Yesterday, 6 months ago, I left my Academic post of 25 years tenure to become a full time entrepreneur.
This sudden change in career direction was prompted by a “Voluntary” Redundancy scheme. I think it is fair to say that the University and myself had been slowly drifting apart for a few years.
I can’t believe how quickly the 6 months seem to have passed. Being self employed has been exciting, frightening, worrying, challenging, exhilarating and life force giving. I wish so much I did this years ago!
If there are any Academics reading this and working on commercializing their research and making the jump out of University into Industry, I can confidently say this: do it!
I started a University Spin Out company with all the complexity and safety nets that a University Spin Out Company implies. I stayed in my Academic post while running the company for 14 years! The company was small (and still is) and maybe that helped in managing the two career tracks. On the upside we moved quickly from angel investment to sales. Sales are key. I love the buzz of the chase and the thrill of delivery.
Looking back – I stayed in post too long. I stayed because I was very risk averse with a young family to look after. Now they have grown and I can take a few more risks. Even with that context considered I stayed too long in Academic post. I should have jumped out into the company a considerable time ago. That decision held the company back.
Running the company is a totally different experience when you are totally committed – I can see that now.
I remember a story by the great Ken Morse of MIT Sloan Business School. He said, to make a bacon and egg sandwich you need a chicken and a pig: the chicken is involved but the pig is totally committed!
When I first heard that story back in 2004 I thought that being the pig was best avoided. Now I can see that the demise of the pig is actually a good thing!
Also see, this related article : 10 observations about a University Spin out business