I remember, all too painfully, in many of my high tech and life science start-ups, a common refrain from the scientists would be, “We got the device to work….it’s just engineering from here.” Then, invariably – millions of dollars later – I would learn (as the CEO): that’s when the hard work really begins. It’s one thing to get one device to work; it’s another big thing to get the next hundred devices to all work.
When I set out to start the “USA Science Festival” and received a phone call from Chuck Vest, the President of the National Academy of Engineering, suggesting that I should stick “engineering” in the title, my ears pricked up. But I had already written several documents, gotten the domain name…. so it seemed it was really too late to change. But sure enough- a day or so later I got a similar call from John Watson, Associate Director of the Von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at UCSD and past-President of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. A pattern was emerging. He stated emphatically that, “You really can’t have a National Science Festival without Engineering in the name.” That’s when I recalled my venture capital experience.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the cries of “Praise the Lord” for changing the name and the onslaught of help from all sorts of new communities for incorporating “engineering” in the title. Then I thought: who will call me next? The mathematicians? The physicists? The chemists? We can’t possibly call it the USA Science, Engineering, Math, Technology, Nanotechnology, Biology, Earth Science, Statistical, Medical and Astronomy Festival…So we kept it as short as possible and went with USA Science & Engineering Festival. It sounded like a mouthful at first, but it works!
Let me put my lesson in simple terms: If you can raise a hundred thousand dollars for a Science Festival and a hundred thousand dollars for an Engineering Festival, you can more easily raise a million dollars for a Science & Engineering Festival.