Thoughts in Between

by Matt Clifford

TiB 225: I wrote a book! Plus: metascience; evaluating science funders; and lots more...

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How to Be a Founder

Hello again, readers! I've missed you for the last few weeks. Today is a big day for me and I'd love your help. My Entrepreneur First co-founder Alice Bentinck and I have written a book: How to Be a Founder and it's out today. If you enjoy TiB, I think you will like it. I'd love you to buy it and, even better, tweet about it or share it with a friend. (There's also an audiobook version if you prefer to hear it read in my and Alice's dulcet tones...)

We've talked a lot in Thoughts in Between about the idea that the world is likely missing out on many of its best founders (see, e.g., TiB 165 and TiB 167) and that there very likely aren't enough entrepreneursHow to Be a Founder is our attempt to nudge the world in the right direction... We distill everything we've learned over the last decade from helping entrepreneurs across three continents build technology companies worth over $10bn.

There are lots of great entrepreneurship books out there, but most of them assume that the reader has already started their business. In HTBAF, our starting point is "Should you be a founder?" - and, if so, what sort of business should you start? We try to cover the full journey of an entrepreneur, from choosing a co-founder and validating an initial idea to raising capital and building a successful culture.

If you do read it, I'd love to know what you think (even better, write an Amazon review). And Alice and I are really happy to do talks / podcasts on the topic. In either case, feel free to email me.

Catching up on a month of metascience

The last few weeks have been a rich period for excellent posts on improving the practice of science. I've not been writing about them, alas, but I have been tracking them, so I thought it might be valuable to point a few of my favourites. I loved Ben Reinhardt's very thorough book review of The Genesis of Technoscientific Revolutions. There's a lot in this, but I think it's particularly helpful for clarifying the distinction and relationship between science and technology. There's also a good segment on "learning by doing", a favorite TiB theme (see, e.g., TiB 164 and 170).

I also came across lots of material that seems directly relevant to the task ahead at ARIA. I recommend this thread by Michael Nielsen on the challenges of encouraging scientific collaborations, particularly across institutional and disciplinary boundaries. It's worth reading this in conjunction with this interesting paper on the hidden career penalties scientists face for interdisciplinary research - which is particularly worrying given that a lot of breakthrough work comes from this kind of activity (we talked about this in TiB 115 and 219).

Finally, Stuart Buck (see this episode of the TiB podcast) wrote a good piece on "Advice for New Scientific Funders", including ARIA. His big recommendation is that new agencies deliberately introduce variation into their work (e.g. cut-offs or randomisation) to make it easier to analyse the impact of their work. Drawing on this excellent paper that explores the impact of reforms to US defence research, Stuart shows the value of variation in demonstrating counterfactual impact.

BONUS: Speaking of ARIA, applications are still open for Non-Executive Directors and the founding CFO. All referrals welcome! And if you'd like to pitch ARIA an idea or research programme, you can sign up to host a roundtable with Ilan Gur, our CEO, on our web site.

Extended quick links

As it's been a while since I wrote, here's a slightly longer than usual list of things I might otherwise have written about:

Until... soon?

Thank you for reading - and for buying the book! As I said, a few weeks ago, TiB will be occasional from now on, but I intend to write the occasional edition, particularly when a key TiB theme is prominent in the news. If you see things you think I should read, always feel free to email and share.

Until sometime soon,

Matt Clifford

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