Entrepreneurship at Tech

In a world where the most influential entrepreneurs started their businesses in their own garages, it seems that everyone aspires to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Everyone wants to be the “next big thing,” but it’s not that easy. To help kindle the entrepreneurial flame, Georgia Tech offers a lot of resources.

“The entrepreneurial environment here at Tech is insane… and the BME students are in a class of their own,”

Professor James Stubbs

Professor James Stubbs is fairly new to Tech’s Biomedical Engineering department. He has only been a part of the faculty at Georgia Tech for a little over a year but has a lifetime of experience in entrepreneurship. While all of his degrees are in nuclear engineering, Stubbs found his true calling while working with the head of nuclear medicine at a local hospital for his Master’s project. “I figured out that hospitals were full of problems, and I was an engineer.”

Ultimately this clinical experience evolved into the first of several medical device companies, Proxima Therapeutics. The company’s first product was a balloon catheter system filled with radioactive fluid to be inserted into the cavity where a brain tumor was resected. The company eventually was acquired by another company at a value of $195 million. The company that bought Proxima also offered Stubbs a position as Chief Research Scientist, where he was given an intrapreneurship opportunity, meaning that though he was employed under a company, he was still able to function as a new start-up company.

Less than 15 months after moving to Palo Alto, the acquiring company closed the California operations, firing everyone who didn’t relocate to Boston, including Stubbs. His reflection on this event was “… and that was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, he started his second company, Focal Therapeutics. Professor Stubbs eventually transitioned out of the company after a few years, as the goals of the company did not align with his. As of right now,“it’s doing about $1 million a month, and it’ll be acquired at some point.” Though it seems like Professor Stubbs and his coworkers have experienced massive success, he’s actually had quite a few experiences with failure, and it’s the failures that Stubbs focuses on.

The key to a successful entrepreneur is exemplified as Stubbs explained,

“I’ve had one [company] that’s been acquired, two that are ongoing, and one that was an absolute, miserable, failure; I’ve experienced it all.”

Professor James Stubbs
Stubbs emphasized the need to experience failure for every entrepreneurship, saying, “…if you’re not failing at stuff, you’re not trying. Because if you’re not trying new things and you’re not being told ‘you’re stupid’ or ‘that’s impossible’, you’re trying things that are way too close to what exists right now.” Stubbs followed this by summing the roles of entrepreneurs in one sentence:

“Entrepreneurs are the ones who go out and try things that are labeled as ‘impossible’, and that’s how you get the revolutionary ideas.”

Professor James Stubbs

With faculty like Professor Stubbs who have been through the whole nine yards, along with the other programs and clubs like the Medical Device Entrepreneurship Association, the InVenture Prize, and CreateX, Tech makes it easy to think of an idea and create a business out of it. To paraphrase Tech’s viral freshman convocation speech from 2013, if you want to be an entrepreneur, you’re at Georgia Tech; you can do that!