Career Spotlight: being an entrepreneur, or, Tucker’s Thirteen Tips for starting a business

Last week’s final Career Spotlight slot was taken by Dr Andrew Tucker, from Mettle Consulting.  Dr Tucker talked through the stages in his career which have led him to the point where his company has just received substantial investment from some new backers.

Career to date:

After an MPhil, Dr Tucker worked for the LibDems for a few years and then joined a start up dotcom business.  He moved to the US for his PhD, researching trust, and came back to the UK to find work variously as an academic and consultant.  He launched one business, Trusted Reputation, which did not work, and then found funding for a post-doc from the ESRC.  Finally, in December 2010, having found a business partner, he launched Mettle Consulting.  His PhD thesis, subsequent book chapters and then the post-doc research, were the basis for the businesses and were crucial in being able to create his own PR when approaching clients.

Lesson 1

Don’t listen to people who are ‘experts’: they are likely to put you off!  Certainly listen to common sense (see Lesson 5 below) but if you believe in something, go for it.

Lesson 2

Work for cash, not sweat equity (share options).  Dr Tucker’s experiences at the dotcom start-up showed that you should value your own labour.

Lesson 3

Do something you enjoy.  Starting a business is almost as hard as doing a PhD: the perserverance required is similar but in both instances you have the feeling that you have actually achieved something.

Lesson 4

Finish your PhD before you start a business.  You’ll need massive amounts of energy and time and the two are likely to be hard to combine.

Lesson 5

Listen to your wife/husband/partner/family.  You might not have to take their advice but they know you and your abilities.  You will need them when, on day 1, you have neither clients nor contacts nor cash: they will help you learn from the awfulness of that to get through to day 2.  Find yourself advisers (Dr Tucker has about five people with whom he talks through ideas).  Again, you don’t have to take their advice but they will help you find your voice, just as you are finding your voice through your PhD.

Lesson 6

Find your USP.  Don’t join the hordes – they have clients and form.  You are the expert in your field – the PhD proves that – so you must be the go-to person for clients.

Lesson 7

Find a business partner.  They should be your mirror image in terms of skill set.  Dr Tucker met his at a conference and was called up by him a couple of years later when the partner had spare capacity to support a new business.

Lesson 8

Be lucky!  Or opportunistic.  Be in the right place at the right time (eg meeting the right business partner).  If something is not working, change it.

Lesson 9

Bin the first business.  Fail fast.  People just don’t make a success of their first business, so get it out of the way quickly.  It will be very painful but you will learn a lot from it.

Lesson 10

Don’t be an accountant (ie don’t expect a regular life!) but do hire one.  Dr Tucker did not pay himself out of his business for 18 months, wanting to ensure that the junior staff had a salary.  Only now is there a reasonable expectation of a good salary.

Lesson 11

Don’t give up your IP.  Find ways to make sure that you hold onto it: it is what gives you value.  It will be hard – a buyer or client might want it – but find other things to negotiate on.

Lesson 12

Play the long game and don’t aim for everything all at once.

Lesson 13

Be a leader.  You will have to turn yourself from a one-man band to someone that other people are turning to for direction.  But eventually you will need to trust these other people so that they can focus on the work and you can focus on the strategy.

Career Spotlight: Life Science Consulting

Last week’s Spotlight feel on ex-KCL post-doc Muneer Ahmad, now a senior strategist at Lifescience Dynamics.  He gave a very detailed insight into his work and that of life science consultancies generally.

How did he get into consulting?

Whilst doing his PhD (at Imperial), Muneer ‘bumped into’ someone who was VP of a consulting company, at a conference.  This led to him doing some work editing business intelligence reports about drugs and possible markets.  He examined questions such as how did patients with cardio-vascular disease get diagnosed, how did they get treate, how patients complied or not with their medicine; all information that would help figure out how a market would develop.

He then worked for Oliver Wyman as a risk consultant, and then, on redundancy, took a role looking at prescription data with another firm.  All this experience served to make him an attractive candidate at Lifescience Dynamics.

What are the similarities and differences between business and science?

Both are about solving problems.  Both want to know a ‘truth’.  But business does not have the luxury of time; so you are looking to get the best answer within a given time, efficiently and effectively.  In both, you have to be a team-worker.  In business you are having to use your judgement more often, given that often you are not working with complete data.

What does Lifescience Dynamics do?

Active in over 80 countries, they have worked with the top 20 pharma companies on over 400 projects.  There are three main themes to their work:

1)  Competitor Intelligence.  Looking at pricing, understanding the pipeline, conducting interviews with contacts, finding out what stage clinical trials are at.  You might conduct ‘war games’ for a client, where you simulate what would happen if a competitor released a drug on the market and you would ‘develop a playbook’ of possible outcomes.

2) Market Research.  You are now not just ‘dumping data’ on the clients but also having to provide interpretation: answering ‘so what?’ for the clients.

3)  Market Access: covering pricing and reimbursement.  It used to be that decisions about what drug to prescribe were made by GPs; now more often these decisions are made at PCT/SHA level to give a formulary to their GPs.  You can say the market has gone from being prescriber-led to payer-led.

What is an analyst’s typical day like?

One project might need two or three analysts, one senior consultant and one project manager.  Imagine you had been given the task of writing a two page document on rheumatoid arthritis.  You would spend the day researching data, possibly creating a survey questionnaire, possibly talking to PIs working in the field.  You might be taken to client meetings where you would have to be sensitive to cultural differences (you may have been asked to research across 5-8 countries). ‘Be brief.  Be bright.  Be gone.’ is the consultant’s mantra!

PhD entry?

Many of his colleagues have scientific and PhD backgrounds.  You are always likely to start at the bottom (think of working as a freelance in disease information).  Your bosses may be younger than you.  But ‘clients love PhDs’!

Your careers consultant: five ways to use me

1) Are you wondering what you might do when your current research post comes to an end?  Perhaps you’d like some help deciding what the next best step could be.  I can act as a neutral sounding board for your ideas and help you to source inspiration and contacts for your next move.

2) Does your CV still date from your undergraduate days?  Have you figured out how to explain your research to a non-expert audience?  Come to a CV writing workshop on the Researcher Development Programme, and by all means use me to give you feedback on CVs, personal statements, application forms or covering letters.

3) Feel that your interview technique might be a little rusty?  Again, the RDP can help.  Or, you could book a practice interview with me to give you an employer’s eye view of your performance.

4) When was the last time you met a real live employer (excluding your academic colleagues!)?  Look out for our ‘Spotlight’ series next term or check out the careers events page on the KCL website.

5) Can’t come in?  No worries.  Keep reading the KCL Graduate School blog for regular updates on vacancies, conferences and careers information: take a look through the archives for lots of other topics.  Plus we could talk over Skype or just over the phone.  I’m working on a series of webinars for next term too.

To make an appointment, for the time being, please email  I see researchers on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, at Strand, and can come to Guy’s on a Friday.  Please include your phone number and email address in your email.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Latest Vacancy: Law Post-Doc in Australia

**The deadline for this post is passed, but this may help you identify employers, job titles or skills you need to research your next posting**

Details include:

Applications are invited from early career researchers of exceptional calibre for the Dean’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in 2013. It is an opportunity for researchers who have completed their doctorate (PhD or SJD) in the last five years to undertake research in a field consistent with the School’s research strengths. The appointment is part of UNSW Law’s strategic priority to attract researchers of high quality and potential in its key research areas.

Fellows are selected on the basis of their research accomplishments and potential, their academic career interests, and the capacity of the School to provide mentoring.

• The position is full-time, and is available for a period of two years at Level A or B.
• Level of appointment will be determined on the basis of previous experience and achievement relative to opportunity.
• An attractive relocation allowance will be offered to the successful interstate or overseas applicant.
• Applicants are expected to commence in or as soon as possible after July 2013.
• Women and people from equity groups are encouraged to apply.

See for more information.

A Phd to advise Phd’s…

Careers Adviser/Trainee Careers Adviser

From £31,233 (TCA) or £38,996 (CA) pa inc. London Weighting

If you enjoy communicating with people, want to join a diverse team and are looking for a role with variety and opportunities for training and career progression, why not join our team of Careers Advisers?

We recruit from all disciplines and we are particularly interested in candidates with a Science or Engineering background and/or with a PhD (plus some experience of work outside of academia), since some roles will focus on careers advice to Science and Engineering students, including research students.

Please refer to the Job Pack file for more information about the role.

Please visit to apply.

Closing date: Sunday, 7 August 2011.
First selection round: week commencing 15 August 2011.
Second selection round: week commencing 22 August 2011.


If you want to talk informally about this job contact

3 of our current advisers came too us after a period of postdoc’ing.