An impression of startup work, three months into entrepreneurship

I’m more than 3 months into the Blavatnik Fellowship at Yale, and it’s been an exhilarating sprint. Some background on the Blavatnik: It’s an entrepreneurial fellowship where I have 12 months to build startups around Yale technologies and spin them out, with the goal of leaping into one of these ventures when my fellowship runs out. So I’ve got 12 months to make my own job. 12 months to try, fail, learn, and get up to try again. It’s exhilarating.

In the day to day, the fellowship has been a lot of everything. I’ve helped craft the stories around fledgling ventures, built pitch decks, and puzzled through the position of a piece of technology in the IP landscape. I’ve figured out market opportunities and commercial strategies, stress-tested the science and worked out next steps, networked with fellow entrepreneurs, and connected investors with ventures relevant to their portfolios. I’ve been right sometimes and wrong a lot, and have had the immense benefit of access to wisdom from Yale’s Office of Cooperative Research and Entrepreneurs in Residence.

Based on the experience so far (and in response to questions from friends and former colleagues), here’s my analogy of what it’s like to work on startups:

  • Imagine you’re on a speeding train
  • You are simultaneously building the train and the track in front of you, including putting out fires on the train while it is still going
  • People on the train with you are constantly yelling about two things:
    • ways in which the train is incomplete, and
    • that the train imminently needs to go even faster

I told you it was exhilarating.

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