Innovator Profile: Alyssa Adams, Ali Deatsch, and Andrew Kusick

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a remarkable global collaboration unfolded as scientists from every field rallied together in the pursuit of solutions. This crisis brought researchers across the world to a singular cause, igniting a collective effort to combat the virus. Amidst this critical moment, a group of postdoctoral scholars, Alison Daetsch, Alyssa Adams, and Andrew Kusick, saw an immense potential in the scientific community. Together, they conceived the idea behind ProPhounD, a program aimed at counseling research scientists and facilitating their transition into impactful roles outside of academia. This initiative mobilized scientists to not only address the immediate crisis but also the world’s most pressing challenges, pairing talented scientists with causes that they are passionate about. 

Beyond the pandemic, the untapped potential of PhDs in the workforce remains a pressing issue. This results in numerous unresolved challenges, despite the abundance of talented and highly educated scientists capable of addressing them. ProPhounD transcended past the Covid-19 pandemic and was officially established in 2022, now focusing their work entirely on pairing PhDs with the right resources and problems to solve.

We asked Daetsch, Adams, and Kusick to discuss the impact of ProPhounD and the story behind its emergence: 

Where did the idea for your company come from initially? 

The idea for ProPhounD came at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when a group of postdocs wanted to help research scientists mobilize to find solutions to the global health disaster. In early 2020, while labs were shuttered to prevent disease spread, the founders realized that valuable talent had only rudimentary ideas on how to approach or be effective in the private sector. The mission became to help PhDs meet and be effective in organizations outside of academia that are solving the world’s big problems. 

How has D2P helped you, and what have you learned along the way? 

ProPhounD’s team on a zoom call

D2P has been particularly helpful for us in business coaching, especially in the area of customer discovery. Even though we finished our program, we continue to get referrals to people and organizations that understand and hope to solve the problem we are trying to solve. Our first dollars came from a D2P grant, which led to our first customer. D2P was also helpful as we formed the legal and financial structure of our business. The founders work really well together and much of this has to do with carefully crafted incorporation agreements. Additionally, our mentors at D2P were supportive, kind, and incredibly knowledgeable. The thoughtful programming was a wonderful springboard for our mission at ProPhounD. We are lucky to have D2P in our corner as we continue to help academics find non-academic careers that they love.

What’s your current focus with the company? 

We would like to get three additional clients in the biotech sector to fund career development education and programs to 1000 grad students and postdocs who work in molecular biology, chemistry, bio engineering and other similar academic departments. 

What are your hopes for the company moving forward? 

Provide employer specific and employer funded career development programming in other socially important field like energy sustainability and environmental sustainability. As we grow, we would like to help social scientists work on critically important problems including misinformation propagated by social media and criminal justice reform. 

What drives you/why is this project important to you personally? 

The potential to help smart and highly motivated people become engaged with problems that are critical for the world to solve is a value that drives all of us at ProPhounD. We also believe that it’s a terrible waste of talent if PhD earners are not reaching their full potential simply because they have only gotten their professional socialization from academia. 

What advice would you give to other campus innovators that are just starting out with exploring the potential for their ideas? 

Find a group of people you love working with and who you trust, because it is not easy to start a company. Also, talk to everyone who will give you even 30 minutes of their time about your idea and ask them who they think you should talk to. 

How do you balance the time you need to spend on your project with other work and life responsibilities? 

We developed and actively cultivate a culture that acknowledges it’s a long-haul ride creating a company, and we pace ourselves much like a marathon runner paces themselves. It’s like a relay race actually, sometimes one of our team members sprints while the others get ready for their turn to run hard.

Read more innovator profiles from D2P