Friday, August 29, 2008

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A Start-up or a PhD? - that is the question

That is the question I started to ask myself like an year ago, when I was about to finish my BS.
I've always wanted to create my own AI-research company where to develop my theories... Always means at least since my late teenage years. However, this is still a dream. :)

I've met several appropriate people during the years, but it was just an exchange of thoughts....

Last year I realized something which sounded a bit like a paradox: what is better - to create your own research-company after you are a BS or an MS, or to go for a PhD. My first preference was the start-up...

If you manage to reach to a fundamental or feasible discovery/theory and have a basis for an impressive PhD, then you may have the ability to create a company and directly realize your ideas into a product which can go to the market, bring you new funding and allow you to do more research.

If you have your ideas and topics and you want to do a PhD,  you  first need to find a University with the appropriate research direction, which might happen to be hard or impossible... I don't think it's a good idea to do any PhD, I would select it with attention.

If you find a right place, it is possible that what you develop during your studentship would not be your-property, and if you develop something really promising, it might be a disadvantage, you may expose your  ideas to more powerful authorities that can steal your idea and create the product before yourself.

Finally, while doing a PhD you are supposed to demonstrate that you can perform significant research and contribution by yourself, etc., while if you are in a company, you can freely collaborate and potentially scale your R&D team.

In the same time, finding of funding in the early stages of projects is a hard task and it is likely that during a PhD you will lay the milestones of the future development...

A Start-up or a PhD?

What about both? Create a company and do a PhD in parallel?


Of course, if you don't have funding, you can't found a start-up... You need to do something for a living and you're eating up the time for the real R&D.

So doing a PhD, even not the "dream one" may help you to concentrate on research.

Success or Failure PhD paradox

If you have an ingenious project, it is likely to find funding even without a PhD.
If you have a project and a basis which are not impressive enough and are yet only of Academic interest or it sounds impressive only to scientitsts, then you're supposed to do a PhD...

So if you sort of fail, you go to a PhD to get a higher formal degree and eventually direct to Academia, or in the meantime you reach to something better.

If you succeeded early, then a PhD is not required for your future success, your capability to do "self-guided significant blah-blah-blah" is obvious.

Sure... :)


Update, 5.9.2022: See a continuation of this story:

PhD system and duration: 5 years with 3 years planning - isn't it too long and risking obsolescence on the go? What about contributing to many projects and not just one "personal" thesis?

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