Are you a grad student, a postdoc, or a recent graduate who is working in a little university spin-off company your prof. started?

Are you wondering whether your prof’s company can really succeed?

Do things seem a little dysfunctional?

Are you concerned that this little enterprise might go down the tubes- and you might not get paid for your last month’s work?!

How can you perform a diagnosis?

Well, you should read the Top Ten Signs below, and ask yourself if any of them describe what’s going on in your prof’s company.

A company can survive a few of these things happening for a little while, but if you’re seeing more than a few of these signs in your prof’s company- it’s not a real business, and it will become roadkill.




That your Prof’s Company Is Going To Tank . . .


When your Professor:

1.                   Won’t write a business plan

2.                   Couldn’t define the term “cash flow” to save his life

3.                   Loves playing with gizmos in the company workshop- hates examining the financials

4.                   Isn’t learning how to operate a business (figures if he was smart enough to get a PhD, he’s smart enough to visualize instantly how to operate a business- who needs mentors or business books anyway!)

5.                   Thinks he’s going to fund his company’s growth from government grants

6.                   Isn’t paying attention to marketing or sales (figures he’ll sell a bunch of the gizmos to his research buddies)

7.                   Rambles on about scientific and technological details to investors, businesspeople and potential customers- instead of telling them concisely how his company will supply a solution that is in demand in the marketplace

8.                   Got seed funding to write a business plan, do market research and take the laboratory prototype to a field-testable unit- but spends 80% of his time on three separate basic research programs he’s bootlegging on the side with the money

9.                   Thinks his patent is FAR too valuable to allow control of the technology out of his hot little hands by giving an exclusive license to anyone

10.               Has a bunch of his friends, academic colleagues and a lawyer buddy on the company’s Board of Directors- none of whom can define the term “cash flow” either!




. . . then you know your prof’s company is gonna slide down the tubes.


It may take a year- it may take three years or even five for the enterprise to fizzle, but unless an attitude change takes place, the company has no future.  The company usually lays off its employees and goes dormant when the seed funding runs out and there isn’t the cash flow to keep operating.



 Sometimes a prof gets lucky.  The funders force him to bring in real management, or he gets a rude wake-up call that he actually heeds, such as a collection call from a creditor





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