Skills for Life Sciences Entrepreneurs

In recent years, the marketplace has changed a great deal. Science is becoming a part of daily life and operations more than it ever has before. Examples of this include the rise of big data and the prevalence of AI. For life sciences, there’s been plenty of room to grow in the marketplace, too. Biology, biotechnology, and biochemistry are two examples of fields where lots of new businesses are springing up. There are plenty of would-be life sciences entrepreneurs, too.

One problem in breaking through is that people trained in science often don’t have a strong business background. They’re used to carefully couching their discoveries in expectations. To business people and investors, they may sound less than confident, when in truth they’re sitting on a big opportunity.

Today’s career landscape for young people in life sciences is more wide open than ever before. It used to be that opportunities were limited. Professors often advised promising young people to try and catch on at a university or a big pharmaceutical company. But over the past 20 years, there have been plenty of chances for life sciences majors to catch on at an interesting start-up, or even create one.

Investors and even other scientists have come to love start-ups. Smaller businesses have lower overhead. It’s easy for a small team to pivot and adapt as needed. University labs and big pharma companies are big ships. It takes a lot of time to turn them around. Start-ups, on the other hand, are often described as nimble. They can change directions as needed and really follow where the research is taking them.

Researchers in life sciences who are interested in opening a business can follow several strategies. They might partner with someone who has an MBA. Or, increasingly, they may decide to get one themselves. Even something like taking an improv class can help science majors learn how to communicate more effectively with non-specialists who don’t have a strong science background.

The good news is that businesses are also realizing the value life scientists bring to the table. For example, it’s becoming more common to see scientists sitting on the boards of major corporations. It’s ever more possible for serious scientists and entrepreneurs to meet each other halfway and reap the benefits of a venture together.

John Kaweske is a Colorado Springs-based entrepreneur focused on sustainability, biotechnology, and renewable energy. http://johnkaweske.org

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