Month: December 2012

Similarities between doing a PhD and building a startup

#autumn incoming fallen leaves with the hovering shadow of the winter

A photo posted by Michele Mattioni (@mattions) on

The path is unknown and full of surprise

It’s a bit of time that I have this post in mind, where I would like to compare the process of building a startup with the process of doing a PhD.

This of course will be based on my experience, therefore the analogies and the difference which I can find between building the SustainableSouk and doing my PhD at the EBI.

Let’s start with the similarities, shall we?

The object of a PhD is very broad, and it takes different shape and form. While you do a PhD, you need to have some hypothesis, which you are going to test in a scientific manner to assess if they can be accepted or they need to be thrown away.

Given the fact that I’m a fan of the Lean Startup method, I’ve applied this method also to the ssouk (shorthand for the SustainableSouk), where the inital idea has been launched tested, and now we are pivoting to a new direction.

so here it is the first similarity: Make hypothesis, test them on the ground and act accordingly.

Another important similarity, which is a direct consequences of this is: don’t give up. It takes a lot of time to create, test and analyse the results, and most of the time you will get that the first idea/hypothesis was not good enough and it will not bring you anywhere.

It is also interesting to note that there is a very different pace between the two: in a startup you have to go out there to test the market, and then see how this respond and how you can make it work. And you have to do it fast. While doing science instead, you usually go to conference and present your work, and it tends to take ages to write a paper, to get it out. You still have to do it fast, if it’s possible, however the publishing wheel is very slow turning.

So this is of course a not exhaustive list between the two, but I just wanted to give you a sense of what I have noticed so far and share it.