Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Marking a Path

One of my favorite principles is cultivated naivety, which I define in a tutorial I prepared for new employees a couple years ago as:
The principle that it is better to be ignorant than to make hasty assumptions. It is an empirical stance: the presumption that novel evidence provides the luxury of learning through experience.
In simpler terms, just cover your ears and say "nah nah, I'm not listening" whenever you hear or read that something is impossible, or that a particular path is the standard by which all others must be tested. Each entrepreneur follows a unique path. At times there may be similarities, but I see them as more incidental than necessary. I am convinced that to truly excel one (whether a company or individual) needs to mark their own path.

I wrote a couple months ago about reaching a point in my life as entrepreneur where I wanted to reach out for more support from others, and was considering bringing on a CEO or hiring an individual or team to lead business development. Years ago, I described myself as an accidental entrepreneur. In the interim, I've come to embrace that aspect of myself, and to realize that entrepreneurship is not a detour in my life, but a direction. That said, as I've pointed out elsewhere, there are no typical entrepreneurs.

My path has led from academia and cross-disciplinary research that fell between the cracks of academic departments, to starting and leading an R&D based business. It has been said that nothing focuses a mind like a crisis. Our crisis as an R&D business was having multiple proposals over the past couple years go unfunded. We remain committed to the projects, but without funding, it's rather difficult to pursue them, and frustrating to be held back from work that we believe is worthwhile.

Perhaps, I thought, we need a quick product, a fast break, something to sell tomorrow, then we'll be expanding our sources of revenues, hedging the lean times when R&D funding is not forthcoming, and providing a fount from which to continue the efforts. In the past couple months, I've reached in that direction, but haven't found that path any easier or more direct than the one I've followed since founding the company four years ago.

We are unapologetically involved in early-stage research, and are content with the challenge of bridging basic with applied research. Lately I've returned to a view that that perhaps may remain our true home. Finding and building that niche, connecting the needs of users with translational research, and delivering solutions to the market with the technologies we develop, is the task we face.