Approaching A Professor For Help With Your Startup?


Has anyone ever approached a college professor to help give advice and provide introductions to people who might want to invest in your startup?

I'm going to do this, but wanted to gain some insight from anyone who has done this before.

Any advice is appreciated...


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asked Nov 23 '09 at 06:04
Drew Little
41 points

5 Answers


Yes, I did this. I worked as a research associate for my professor and towards graduation I apprached him with the ideas that I had. My advice would be to do your home work before you approach your professor, be prepared for answers and a presentation

1) What does your start up do?
2) How is this related to the work that your professor does?
3) What kind of help are you looking for from your professor (Networking, advice) etc
4) What stage is your start up?

Note that professors are busy and are also open to professional opportunities.
The questions might vary based on if this is an initial discussion/introduction to if you want the professor to serve as an advisor etc.

I believe you are initiating the discussion so I would suggest to present your problem see if your professor is interested and then go on from there

Hope This Helps

answered Nov 23 '09 at 08:45
11 points
  • thanks for the info :) – Drew Little 14 years ago


Professors can be a great resource. They can help you learn about the field, including problems that bother potential clients (things for you to solve) as well as information on existing competition, They also have relevant resources that can help you find clients or investors.

In fact, they might be exactly what your board of directors needs, assuming they are famous in a relevant field.

Some profs are nicer then others... Some will be glad to help, others might feel they are too busy to be bothered.

Be sure that you have your act together, since they are busy, and if you are not ready, and don't know exactly what you need, you might not get another chance with them.

I am not sure that profs will talk with potential investors on your behalf unless they are really convinced that you are serious enough and know what you are doing. This is not likely to happen unless they are on your board...

In what field is your startup. and what does the professor teach?

answered Nov 23 '09 at 09:07
Ron Ga
2,181 points
  • thanks for the info :) startup deals with online local advertising...the professor teaches electronic marketing – Drew Little 14 years ago
  • Online local advertising in your area, or a national/global advertising at the local level? – Ron Ga 14 years ago
  • the goal is to start in my area, then expand to diff regions of US, and eventually internationally – Drew Little 14 years ago


My experience with Professors is that they are very variable:

  • Some are not interested.
  • Some are trustworthy and great resources.
  • Some are overly interested and protective of their own IP and acquisitive of others' IP.

Also, some University apparatchiks (bureaucrats) can be very protective of University resources (professors, labs, etc.), especially in these times of depleted endowments.

Tread carefully! But do tread!

answered Nov 23 '09 at 11:57
Peter K.
377 points
  • thanks for the info :) – Drew Little 14 years ago


Where are you based?

In the UK many Universities have 'Technology Incubation Centers' for the specific sharing of professors, graduates, equipment and space - the latter two often at a reduced rate. It might be worth getting involved with one of these.

Two examples I'm aware of are Bristol 'RED' and Edinburgh Technology Transfer Centre (home to HubDub and Fanduel ).

answered Nov 24 '09 at 00:06
Jon Hadley
161 points
  • I'm based in Richmond, VA USA..unfortunately we don't have that at our school currently :( ... I would like to create one though. This is one of the conversations I want to have with the professor thanks for the info :) – Drew Little 14 years ago


Yeah. It's a good idea - and do have your act together.

Ask yourself if you need them truly, the stuff they have access to or just advice. Be very clear on what you want.

Then ease into it slowly - don't go for broke, asking for 1. everything or 2. the most important part that tips them off to a solution you came up with. No new ideas are truly "new" as they saying goes, but that doesn't mean you have to give your collection of them away. Once you get a feel for things, decide how much further you want to go. If they're interested in more than generic advice, get an NDA. In fact, if you're working on similar things, you might want an DNA that says you might both be willing to share the benefits/inventions/etc.

Keep in mind that a professor might be a school resource - so agreements might actually have to be signed with the bureaucracy instead. The nice thing about bureaucracies is that they usually take so long, you end up solving your problems by yourself anyways :)

Good luck

answered Nov 24 '09 at 06:16
119 points
  • i appreciate your advice...much thanks :) – Drew Little 14 years ago

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