It seems like many successful entrepreneurs take the path of dropping out of school entirely (before they even receive a B.S) to start their company. Some of these fellows, such as Richard Branson, may even argue against higher education. So from this perspective, it seems like going for a PHD is following the anti-entrepreneur path.
I beg to differ.
I agree with you that the 5 skills you listed will make you a better employee in any field, but I don't think they are the distinctive qualities that make you a successful entrepreneur.
To me, the edge a PhD students have in starting their own business is their knowledge and ideas in their specific field of research.
I do not think there is a strong relationship between PhD studies and starting a business, in pratice at least. A PhD teaches you to analyse problems in a structured and logical way, how to synthesise solutions and evalue them, it makes a world expert in particular area. It's the perfect training towards a career in research and academia. Business on the other hand needs other kills including fund-raising, self-promotion, marketing etc. I am not saying people with PhDs are not capable of starting a business, I just do not see a strong correlation between the two.
@Simon, I rather think you would have been an entrepreneur with or without a PhD :-)
I have to say that I don't see a causal relationship between advanced degrees and creating a successful business. Perhaps it's because I have created and tanked two companies. Granted, a Ph.D. is a problem solver, and building a business is a steady stream of problems, but you don't need a Ph.D. to solve most of them. I think it's a matter of attitude. Recently I watched a man who had started one small business and also done some real estate development set his sights on a movie theater. He did his homework; counted the competition, lined up his ducks and rolled up his sleeves. $8 million later (mostly loans, I presume) the 8 screen all-digital theater is beautiful. But he needs a vacation, that's for sure. However, I suspect he can better afford one than I can! Business is relentless hard work; if you play your cards right with a Ph.D., you can settle down into academia and bully students forever. Who's more useful to society? That one, my friends, is a no-brainer. For the record, I hold a Ph.D.
Simon, I don't think you are wrong...but I think you are looking at things from the youngster's end of the telescope.
You have homed in on the risk and autonomy elements of PhD study and compared them with the same characteristics in business.
However, just about anything someone could do after a first degree/MSc/MA would involve risk and autonomy (unless they are so wealthy and pampered that they don't have to do anything, in which case there is no risk). Taking on risk and responsibility is part of growing older.
So for those of us looking back on a mis-spent youth the link between PhD studies and entrepreneurship via risk and autonomy seems much less significant than perhaps it does to you.
And then there is the counter argument that many PhD students are so specialized and technically detailed that they struggle with more human-modulated matters in business; with the need to understand commercial value and to sell.
For many people the BSc-to-MBA route looks like the more frequently trod path to business success.
But as discussed above it takes all sorts to make a world.
Sorry Simon, I strongly disagree...most people who have PhD (including myself) are quite weak in marketing and sales (I tried it for a year)...they are incapable of finding real business funding (not a few dollars from cousin Jimmy)...in short what makes them good in research (analytical skills etc) makes them usually weak in business...they have too much technical depth! ;-)...Kris
I have seen a complete spectrum of PhDs in action. A PhD is an achievement, but it does not automatically confer an advantage in business skills.
I believe it really comes down to personality - to quote a past movie...
Jules: I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way.
Simon, congratulations for achieving such success at a young age. I have to say I disagree with your thesis that PhD students are made for business or its corollary, that a PhD is a predictor of entrepeneurial success.
Having said that, you appear to have most if not all of the qualities of a successful entrepeneur, not the least of which is being a jack of all trades -- and I don't mean "jack of all trades, master of none," but rather "jack of all trades, capable in most."
Clearly, not every expert in high temperature energy harvesting and electrical systems is capable of making a successful small business out of making accessories for the iPod and iPad -- and doing the accounting, creating an effective website and worrying about such things as how to find lower-cost unprinted bags and using them to support branding and marketing during the holiday buying season.
It is more likely that variables other than academic success in pursuing research in a narrow field of inquiry influenced your business success. If that were not the case, then why didn't your thesis advisor come up with Slotzz and it's products before you did? He, after all, is the expert, and you are "just" his student who hasn't even obtained a PhD yet?
I think the answer clearly lies in those other variables, which from my point of view, include far more than academic and research capability. You are, in my book, a very intelligent and highly motivated "jack of all trades," and that is nothing to be ashamed of! I wish you and your company the best, even if you never actually use your knowledge of energy harvesting.
There is a definite personality influence in weather some one will be an entrepreneur but I thing that can be fostered in people and brought to the fore, especially if they realise the skills they have. There is the ongoing argument on if entrepreneurs are born or made and I think there is room for both, it's just getting people to see their own entrepreneurial potential.
Calculating isn't a bad thing, those people need a couple of co founders who can balance that out - I think a perfect combination would be a calculating person, a sales person and a planner.