Scientists should start companies

Matt Krisiloff writes:

In academia, most scientists are incentivized to work on their own research in a relatively siloed fashion – publications are an all-important currency that is hard to be shared. On the other hand, with a company, it’s much easier to collectively coordinate people towards the same goal. With a general de-emphasis on the individual, collective milestones can be set for everyone as all-important north stars. With companies too, you’re much more likely to have support team members assisting with experiment setup and downstream analysis to free up other members of the team to focus on other parts of the problem. This makes work much more efficient.

The author has expressed his opinion, but he doesn’t mention that academic funds come with strings attached, which restricts the degree of collaboration. Setting up a “company” comes with attendant headaches. There are onerous legal requirements; compliance burden and deflects attention away from research. It requires careful balancing administrative (human resources) skills and getting the best talent. It is for a reason that managers are trained. I am glad the author says this further down:

To be a successful company founder also requires a certain type of character and it’s a realistic truth that not every scientist is cut out to start a company. Company creation can often be a lonely, uncertain process where it can be difficult to keep up motivation, it can be hard to know what to focus on, it can be hard to convince people to work with you, and it can be hard to convince investors to fund you.

FInding the “matching interests” is perplexing and it is for a reason why “campus education” achieves. Network effects with other individuals can work in the long term – albeit for a minority.