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What do scientists and startup entrepreneurs have in common?

This week, our columnist Annina Lattu from Kaskas Media talks about what scientists and startups can learn from each other.

A scruffy character muttering incomprehensible theories and facts of trivial-feeling phenomena and a bouncy teflon-like person with never-ending enthusiasm, loading one-liners about your basic human needs and applications all over the place. These stereotypes of scientists and startup entrepreneurs often cross our minds. The distance between the business field and science world is often described long and wide.

Yet, on the afternoon of 1 December last year, the Pitching Stage at Slush was packed with intrigued startup enthusiasts as well as a science crowd. Scientists stepped on stage to present their ambitious, novel and societally relevant research ideas. The winner received the Skolar Award, a prize of 100 000 euros purely for research. But most importantly, the science pitching reminded us that researchers aren’t all that different from startup entrepreneurs.

Research, as well as building a startup, is unpredictable, which makes it risky. As in any investment case, high risk always entails the possibility of a high return. Science is not an exception. If we want to find solutions for big problems, research funding needs to encourage novel thinking that isn’t tied to the incremental product development needs of a particular industry or field. Both world-changing research and world-changing startups need risk funding that supports ambitious and multidisciplinary visions.

If a startup wants funding, it needs to have business potential and a competent and dynamic team in order to succeed. Besides all this, they need to have great communication skills, when selling and presenting their work. The same criteria apply when scientists are looking for funding for their research projects.

When we’re talking about complex ideas, communication skills are crucial. If you can’t communicate it, even the greatest technology or the knowledge to ease or save lives stays unnoticed.

In many cases, researchers and entrepreneurs share the same enthusiasm for what they do. They are curious and possess a firm belief in changing the world. Making a difference motivates them. If you have the motivation, the abilities and a brilliant idea, you still need one more thing: you need to work with somebody who thinks differently from you. Success comes when great minds come together. If an ice hockey team is filled with only defencemen, no one is going to go and net a goal! That is why science met business at Slush 2016.

Published on 19.01.2017