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More PhDs are leaving academia to launch their own businesses

Published on Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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Globe and Mail article on e@UBC venture HeadCheck Health

Harrison Brown had a choice after completing his Master of Science degree three years ago: Take a job in the U.S. related to his research in sports concussions or keep studying and build his own company.

For Mr. Brown, it was a no-brainer. He and a fellow University of British Columbia student, MBA graduate Kerry Costello, founded HeadCheck Health, a tool that athletic trainers can use on the sidelines to assess potential concussions.

As Mr. Brown works on his PhD at the UBC School of Kinesiology, in the field of sensorimotor physiology, he, Ms. Costello and a third co-founder Alexey Manov are building HeadCheck and marketing the product to sports teams across North America.

It’s all part of Mr. Brown’s plan to pursue the path of entrepreneurship, instead of becoming a professor, researcher or working for someone else.

“I’m not the type of person that wants to sit in a lab and crunch numbers for the rest of my life,” Mr. Brown said. “I enjoy doing that and I’m good at it, but I have other passions in life. I enjoy business and socializing with people in a different setting.”

He’s also pursuing his own company with full knowledge of the risks, including that many startups fall flat.

“I’m going this way because it’s something that I’m passionate about. It allows me to take the skills that I’ve learned in research and have a larger impact,” said Mr. Brown, who has suffered from concussions while playing on a rugby team in his teenage years.

Mr. Brown is one of a growing number of PhDs skipping the academic route to start their own businesses. Universities across Canada are capitalizing on the trend by launching entrepreneurship programs to help students build their companies. For example, UBC has its e@ubc program, which Mr. Brown and Ms. Costello are involved in, while the University of Toronto has its Banting & Best Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (BBCIE). These programs, and others like them, provide mentorship and education on how to start and run a business.

Read the full article here.