Startup culture vs Research culture

Having worked with tech startups who have a strong academic/ research background and at startups that even had specific research teams at a very early stage, I started reflecting on the difference between research culture and startup culture. There’s no idea to beat around the bush: they’re very different. Based on my experience, there are more differences between the two than common denominators for a harmonious coexistence.

ML in research vs production (image courtesy Chip Huyen / Stanford University)
Image courtesy of Maarten Lens-FitzGerald (LinkedIn)

“There is an underappreciated aspect of success to consider: tough moments make for the most creative solutions. If you have the cushy safety net of your academic/research position, there is an option to fail, and given how demanding startups are, there are going to be do or die moments that require everything you’ve got. You have to be willing to give that.”

All this being said — there are many successful startups that have been built at the back-heel of research; a prime example being the current Silicon Valley data darling Databricks. But there the whole team went all-in, placing all their eggs in one basket to build a commercial software company, not to do research. There’s no other way.

Recommended further readings:

📚 Power Law for Professors: Why you should put all of your eggs in one basket by Andreessen Horowitz

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Oliver Molander

Co-founder at Validio and early-stage tech investor at J12 Ventures. Preaching about the realities & possibilities of Data & ML.