Even though it seems business and science are at opposite ends of the spectrum, they actually go hand-in-hand. As a Biotech entrepreneur, you must have the ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your business plan and to understand the basic scientific foundational concepts of your biotech company.
When you decide to embark on a biotechnology business journey, you need to have enough scientific knowledge to effectively communicate the technological aspects of the company. And it is equally important that you can convey a strong business plan that shows you can make a profit and expand your company.
As an entrepreneur, I gleaned my scientific knowledge from my late father, Dr. Rongxiang Xu, though it was challenging at times. My father’s 30 years of clinical practice gave him experience in various types of conditions and circumstances. Therefore, he was able to comprehend the science behind these conditions and give valid and confident diagnoses. But our success in the biotech business sector was a result of our working together as a scientist and an entrepreneur.
Strengths of the Scientist and the Entrepreneur
My father was both a doctor and a scientist and focused on the maintenance of scientific purity, clinical application, and humanitarian efforts. Meanwhile, I had to ensure those elements would translate in a business sense. Here are ways the strengths of the scientist and the entrepreneur can shine together:
Apply Multidisciplinary Consideration. Not everything is pure science or pure business. You have to find the best combination and grasp the correct ratio.
As a scientist, my father wanted to focus on seeking answers to the difficult questions. It was my job as the entrepreneur to concentrate on the difficult decisions.
At one point, when we needed to choose the indicator for a product, my father was focused on a severe condition as the indicator to represent how powerful and dominant science was. But as the entrepreneur, I had to consider approvability and the market potential of the product because even if the most severe condition can be cured, the solution still may not attract a huge market. Many patients might not survive long enough to complete clinical trials.
By nature, science is about discovery, and transforming discovery into a commodity is far from easy. However, when the science is applied to solving a tangible problem, such as a cure for balding, a scientist and an entrepreneur can balance their strengths to achieve their shared goal.
Think Material Versus Abstract. Scientists need to dream big so they have the motivation to challenge themselves to move up to the next level. But to make it translate to the business level, the entrepreneur needs to put more emphasis on reality when sketching the dream.
Conversely, the scientist can also push the entrepreneur to think beyond bottom lines and numbers and restore a sense of wonder and belief into the project. It’s a delicate dichotomy to keep balanced, but in order to succeed in the business of biotechnology, the dreams of the entrepreneur and the scientist have to meld into a symbiotic relationship.
Leave the Comfort Zone. Sometimes entrepreneurs can ask scientists unique, unconventional questions that require out-of-the-ordinary answers. Those queries can help the scientists break out of their original logic to explore new opportunities.
Additionally, scientists are often focused on individual fields. They grasp the depth of the science itself, but they often lack the ability to be more of a jack-of-all-trades type. They tend to lose confidence when they try to carry their imaginations into fields they aren’t familiar with.
However, as an entrepreneur, you can use your innate sense of adventure to help bring them courage. When scientists are not as fearful of criticism or being denied by others, they are more focused on outcomes.
I have a friend who started a biotech company after he selected a desired compound that has a tremendous effect on treating a life-threatening disease. Despite having full confidence in his findings and an unbridled optimism about the future, he ended up failing after two years because of a lack of funding on the developing project. In reality, his compound simply did not have enough space to make any profit.
He believed that if the drug could treat the disease, it must be a good product. However, if he had had an entrepreneurial mindset to help ground his belief in his discovery, he could have saved himself the headache.
When starting a biotech company, scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial instinct may seem quite different, but it is important to marry the two. When you combine your own entrepreneurial strengths with scientific knowledge, you can manage and grow a successful, well-balanced biotech company.
Image credit: CC by JD Hancock