The START Entrepreneurs program is a 12-month post designed to leverage the resources of Princeton University and the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem to help aspiring entrepreneurs, including social entrepreneurs, explore the translation of academic innovations into highly impactful new ventures.
We are first and foremost seeking innovations and startup ideas that will be highly scalable and impactful and that are in the spirit of Princeton’s unofficial motto “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity”. Strong candidates will exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and can demonstrate a desire to bring their innovation from a research environment to the broader world. Applications are open to aspiring entrepreneurs from all disciplines.
Successful candidates will be selected based on their proposed startup, their entrepreneurial spirit, their potential contribution to the Princeton entrepreneurial ecosystem, the alignment with Princeton University faculty and resources and an overall commitment to supporting inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship.
START Entrepreneurs will receive a total package in excess of $100,000 that includes salary, benefits and a small amount of discretionary funds. Salary and benefit packages will differ based on candidate experience. The program can accommodate postdocs, research scholars and professional specialists – depending on qualifications.
In addition to funding, START Entrepreneurs will have access to world-class research facilities and faculty, tailored mentorship, targeted entrepreneurship education, and introductions to a network of founders and investors.
All Entrepreneurs will be expected to be present in Princeton, NJ for the duration of the 12-month program. This is a full-time commitment and is not compatible with other employment. While each START Entrepreneur will work autonomously, they are expected to set and meet milestones during the 12-month program. They will be required to report on progress/learnings to the START Entrepreneurs program team at regular intervals, to engage productively with mentors and with their fellow START Entrepreneurs, and to participate in educational offerings as appropriate.
At the end of the 12-month program, all START Entrepreneurs will be expected to present their findings about the viability of a startup venture. If it is determined that such a venture is viable, then after leaving Princeton’s employ, the START Entrepreneur may choose to create a separate and independent entity, e.g., a company or a non-profit organization, that leverages and builds upon the work done at Princeton. Any Princeton IP used by the startup will be subject to a licensing agreement with Princeton. If a START Entrepreneur determines that their startup idea is viable before the 12-months is completed, they may have the option, in consultation with their faculty mentor and the START Entrepreneurs program team, to leave Princeton’s employ early to pursue the creation of a spinout entity.
The START program strongly encourages applications from individuals who will contribute to the University’s diversity, broadly defined, including members of groups that have been historically, and are presently, underrepresented in academic entrepreneurship, such as racial and ethnic minorities. Consistent with applicable laws and Princeton policy, in selecting START Entrepreneurs and administering the START program, Princeton will not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, genetic information, or veteran status.
Please note that no prior connection to Princeton is required to be a START Entrepreneur, but all successful candidates will need to have the support of a faculty member in order to begin the program. You do not need to secure this support in order to apply. The START Entrepreneurs program team will work with all finalists to enlist the necessary faculty support.
To apply, candidates must meet the following criteria:
- Earned a bachelor’s degree from any college or university – PhD strongly preferred.
- Have a compelling reason to work on your startup at Princeton University – including the ability to leverage specific faculty expertise and intellectual property.
- Demonstrate a passion for and commitment to entrepreneurship, broadly defined as the initiation of transformations through risk-taking actions and value-creating organizations.
- Applicants must be committed to working full-time on startup research and exploration activities. This program does not allow for other, concurrent, work activities.
- The position is open to non-U.S. citizens and prior work authorization in the U.S. is not required.
- All startup proposals must demonstrate a clear market and societal need that the START Entrepreneur will work to address and an explanation of how the startup will be feasible, impactful and scalable.
- Applications must include a milestone-based plan of what will be achieved during the year.
- Applicants must include the name of at least one Princeton faculty member* whom they would like to have advise on their research and provide mentorship. If you are selected as a finalist, the START Entrepreneurs program team will work with you to find a faculty member to sponsor your application (this person may or may not be on the list that you provided with your application).
- Please note that there is a different application process for candidates with a PhD and those without a PhD.
The program is looking to support people who are interested in leveraging their expertise to create a viable and fundable spinout of any kind, e.g., a company or a non-profit organization.
- Feasibility that this could be ready to become a spinout within 12 months
- Solves an important problem
- Has potential for large positive societal impact
- Scalable solution
Entrepreneurial Mindset and Potential:
The program seeks candidates who possess an entrepreneurial mindset and demonstrate an eagerness to apply their research findings or ideas to solve real-world problems. This includes qualities such as creativity, adaptability, risk-taking ability, and a drive to innovate.
- Demonstrated passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, and applying research in practical contexts
- Evidence of creativity, problem-solving skills, and ability to think outside the box
- Willingness to take risks, adapt to challenges, and pursue opportunities
Research Excellence and Potential
Candidates should have a strong background in a relevant field. The selection committee looks for research proposals or project ideas that are innovative, feasible, and have the potential for large societal impact.
- Strong academic and/or professional track record, including publications in reputable journals or conferences
Fit with Princeton
This program is designed to allow START Entrepreneurs to leverage the resources of Princeton University, especially faculty expertise.
- Candidates should make a compelling case about the relevance of the role of their faculty advisor(s)
- For candidates not already working with a faculty member, they must demonstrate appropriate alignment with faculty members on their list of potential advisors.
- For finalists: only those finalists with committed advisors will be considered for offers
Leadership and Collaboration Skills
Candidates should demonstrate leadership potential as well as the ability to work collaboratively.
- Previous experience in leading or contributing to research teams, projects, or initiatives
- Ability to effectively collaborate with interdisciplinary teams and stakeholders
- Evidence of mentoring or guiding junior researchers or students
Contribution to and Support of Diversity and Inclusivity
Candidates and their proposed startups should support Princeton’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity, broadly defined.
- Candidates should be able to show how they and/or their startup will contribute to and support inclusivity and diversity.
Candidates and their startups should be able to demonstrate strong support from people with knowledge of the candidate’s capabilities.
- Strong and supportive letters of recommendation from mentors, professors, or industry professionals
The goal of the program is to allow aspiring entrepreneurs the time and resources needed to vet their startup idea and innovation and determine if they can create a fundable startup.
It is expected that START Entrepreneurs will work full-time on exploring their potential ventures. This may mean spending time with relevant Princeton faculty members on research, performing discovery to understand the compelling market need that the startup will address and working closely with mentors.
Each START Entrepreneur will create and commit to a set of research milestones with the program team. Additionally, START Entrepreneurs are required to attend periodic entrepreneurship workshops and lectures. All START Entrepreneurs are expected to apply to participate in the I-Corps Regional Program during their time at Princeton. We further encourage each START Entrepreneur to apply for grants that will help support their translation work.
At the outset of the program, a team of mentors will be selected for each Entrepreneur based on their individual needs. It is incumbent upon each START Entrepreneur to take advantage of these mentors and to let the Program Director know if you need mentorship in different/additional areas.
Entrepreneurs will be required to present a quarterly report to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council outlining the progress on their startup and detailing progress towards milestones.
START Entrepreneurs will be located at the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs, which will serve as their main place of work. Conference rooms are available to tenants on a reservation system. You will also spend time on campus for educational training, to work with your faculty sponsor and to leverage the resources of Princeton University such as the library system.
The START Entrepreneurs program at Princeton will not receive equity in any startup that you create after your time as a START Entrepreneur. It is important to note that a licensing agreement must be negotiated if a startup licenses Princeton IP – this includes any IP developed by the START Entrepreneur and/or their faculty mentor(s) while in the employ of Princeton.
Each START Entrepreneur will spend their time in the program working to identify and quantify the market opportunities for their innovation and continuing to develop the technology/innovation with an eye towards creating a fundable and scalable startup after the program is complete.
If there is a viable startup opportunity that is identified, the START Entrepreneur will build a comprehensive milestone-based plan for launching a startup and spend the remainder of the program working towards that goal. Please note that our selection process will favor proposals for which there is evidence of a compelling opportunity to create scalable and sustainable positive societal or environmental impact.
We welcome applicants who have been working outside of academia.
You can apply with an idea, but you will need to demonstrate how you will leverage your unique skills plus the resources of Princeton to take this from idea to a viable startup within the 12-month program.
No. You must complete your degree before the program begins.
In your application you should list at least one (preferably more) faculty members whom you believe would be a good fit for your research. If you are selected as a finalist, the faculty member(s) that you listed will be contacted by the START Entrepreneurs program team to determine their interest in your startup idea.
While it is the intent that the startup leverages the research being done at Princeton, the startup is free to license technology from elsewhere. If you plan to use IP from another institution, it is recommended that you already have the IP licensing agreement in place before joining Princeton.
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