From University lab to spinoff startup and back to the WHY of lab work

When startups are in the thick of things with surmountable challenges, they cannot help but think of the problem they have. Growth flatlining, marketing plans, product tweaking not to mention human factors within the organization needs attention.

My story relates to my conversation I had with Professor Maznah of University Putra Malaysia about her University spinoff startup within InnoHub. We started our text conversation on the next coming activities in hand for her startup. Since now a pattern is beginning to emerge from the customer discovery problem interviews they have conducted.

Interestingly enough the customer segment, memory loss and Alzheimer patients she had identified earlier before coming into InnoHub, matched well with the assumed problems of that segment. Though we managed to invalidate many other assumptions along the way of other customer segments. A few more groups of people to interview, we are then well away of coining the Unique Value Proposition Statement and validating that UVP.

In the middle of our conversation, she claimed University researchers are facing with new challenges when they are involved in business in her words can be long lasting and rewarding. I had to point out to her that her WHY must be greater than all these challenges. WHY she started research in the first place. WHY she continues with research work and want to commercialize her technology. Part of InnoHub program is also to establish and inculcate the culture of that WHY within her startup. I mentioned to her that her WHY might be the only reason to ensure the success of her startup after both of us are no longer around. The focus must be of the WHY.

I had to angle my conversation this way because I know Professor Maznah’s conviction from her years of University researched work is nothing but for the benefit of the society. My stay at the University so far has been working with people geared to help others. They are not only educators, teachers but also inventors who are eager to let society use what they have discovered & researched.

The concept of WHY above is from an individual point of view and should be an inspiration point (pun intended) for the WHY of her company. WHY should her company exits? This is in line with Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”.

It was not difficult for Prof Maznah to get the meaning of WHY in our conversation and important for her to infuse that into her startup’s for it’s survival from now and beyond.