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The Flight of the Gryphon: From Campus to Business with Sean Thompson

Bridget Coyle-Asbil | December 4th, 2023

On November 22nd, Sean Thompson, BSc, founder and CEO of Psigryph Inc., joined the S2BN Guelph Chapter to discuss all things entrepreneurship! Our guest shared his journey, knowledge and wisdom with all attendees and provided valuable insight into how he co-founded his own company.

Students and early career professionals gathered to ask questions and hear what it takes to make a successful startup. This opportunity gave individuals the chance to hear first-hand the ups and downs of venturing into entrepreneurship and gain valuable insight from someone with experience.

Sean's Story:

Sean caught the entrepreneurial bug from his parents, who both immigrated to Canada from Barbados. Although he started out his undergraduate degree set on becoming a medical doctor, he quickly decided his passions lay in innovation to improve treatment options. So he set out to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical research industry.

After finishing school, Sean decided to gain real-world experience by working at several large companies, such as La Roche and GSK. He credits his success in entrepreneurship, in part, to these experiences where he saw how things work in the real world.

Throughout his career, Sean also developed a passion for business. However, as his background was solely in science, he worked with a talent manager and took advantage of workshops to help learn the business side of the industry. When Sean began working in startups, he utilized these new skills to discover great science and turn it into a company. This is exactly what he did when he co-founded Psigryph Inc., a company working on nanodelivery systems.

Here’s some of Sean’s advice for those interested in startups:

What advice do you have for grad students interested in entrepreneurship?

There are two seasons in life to pursue entrepreneurship: early and late. In the early stage, in your twenties, you have less responsibilities and more freedom to take risks. But later in life, you’ve gained more wisdom and experience in a real world setting to understand how the business industry functions. You also typically have greater financial security to further support you in the initial phases of a startup. For Sean, later in life is when he made the move to pursue entrepreneurship and he’s happy he waited.

Experience is the best professor, and spending time in a big company will teach you many valuable skills before starting your own startup. Working in a company first will show you how the real world functions.

What advice would you give a student looking to start entrepreneurship right out of school?

Starting a company straight out of school can be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Bringing on a business partner that has expertise already can be a huge asset to helping the company succeed. It is important to have experts in all areas; a research person to develop the idea and the business person to help bring it to market. Although most people don’t want to give up a piece of their company, advisors and investors will help get the company off the ground. You can own 100% of nothing, or 5% of something huge.

Finding a great mentor who can show you how the industry operates is another great way to set yourself up for success

What are your tips for seeking out a great mentor?

Take advantage of the resources available to help you. The University of Guelph has a variety of programs including the Incubator/Accelerator Program and the Research Innovation Office who hold events and mentorship programs for startups. Both programs open the doors to new resources, mentorships, and funding opportunities to help get students started on their journey.

Networking with established professionals is another great way to build relationships and gain a great mentor. In fact, most jobs aren’t ever officially advertised and are landed through preexisting connections. Working for someone first and learning from them is a great way to develop many valuable skills.

What are some important skills or qualities that helped you on your journey to success?

Perseverance is key in the world of entrepreneurship. “NO” is a word that many trying to start their own companies here far more than “yes”. But keep pursuing in the face of certain defeat and find those people who will tell you YES! You need to believe in your company 100%, because no one else will. Most people want something predictable and don’t like change, so taking the huge risk of a startup isn’t for everyone.

We hope this career spotlight provided great insight into the exciting world of entrepreneurship! For updates and news, be sure to subscribe to S2BN's mailing list or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


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