The academic versus the entrepreneur


I was recently at a pre-conference dinner, where I met a fellow speaker. After we exchanged pleasantries, she stared me straight in the eye and said “So, are you published?”.

I wanted to tell her proudly about my book, my half a dozen booklets, my white paper, impressive website copy and growing pile of blog posts, but alas, I knew that was not what she was really asking.

My new friend wanted to know if I had any published research studies in medical journals – she was an academic.

The question really threw me. Despite being a health professional, my business had propelled me head first into the entrepreneurial world, and I had become used to the space where the only thing standing in the way of something being achieved, was me just getting it done…as quickly as possible!

So although I could throw together a new website, build a sales funnel or set up an email automation with a few hours in a café, I was suddenly acutely aware that the credibility of being ‘published’, in an academic’s eyes, would likely always elude me.

Every industry needs academics. These are the people who create, test and report on aspects of all that we do to ensure that we practice our profession with strategies that are proven, safe and effective. Research is slow, painstaking, detailed and…did I mention slow?

Every industry also needs entrepreneurs. They take ideas and not only make them reality, but make them financially viable and self funding. Entrepreneurs move fast, testing their ideas on the real world as they go. Did someone say ‘human guinea pig’?

Academics and entrepreneurs are polar opposites in terms of their funding models, motivations, timelines and definitions of success, yet the opportunity seeker inside of me wonders what magic could happen if we could better integrate, and even intersect the two.

The entrepreneur’s product or service is infinitely more compelling if it has research evidence supporting it. The academic’s research findings are really only useful to the world if they can be wrapped around a sustainable business model.

The potential of crossing the academic with the entrepreneur has made me incredibly excited, so soon I will be meeting with leading researchers at Melbourne University to discuss their ground breaking research into knee arthritis, and explore ways that my expertise could intersect with theirs to scale best practice management to the world.

I would really love to hear about examples of the academic and the entrepreneur intersecting, so I would love you to share any you have come across. It could be teams that work together, or even a single person that has a foot squarely in both camps and is crushing it. I would just love to hear about your experiences.

So what did I say to the lady at the conference dinner?

“No, I’m not published” I said, “but please tell me all about your research”.

I was in the presence of a respected academic, and it was time for me to just shut up and listen.


  1. Silvia Pfeiffer on January 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Being from both camps, I must say, it’s really hard. While I was a research scientist, I published papers (not in healthcare, but in computing). My PhD was 300 pages long. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, blog posts and websites are what I do and they are just as hard to get right. I’m a different way. Marketing is hard, so let’s not underestimate each other’s achievements.

    • Karen Finnin on January 23, 2017 at 6:52 am

      I completely agree Silvia.Healthcare will be most successful when we can combine the best of both worlds.

  2. Suzanne Long on July 12, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Couldn’t agree more with “what magic could happen if we could better integrate, and even intersect the two.” As a physiotherapist that has gone down the PhD route, and taken a sideways step as an entrepreneur, I can say that they do not intersect easily! Thanks for the thoughtful post, it’s good to remember that both paths are worthy and necessary 😉

    • Karen Finnin on March 2, 2018 at 6:13 am

      Thanks so much for your comments Suzanne. I have so much respect for people who have had a foot in both camps! You could not have said it better: ‘both paths are worthy and necessary’.

Leave a Comment