Academic dilemma #2 – Let your lovely child fly

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

In my previous post I showed my first academic dilemma, or how I abandoned my academic path right after my PhD to engage with an entrepreneurial process. In this new post, I will share how I quitted my start-up to go back to academia.

I co-founded a university-derived spin-off company while I was finishing my PhD. That was a very intensive period. We went through a technology transfer process to create the start-up. Briefly, the activities of technology transfer take place between the university and the industry, acting as an intermediary between these two worlds. In the end technology transfer acts a bit like a compiler, where academic results have to be translated into commercial products, or where the academic language has to be translated into industrial language.

One day I told my PhD supervisor that I wanted to create a start-up to bring our technology to market and we immediately had a meeting with the people who had contributed to that research to see how we could proceed. I brought to that meeting a single post-it-like slide because at that time we really had a very vague idea about how we should proceed.

But it turned out that our vague plan materialized and we ended up doing and achieving things we would have never imagined before: raising funds, creating a team, implementing a quality system, receiving prizes…

And the most important part is that we had a product to sell, which in this case the product is a clinical report that today can be obtained through collaborating hospitals if a medical doctor asks for it.

But after one year and a half, I started to realize that while the first stage of the company was really great and satisfying, the business side of the start-up process was not fitting well with my personality and my interests.

So here it came my dilemma number 2:

Let your lovely child fly

It was really difficult to decide to leave something you created from scratch, but afterwards you understand that in every start-up there exists a phase known as “Transition of the founder CEO”, a topic described in the book “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” I mentioned in my previous post.

The point is that the founder CEO, who is the right CEO to lunch the company from scratch, may not be the ideal CEO for scaling/growing it up. And, fortunately, my co-founder was a perfect fit to take the lead.

So when I read this theory, and because the company was in good hands, I felt some kind of relief, and because I was really missing the academic atmosphere I decided to go back to research and look for a postdoctoral position somewhere in Europe.

And you know what? Although we the entrepreneurs had been told in training courses that by choosing industry we could never go back to research, I found a professor at the University of Lausanne who saw my start-up experience as an asset, and he offered me a postdoctoral position in his group.

Just a month after deciding I was going to do a postdoc abroad, my wife and I knew that she was pregnant. We upheld the decision of going abroad together. But I will share in my next post how things went finally.

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