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Nothing ventured, nothing gained

My Take | May 9, 2022 | By: Janet Preus

I don’t consider myself risk averse, generally, but I don’t have a burning desire to jump out of an airplane, either. I have, however, written a book that is difficult to classify. In the world of publishing, this is risky; it’s hard to sell a book in a murky category.

Regardless of where you may fall on the continuum from risk averse to risk taker, if you’re successful, I’ll bet you’ve taken risks. But it is, I think, a subjective matter. I may not care to jump out of an airplane because it’s too risky for me, but I have no trouble getting up in front of a group of people and talking off the cuff, or with minimal preparation. That would scare the pants off a lot of people, including some who are very successful. They’ve been successful because they were willing to take huge financial risks, and from my point of view, that’s really scary. 

Every day great ideas are created in research labs around the world because somebody was not afraid to take a risk. In precious few cases was there a pile of money stacked up in advance. There was some support, which would be enough to start, obviously, but then what? This is where risk assessment gets serious, and it’s where startups either find a path forward, or are left to languish in notebooks or hard drives in a research lab storage room. 

That great idea a brilliant (and often young) researcher has taken to some level of proof must face hard questions to make it past prototype to full commercialization. Is this idea worth pursuing, and is it worth pursuing right now? Timing may not be everything, but it certainly counts in the larger picture. Is it in a “murky category?” What, exactly, is it going to take to get this off the ground? 

Marketing. There’s no getting around marketing – for my book or for researchers’ great ideas. They will have to find potential investors, manufacturing partners and collaborators with expertise they need, who are all going to be more impressed with whatever breakthrough product they have if they’ve also determined that there are end customers out there that want it or can be convinced that they can benefit from it. 

This is all pretty basic stuff, and I’m skimming over it lightly, but I think it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves of the importance of weighing risks and making the right moves at the right time. I hope you’ll take a look at our latest feature, “A startup ecosystem,” by Dr. Seshadri Ramkumar, who has some personal experience in collaborating to launch a new product. 

Launching a startup is vital to the ongoing success of the textile industry, so it’s critical we support the entrepreneurs who are willing to take the necessary risks to give something to the world that just wasn’t there before – something useful, maybe even life-changing. There will be failures along the way, to be sure, but we will never know if we don’t try. 

Janet Preus is senior editor of Advanced Textiles Source. She can be reached at jlpreus@ifai.com.

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