October 2014 Feature: Daniel Terpstra – The Profile of an Entrepreneur

Daniel Terpstra was part of the third cohort of Lean Launch Pad for Genomics, which was offered during spring 2014. He was part of Pendulum, a team that explored the potential commercialization pathways of a devise that objectively measures the severity of Parkinson’s disease. Daniel’s team conducted a record number of interviews and it was the team that demonstrated the most progress throughout the LLP sessions. When we met Daniel, he fit the profile of an entrepreneur. We are pleased that he has found value in the LLP sessions and that he continues to apply the tools he learned in his current projects.

The Profile of an Entrepreneur

by Daniel Terpstra

In high school I took Physics 12 by correspondence, which taught me self motivated learning, and began my love of applied science.  Before transferring over to UBC, after a brief stint in computer science, I had the good fortune of working in the labor industry for 5 years.  In the dangerous and fast-paced world of (basically) a lumberjack I developed the fierce work ethic, critical thinking, and leadership skills that aided me through my degree and still separates me from many of my colleagues today.  I graduated with distinction and co-operative education from the Electrical Engineering program at UBC in 2011.

My degree validated that at heart I truly am an engineer, but deeper still I was something else most of my peers were not – an innovator.

This became evident in every academic technical project and every co-op work placement I participated, as I constantly challenged the existing designs or infrastructure.  When I ended my full-time job as a Research Engineer earlier this year it was because I had gone as far as I could go with innovation and personal growth.  Additionally, having done co-op with D-Wave Systems, an elite team through-and-through, I yearned to work with a centrally focused innovative team again.  It was time to make a go at entrepreneurship, something I had been considering for years.
In the beginning of 2014 I rearranged my life to optimize for entrepreneurial success opportunity, which included reducing my cash burn rate to levels which would allow me to survive for over 18 months.  After a few months I found myself in the Lean Launch Pad (LLP) for Genomics program at UBC.  While editing a friend’s PhD thesis I happened to notice a technical gap in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) research, and this was what we brought into LLP.  In LLP we broke the record for customer discovery, having spoken to nurses, researchers, and neurologists from all over the world.

After a total of 5 months this endeavor was brought to a decisive close – an ideal failure.

While failure is always disappointing, what I have learned about entrepreneurship and myself in these past few months will certainly prove to be invaluable in the future.
I feel very optimistic about my coming journey.  What I’ve been able to amass in 8 months of full-time entrepreneurial pursuit is a great rapport with the entrepreneurship group at UBC, a great entrepreneurship mentor, a few technical advisors, and a growing network of potential co-founders.  I am keeping my eye out for great opportunities in existing startups while pursuing the behemoth market opportunities in genomics.  I have no idea what I’ll be working on next month, but one things for sure; the future is limitless.

More posts by Daniel: The Importance of Mapping Your Competitive Ecosystem – Interface Summit 2014

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