You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a successful entrepreneur, but sometimes it helps. Stofiel Aerospace founder Brian Stofiel has turned his aeronautics background into a thriving business by introducing innovations into the space travel industry.
His company uses both old and new technologies to improve aerospace efficiency. One of his novelties is using balloons to lift micro satellites to 100,000 feet before igniting solid rocket fuel to complete the journey into orbit. Stofiel has also patented a 3-D printing method that reduces the amount of time needed to produce a rocket engine from six months to two days.
Stofiel’s case illustrates how a scientific background can be an invaluable asset for an entrepreneur. Here are three reasons why scientists should consider entrepreneurship.
Scientists Are Innovators
Innovation is a key driver of entrepreneurship, and scientists have always ranked among the world’s leading innovators. Having the vision and skill set to develop new inventions that solve practical problems can give scientists an edge in the marketplace, which is one reason why top companies such as Google invest so heavily in scientific research and patents.
Greg Mark, CEO of startup Markforged, has revolutionized the 3-D printing industry by introducing a printer capable of printing metal at a $100,000 price point within the range of smaller manufacturers. Seal supplier Apple Rubber provides companies with customized o-rings made out of materials such as Viton, nitrile and silicon for innovative applications in fields ranging from aerospace to medicine. Creative scientists with the knowledge and skills to turn these types of technological innovations into practical products have the capability to open up untapped market niches that other entrepreneurs wouldn’t even consider.
Scientists Make Data-Driven Decisions
Another entrepreneurial advantage scientists enjoy is experience with analyzing data, which can empower them to make data-driven decisions. Companies that base their decisions on objective data instead of intuitive guesswork are 5 percent more productive and 6 percent more profitable than competitors, MIT research has found.
Scientists, who are already experienced with data analysis, are in an ideal position to harness data insights and put them to use for practical business applications in areas such as marketing, operations and sales. Data analysis expertise can also be used to create marketable products and services. For instance, startups such as Aidin have disrupted the healthcare industry by bringing the power of analytics to bear on the vast quantity of data generated by medical providers.
Scientists Are Problem Solvers
Another quality that makes scientists stand out as entrepreneurs is their ability to solve problems, an essential skill for business success. In fact, a study by cognitive scientist Saras Sarasvathy found that successful entrepreneurs employ an approach to problem-solving similar to that used by math-minded thinkers.
In math and in hard sciences that rely on mathematics, a combination of imagination, intuition, deduction and verification plays a central role in problem-solving. Successful entrepreneurs use a similar set when approaching problems such as how to identify market niches, how to improve operational efficiency or how to optimize sales processes.
Former General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt once said that when running GE, he employed the problem-solving skills he learned from math more often than he used his formal business training. Scientists with problem-solving experience who transfer their skill sets to business can be highly successful entrepreneurs.
Innovative aptitude, expertise with data analysis and problem-solving experience are three qualities that can help make scientists superior entrepreneurs. Scientists who possess these skill sets are in an excellent position to make the transition from working in the lab to running their own companies.