During an informal discussion, several highly successful biotechnology entrepreneurs gave these tips on finding a good startup idea:
Have an idea that is not being done, that only you are already prepared to do it, and that has enough people that care about it.
Keep engaged with organizations and institutions that support biotechnology, and build a network of contacts to increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time. The right timing is very important.
Notice and learn from unexpected results and mistakes.
When trying to solve a research problem, remember that breakthrough starts with the word break. When you feel stuck, take a break and let your unconscious mind work on solving the problem. Sleep on it or do something else, like take a walk or play a sport. You may find later that your ideas come together in a new, creative way.
Once you have identified a research problem to solve, think about the problem from multiple perspectives.
For example, think about:
- past attempts to solve the problem and what happened.
- how different stakeholders describe the problem.
- the most challenging part of the problem.
- ideas of others both in and not in the field.
- what new technologies are available or in development that might help.
Use both convergent and divergent thinking to solve the problem. Try going back and forth between these two approaches:
Convergent thinking brings thoughts together to solve the problem. Bring everything you know about solving the problem together by drawing conclusions.
Divergent thinking allows you to come up with any idea that might contribute to solving the problem, no matter how far-fetched. This is also known as brainstorming.
Align your research with US government funding agencies (especially SBIR) and with industry priorities.
There are several differences between the average startup and a biotech startup. Biotech products typically have:
- A longer development timeframe.
- Higher development costs.
- More regulatory requirements.
- A need for diversely skilled staff.
- A more significant impact on public well-being.
Did you know?
- Fewer than 1% of startups are from a university; the vast majority are not (Marcus, 2020).
- Science disciplines vary in the extent of commercialization, with most of it being in biotechnology, mathematics, physics, and chemistry (Lawton Smith, 2015; Polkowska, 2012).
Lawton Smith H, Henry C, Etzkowitz H, et al. Female academic entrepreneurship: Reviewing the evidence and identifying the challenges | Request PDF. ResearchGate. May 2015.
Marcus J. Think universities are making lots of money from inventions? Think again. The Hechinger Report. January 17, 2020.
Oberhardt B. Dragonfly Thinking: Problem Solving for a Successful Future. 2012. BJO Biomedical, LLC.
Polkowska D. Women Scientists in the Leaking Pipeline: Barriers to the Commercialisation of Scientific Knowledge by Women. Journal of Technology Management & Innovation. 2013;8(2):156–165 DOI:10.4067/S0718-27242013000200013.