The Battle with Balancing Authenticity

2 May

By Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

I cannot tell you how important it is to be authentic in the world of a startup, especially if you are going to try and raise capital or find partners who have channels for your product. The big challenge for most scientist entrepreneurs is that they are typically deep into their chosen field of endeavor and being so “deep in” causes some to lose perspective with their positioning in the current market. Let’s just say that this form of tunnel vision can leave you lopsided when you need to be balanced in your perspective when in dialogue with future partners.

It is understandable that the entrepreneur becomes overly engrossed in their products and technologies and is quite common – no one is going to be more passionate about your product than you are, and investors want to see passion. However, being in too deep can leave you out of context. I cannot tell you how many times I have meet a startup CEO who has a challenge carrying on a conversation outside their domain of expertise. They are so engrossed in all things relating to their technology and have difficulty adjusting or normalizing to the level of a non-expert. Try to remember that always going “deep in” makes the conversation one-sided and not understandable to the listener. This leaves the listener just trying to guess what this person is saying, with the entrepreneur potentially unaware that they have lost the listener and both are out of context. An entrepreneur has to maintain a balance, giving a technical explanation, but doing it in a way that a non-expert can understand. Also, appearing too absorbed in your technology can have other negative side effects – investors need to know that you can impartially determine the value and marketability of your products and that you can put together a team that can build a company, not just continue to do research.

All this begs the question: can you be too authentic? The answer is yes – if you lose perspective and stay totally absorbed in your technology, you will not be able to get out of your own way. Part of the conundrum is that to get to a point where you have a breakthrough product or technology, you have to commit and immerse yourself into the arena. However, you cannot go so far down the rabbit hole that you wind up in your very own entrepreneurs wonderland.

Perhaps now you can see why I decided there is a need to have this type of seemingly esoteric conversation with thousands of founders who are scientists and engineers “deep in”. Being deep in means you are authentic with your knowledge and expertise, but the other side of the authenticity coin is being able to honestly translate your knowledge and visions to the rest of the world with the proper perspective and complete business understanding. It is one of the key challenges you, the entrepreneur, will face. To bridge the inventor’s world with the rest of the world is to find your entrepreneurial voice.

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