Startup enthusiasts and researchers aren’t that different. Discuss.

Interesting summer ahead! Yes, ahead: although June is already here, it is somewhat difficult to convincingly claim we’re experiencing real summer. You know, cloudless skies, sunshine, picnics, and so forth. But I haven’t lost my hope – Helsinki will experience summer soon!

In the meantime, here’s some food for thought on startups and researchers. Or how they resemble each other, to be more precise. I actually started toying with this idea during Pocket Gamer Connects that was organized in Helsinki 16-17 June. So there I was in the bathroom doing my thing, when I heard these two startup enthusiasts talk about their companies, money, life on the fast lane etc. Accidentally eavesdropping on their brief chat I heard them say many things that resonate surprisingly well with what we do in academia. This list is by no means exhaustive, but instead should be used as a basis for more discussion. So here’s my take on how academics and startup enthusiasts are alike.

  • Both are dependent on external funding to survive: and here we are talking mostly about recently established companies and junior scholars how are still working on their dissertation, for example
  • Both are seeking legitimation from outside actors: validation for your product/service/theory/hypothesis, you name it. Getting published or closing deals are pretty much dependent on external legitimation – if no one buys into your idea/product, that’s game over for you.
  • Long working hours: although I have no empirical data to back this up, I’m nonetheless armed with countless anecdotes from both fields. It seems that in both contexts the prevailing discourse glorifies hard working people who prioritize their company/research over anything else. This is not a normative claim, just voicing my experience here.
  • Passion as one of the main driving forces: now this might vary between individuals, but in most cases I’ve noticed that people do what they do in these fields because they feel passionate about it. Whether it’s about crafting the next big theory on organizations or creating a 3D printer for every household, these people keep on pushing themselves to see their dream come into fruition. And, to make things interesting, this point overlaps – and even contradicts – some of the issues raised above.

The list could go on (this Fast Company post on startup personalities resonates really well with academia, too), but let me stop here for now. Reason why I wrote this is that there seems to be a somewhat artificial barrier between scholars and startup addicts; these people have so many things in common, yet far too often I’ve heard entrepreneurs complaining about researchers and vice versa. So what I’m trying to say here is that we share many things in common,  and the things that set us apart are complimentary so why don’t we collaborate more?

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