular Biosciences. He has a research and technology transfer background and is using his experience in business development and communications.