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Entrepreneurial Scientists Help Drive Economic Development and Innovation

A couple of weeks ago, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Thomas Friedman published an optimistic column in the New York Times about the start-up company EndoStim, which has developed a medical device to treat acid reflux. The company started out as one doctor’s idea – an extension of his clinical practice – and was helped along by several investors. Friedman, who likes to stay ahead of current trends, sees EndoStim as the future of scientific innovation and economic development.
Friedman’s analysis of EndoStim’s success in combining science, business, and technology reflects ideas that can open career opportunities and directions for researchers. For example, EndoStim’s way of doing business hews close to the methods of the open-science movement discussed in a Science Careers article last month. Indeed, EndoStim’s approach might be called “open everything.” Its lack of a formal structure and use of technology allowed the company to bring in ideas and capital from all over the world, taking advantage of the fluid nature of information.  As Friedman explains:

“EndoStim was inspired by Cuban and Indian immigrants to America and funded by St. Louis venture capitalists. Its prototype is being manufactured in Uruguay, with the help of Israeli engineers and constant feedback from doctors in India and Chile. Oh, and the C.E.O. is a South African, who was educated at the Sorbonne, but lives in Missouri and California, and his head office is basically a BlackBerry.”

Another point that Friedman hints at — and that another Science Careers article discusses — is the motivation behind the success of these scientist-entrepreneurs, which is not always profit. Financial success, of course, is a big reason scientists start their own companies. But in many cases the chance to develop useful — in some cases life-saving – products or processes from their research is as important. As one bioengineer told Science Careers, “You have to have faith…You have to believe in your technology and what you’re trying to do.”

If you’ve got an idea based on your research and think it’s marketable, now may be a good time to push forward. And if you want to do something truly new and interesting, it’s a good time to investigate novel business models like this one. For more on founding a science start-up, in addition to Science Careers, see this Depth-First blog post from 2008.

This guest post is contributed by Angela Martin, who writes on the topics of Career Salaries.  She welcomes your comments at her email:  angela.martin77 [at]