Why Physicists Make Great Entrepreneurs
by Johann Dias
While normal career paths are all but set in stone for a vast majority of physicists, I feel they aren’t being told that they can find huge opportunities in an entrepreneurial setting. See, people who study physics are taught to think on scales unheard of in the business world.
We deal with sizes ranging from a Planck length (umm… super short) to megaparsecs (very, very far.) After a few years of working with such widely varying orders of magnitude, conventional gains seen in businesses seem almost... boring. For example, imagine creating a product that is 15% better than any of its competitors.
Such a product, on paper, would crush its competitors in terms of performance, price, or whatever other metrics are being used to gage its success. After all, conventional business practice is to make incremental gains year-by-year; from stock prices to market shares, this form of competitive comparison is everywhere.
Entrepreneurs and physicists alike have the capacity to see a bigger picture: after all, will your average consumer really pay for a product that’s 15% better than what they already have? In most cases the answer will be no.
Using this completely different perspective, entrepreneur-physicists think: how can I create something entirely new that will be 10,000 times better than anything currently out there?
Elon Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in physics, and many years later released the Model S sedan. This car scored the highest-ever rating on Consumer Report with a beyond-perfect score. While the car is not 10,000 times better than other competitors, it stood out in a way where the experience felt 10,000 times better. Elon set the new standard for other auto manufacturers, and part of his success was due to his insistence on perfecting the user’s driving experience-- not to make the experience 15% better than other similarly-priced cars.
Remember, Elon is a physicist at heart, so an interesting conclusion can be made: People who study physics are taught to think exponentially, not incrementally. They see the bigger picture, and are able to see whole systems at work extending far beyond short-sighted challenges such as direct competition. This is what I believe is at the heart of every entrepreneur: to question the status quo and figure out game-changing, innovative, and exponentially better alternatives.