Any organization should be continuously on the look-out for talented people who are capable of taking on leadership roles. In this context you hear the word ‘ownership’ a lot, in reference to ‘owning’ a function, project, or deliverable. The words are often used interchangeably but, I believe, have very different roles. In essence, leadership means leveraging others, while ownership means getting stuff done. All companies need both, but startups in particular succeed or fail on the basis of leadership and ownership in the organisation.
TandemLaunch is a unique startup foundry and seed fund based in Montreal. We work with driven entrepreneurs to turn research from the world’s best universities into exceptional technology companies.
Finding a good cofounder is a key ingredient of a successful startup. Having had the opportunity to work with a variety of co-founders over the years, and now pairing up with individual co-founders for TandemLaunch portfolio investments, I have developed a couple rules of thumb for what to look for in co-founders.
The CTO fills a critical role in a technology startup. The title is really broad, and people tend to cling to different aspects of it, but what do you really need your CTO to do in a startup? Here’s a quick breakdown for aspiring Chief Technology (or Technical) Officers.
1. Understand the “Average”
A lot of undergraduate students ask me whether they should pursue an MBA or a technical PhD as a foundation of their entrepreneurial career. I have pursued both at some point, and frequently meet (and invest in) entrepreneurs with both degrees. Each has advantages but overall I’d recommend a PhD for most tech entrepreneurs. Here is why:
At TandemLaunch, we invest in multi-media concepts but ultimately we are trying to disrupt the university technology transfer space. I wrote about the benefits of improving this highly inefficient $50billion+ market earlier. It’s big; it’s inefficient; and we believe that it is ripe for disruption.
Investing in university ventures is difficult but worthwhile. The following are a few things to consider when you are negotiating investment deals with universities. All of this comes from my own experience and might not reflect the engagement with your particular university.
Students who are interested in technology entrepreneurship are likely taking plenty of engineering, physical sciences, or computer science courses. But there are a few non-technical courses that I would strongly recommend to anybody aspiring to be an entrepreneur. Even as a technical founder, these five topics will be some of the most useful lessons in academia:
Are you a startup entrepreneur, have a great product, and want to sell it to the ‘big boys’? Selling to a Fortune 500 company is obviously not a walk in the park, but having one or more of them as your customers could be very rewarding and key to the long term success of your startup.
The National Sciences Foundation kicked off its first round of I-CORE awards this October, with an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for 21 groups of university inventors. The idea is to develop a new generation of researchers who better understand how to develop and market their inventions for industry: researchers who are also skilled entrepreneurs. It will be interesting to see how the quarterly award will reshape the tech transfer landscape in the US by increasing researchers’ entrepreneurial skills. But the biggest payoff, at least in my mind, will be in terms of a cultural shift among academics (University inventors don’t have a reputation for pitching to industry).