Scientists prefer starting a business as a sideline

Being self-employed as a part-time job is popular – especially among scientists. According to a study by the Institute for SME Research (IfM) in Bonn, most scientists at German universities are self-employed as part-time jobs.

The advantages of starting a business as a part-time job

Starting a business as a part-time job has many advantages. For example, founders leave when setting up a sideline less risks than with a start-up in the main occupation, in which one puts everything on one card. Because the continued main job secures the livelihood, while the new business idea can be tested on the market without pressure. Another advantage is that founders remain socially insured through their main employer and there are no additional costs for social insurance. In addition, starting a business as a part-time job has the advantage that you can use the contacts from your main job to start your own business – provided you don’t compete with your employer and don’t poach customers away from them.

80% of the scientists found a sideline

Some scientists are probably also aware of these advantages: According to IfM scientist Teita Bijedić, around 80% of business founders from science are self-employed as a part-time job – and this apparently satisfactorily. Because a large part does not plan to make the transition from a sideline to their main job.

Furthermore, the study found that the life satisfaction is higher for those who have become self-employed as a part-time job than for academics who are exclusively employed. The latter were only more satisfied when it came to income.

Anyone who has started a business will not regret this step. According to the study, around nine out of ten respondents would repeat the step into self-employment. It also shows that the start-ups were successful, because in 2020 two thirds of the start-ups from 2013 were still active on the market. The general survival rate of start-ups, on the other hand, is 37% after five years according to calculations by the IfM Bonn.

Together with her team, Bijedić has welcomed around 7,300 scientists at German universities over the past few years start-up activities questioned. Every third person interested in founding a company who had a business idea in 2013 implemented it by 2020. This high number of business start-ups from science is also not surprising, since the infrastructure at universities that promotes start-ups and contacts in business have a positive effect on the start-up success of scientists.

Secondary and main occupation: Business start-up advice helps with the implementation of the business idea

The study participants were also sorted according to their biggest obstacles questioned when starting a business. The respondents named a lack of commercial knowledge and a lack of knowledge of the market as the biggest hurdle. In particular, those interested in founding a company in the MINT subjects have found this to be a major problem.

Whether starting a business as a main or part-time job with the support of business start-up advice, founders are on the safe side. A consultant knows which points you should pay attention to when starting a business and also has the necessary know-how in terms of business plan, legal form, financing, sales and marketing. He is also familiar with the funding area and helps with the application (tip: funding check).

The study “Start-up success of scientists at German universities – a longitudinal study” and the statistics on the survival rate of companies are available on the website of the Institute for SME Research (external link). A suitable advisor can be found using our “Advisor Search” service.