Devices & Diagnostics

Of bruised egos and hurt feelings: A tale of a scorned startup-founding scientist

That some academics don’t necessarily make good business executives is a well-worn fact. And it’s not uncommon that founders — researchers or otherwise — often step aside, or are sometimes jettisoned in the interest of the firm. But the question is how should founders behave when they are cut off from the company they created? […]

That some academics don’t necessarily make good business executives is a well-worn fact. And it’s not uncommon that founders — researchers or otherwise — often step aside, or are sometimes jettisoned in the interest of the firm.

But the question is how should founders behave when they are cut off from the company they created? Is it in their interest to go quietly? Or show that they have been hurt?

Dr. Doris Taylor, who drew international attention in 2008 when she and her team created a beating heart at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Cardiovascular Repair, appears to have taken the latter route.

Taylor’s efforts led to the creation of Miromatrix Medical in February 2010, which licensed that technology from the university to find commercial applications. Taylor assumed a board seat while veteran healthcare industry CEO Robert Cohen was installed as the company’s chief executive. But five months later, Taylor was voted off the board. Apparently, she clashed with the CEO. At the time, the University stated that  “Dr. Taylor remains a productive and valued faculty member of the University of Minnesota.”

Not any more. In late January, the Texas Heart Institute announced that it had hired her away from the University of Minnesota.

Taylor made it clear to the Star Tribune that being removed from the board “was one factor in her decision to leave Minnesota.”

Clearly it was a big enough factor to warrant mentioning to a reporter, and once again it demonstrates how hurt Taylor must have felt to be removed.

I refrain from judging whether it was necessary for her to be removed because I am not privy to what went on — comments at the bottom of the Star Tribune story seem to indicate she was a very difficult personality and I have heard the same from someone who did not wish to be quoted.

But that is not important.

I wonder whether it is even in Taylor’s own interest to draw attention to any bad blood. Miromatrix is a startup and has a long way to go before it is deemed a market success. Taylor owns shares in that firm. She has much to gain if the company does well.

And maybe financial self-interest should be what scorned founders focus on, unless the company is involved in some kind of illegal activity that they wish to highlight. Because for someone of Taylor’s talents, her energies are probably better directed at coming up with the next breakthrough idea that will change medicine.