Todd O'Brien, DPM
O'Brien Medical, LLC
Top Gun Grad 2012
As I delved into the suggested reading for Top Gun, I was surprised by some striking similarities with
my medical training. In particular, it appears that the venerable scientific method had at long last
found its way into the realm of entrepreneurship. Building on the work of ancient Greek scientists
ranging from Thales and Aristotle down to the great Arab scholar Alhazen, the modern scientific
method was crystallized in Renee Descartes’, Discourse on Method. This process of forming hypotheses
based on observation and conjecture and then testing the validity of those educated guesses through
experimentation and data collection is well known among scientists and non-scientists alike. The
iterative twist of repeating experiments based on new data creates the ubiquitous feedback loop seen
across numerous fields.
Now thanks to thought leaders like Steve Blank and Alexander Osterwalder (see his book Business
Model Generation), those same scientific principles are being applied to startup entrepreneurship.
Instead of scientists “interrogating” the nature of the physical world, entrepreneurial scientists are
interrogating the nature of potential markets for their products. This new approach encourages
entrepreneurs to test the validity of their business models through a small scale, iterative process before
taking on the significant risks inherent in launching a company.
This seems to make sense given my training as a biology major, podiatrist and inventor. As has been
pointed out by our Top Gun mentors, many of us intent upon changing the world come from a technical
orientation. I believe these same scientific skills can be leveraged to our advantage in this new
approach to the startup. The concepts of experimental design, data collection and the feedback loop
are already such a familiar part of the mental landscape for many of us that its somewhat reassuring to
be able to put them to use in our business ventures.