You may choose to play a variety of roles in your startup. For example, you can be the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) yourself, or hire another person to serve as CEO while you take the role of Chief Scientific Officer (CSO). In academia, you can choose to stay in academia while pursuing your idea, or leave behind your academic responsibilities to take on a full-time role in your business. Ask yourself whether you would like to:
- Be involved in technical and/or business leadership?
- Be involved in product development and/or business operations? Fundraising?
- Be full time, part-time, or advisory? Or, if in an academic position, take a sabbatical to help be the company started?
- Take different roles at different times. Note that many companies are sold, in which case you would not hold these roles for long.
To help you decide to take on an executive position, take inventory of what you bring to the business. Do you:
- Have executive experience and how well did it go?
- Do you have the resources, such as initial unpaid time, and the flexibility to commit to an executive role, which typically includes many meetings and responding to crises? Note that some academic institutions do not allow their researchers to take on an executive position in companies arising from their research.
Here are just a few of the many possible roles a scientist can play in the commercial development of their research-based idea:
After founding the company, you would hire someone to develop the product and run the business. This would free you up to continue a research or academic career or to start another company.
Chief Investigator/Chief Science Officer (CSO):
As CSO, you would partner with a business-oriented CEO. This would allow you to have ongoing participation in the science for the product.
You could be a CSO part-time and also remain in academia. More commonly among scientists in academia, you could play a less involved role as a member of the company’s scientific advisory board.
Executive Officer and Chief Science Officer
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chief Operations Officer (COO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
If you are interested in participation in the business as well as the science program, it is likely to put large demands on your time. You might think about doing them sequentially, rather than simultaneously.