Postdocs, grad students in sciences "perfect" for launching start-ups

January 20, 2015

In an article published in University Affairs, Jonathan Thon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, argues that graduate student and postdoctoral researchers in the sciences “are perfect” for creating start-up businesses. Thon admits that there are many difficulties involved in launching a start-up, and notes that “you’d have to be crazy to want to start one, and need super-human determination to see it through given the overwhelming near-certainty of failure. Until you have successfully completed your first major funding round you are most likely not going to see any financial compensation for your blood, sweat, and tears.” For this reason, he says, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers should consider start-ups: they have less to lose than more established scientists. He notes that salaries of grad students and postdocs are often “next to nothing,” and says that “just about any other job for which the graduate student or postdoc is qualified would pay them more,” to the extent that even failure as an entrepreneur would leave the student better off. Thon said that PSE institutions should do as much as they can to help scientist-entrepreneurs succeed. University Affairs