Black Narratives: 3 Insights From Rotimi Alabi On Start-Ups
Lessons From a Former Scientist on How To Think Like an Entrepreneur
The life of an entrepreneur can be lonely.
We often overlook the self-sacrifice involved to glorify the “CEO” and “Founder” avatar’s we see in the media. The lessons and wisdom of CEOs are now widely available. Content creators continue to shine an intimate light on the reality behind a business’s glamour.
But what inspires CEO’s and Founders at the beginning? What do they do to go about starting a startup? What do they avoid and who’s advise do they take?
Rotimi Alabi is the CEO and Founder of RAB Microfluidics, an end-to-end laboratory protocol solution that miniaturises standard laboratory procedures, performing them on a microchip. After recently receiving funding, Rotimi joined me to share his insights on how he transitions from being a PhD student to building RAB Microfluidics.
Here we talk about his personal story and 3 key lessons he’s learnt from building his recently funded company.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Rotimi came to the UK to study at Coventry University before moving to Scotland to study at the University of Aberdeen. Specialising in Organic Chemistry and then a niche subject known as Microfluidics, Rotimi worked in tandem with a company to complete his PhD studies since the area of Geoscience had little base research.
The goal of his research was to miniaturise the end-to-end laboratory protocols, from mixing solvents and fractionation separation to analysing compounds using GCMS and Infrared instruments.
Upon releasing his thesis, the company working on the same research productised their findings and went to market. That didn’t go down so well for Rotimi, who then decided to build RAB Microfluidics.
Rotimi explained that scientists work with a process of trial and error to solve a specific challenge. However, as an entrepreneur, you identify a problem, develop a marketable solution, build a plan and execute. Problems can be approached differently and here are Rotimi’s insights on thinking like an entrepreneur.
Lesson 1 — Selectively Leverage Information
Rotimi’s scientific background meant that he was at a natural disadvantage to his competition, who had experience building businesses and had already entered the market.
Rotimi sought out information and insights based on peoples experiences to immerse himself in the Founder’s mindset. This is undoubtedly the way to go, but we agreed that not all advice is applicable and should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Implementing good advice is a skill that requires self-awareness. If you take advise that doesn’t apply to you or your circumstance, it may derail you from the goal and give you a false sense of confidence.
Here’s a framework that Rotimi uses to qualify advise and information before implementation.
I ask myself a series of questions and depending on those answers, I’ll put the advice into practice.
What makes this person qualified to give me advice?
What is the credibility of their qualifications?
What biases do they have?
Is this person a practitioner or a theorist?
Lesson 2 — Believe In You
Going from 0 to 1 is the hardest, and you may not see results immediately. Believing in your ability to find multiple paths towards your goal will help you find success. The chance is that your first ideas won’t cut it. As you create new iterations, you’ll better understand the components that you should keep and test.
But before the results back your product, you have to support it.
Self-belief is founded on self-confidence, which I believe we develop in our early years. This develops at home and school for most of us, but not everyone has those reference points. In their absence, Life can be a cruel but necessary teacher. Through perseverance and adversity, we forge an equally sound sense of self-belief.
I think lesson 1 and 2 complement each other well — if you lack self-belief and self-confidence, make a concerted effort to leverage the information you need to challenge your current thought process.
As you find and apply more relevant information, you’ll develop self-belief and confidence to press toward your challenges and find success.
Lesson 3 — Dream Big and Take Action
If you’ve decided to build a company, then it’s likely that you imagine the world could be better somehow. You may think that people with health challenges shouldn’t have to travel far to get tailored advice from their doctors. Maybe you think that people with less competent It skills should have stress-free online experiences.
In Rotimi’s case, he believed that he could revolutionise processes for oil testing and analysis, moving from standard laboratory procedures to rapid real-time, cost-effective technology.
Your dream is motivated by your Why. Your actions are motivated by your dreams, which then build habits for success.
By dreaming your wildest dreams, you find time to plan and execute. Through planning and execution, you will build the habit of doing challenging work.
“Challenging” work can be defined in various ways but Rotimi’s means heavily investing in your ambitions.
Yes, sir, that does mean late nights and early mornings in order to get the work done.
Rotimi story shows that the business world can be unforgiving, but with the right mindset and resulting actions, you can make a stand for your vision and ideas.
- Leverage information from those who have experience with what lies ahead, but be careful to apply what you think is applicable.
- Believe in yourself even when the data doesn’t show you want you expected to see.
- Dream big and commit to the actions required to make those dreams a reality.