A number of people, especially graduate and postdoctoral students, have asked me recently, how do I evaluate entrepreneurial companies during my job search? They have little to no track record, compared to larger more established companies and many seem to have innovative technology, strong research, and passionate founders. What parameters can be used as a metric for potential success and what differentiates one startup over another? I have outlined a few considerations below as a starting point to address this complicated question.
Research the founder(s). Review press releases, LinkedIn, Google Scholar, USPTO and other sources of information to learn about them. Founder(s) of previously successful companies, have a track record, which could be an indicator of future success. Founders who are distinguished and well respected in their given field, even if they have not previously founded a successful company, are definitely worth consideration.
Are the senior members of the management team leaders in their given areas? Do these individuals come from successful companies, institutions, or pedigrees? How well do the skills of the senior management team complement one another and how well do they work as a team? If the answer is clearly well, this is a big positive.
Are the board members successful distinguished individuals in their respective fields? Board members are especially important for first time entrepreneurs and are very helpful in setting strategy for an organization. If a first time entrepreneur is able to attract experienced talent, this is worth noting.
Scientific / Technical Advisory Board
Who is involved in the SAB? Are they leaders, either academic or industrial, in their respective areas? Founders who can attract a strong SAB are more likely to have a solid scientific foundation.
Is there a solid scientific foundation, and is it backed up by publications in high quality journals? If so, this is worth noting. That said, some technologies are intentionally kept out of the public eye to allow time for development.
Research the investors. Investment firms come in all shapes and sizes, and are often quite specialized. Make sure that the investors are well suited for the opportunity at hand, and bring the right amount of experience and money to the table to help ensure long-term success. If top tier organizations put their money towards an idea, theres a reason.
Success is never 100% guaranteed, but you can look for patterns indicative of success. This will help you make a more informed decision regarding the company(s) that you join throughout your career. Entrepreneurial firms can be extremely exciting and full of opportunity. Take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available to choose the right one for you. This will get you on the path to success.
Lauren Celano is CEO of Propel Careers, a Boston based life sciences search and career development firm.
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