PhD == Startup. Governments and universities should leverage this truthiness and the good ones will.

All the contrasts are actually comparisons.

The budget - Your PhD being a startup fits incredibly well with how PhDs already go. Professors control the student’s budget, which is often Seed or Series A in dollar value, 5-6-7 figures. The student’s salary is a founder salary (< minimum wage).

The investor - Professors should lead their labs like VCs lead an accelerator. There are many projects, mostly duds but a couple double/triples and the rare home run. Like your investor, your advisor/professor should only be trusted for the money part. A meddling professor isn’t good just like a meddling investor isn’t. Like D-list investors, crappy professors aren’t focused on the bottom line. Obviously some are, but too many professors are chasing vanity metrics like publishing in Nature.

The business - People will say business != research project. One is to make money, one is for knowledge! For a large % of cases, this is all just about the timing of the payoff. It’s hard to argue aiming for a faster payoff is a bad thing. And of course your funding source wants your thing to have an impact on the world. Please tell me a scenario where impact isn’t judged by money. I’ll wait.

The founder - Just out of college, the CEO/PhD student is clueless but hungry. They want to learn. During your grad school startup you will. Also, the typical length of the phd/startup, 3-6 years, is a realistic amount of time that it takes to learn how to learn. Success or failture, after that, you can do whatever. You will be better at the next thing.

The zeitgeist - Stanford embraces the phd/startup mindset (Google co-founders being a most famous example). Harvard - with its litigate first stance - does not. Betting against Harvard is like betting against the Yankees. Strange things happen in sports though, Steph Curry, so I wouldn’t be too surprised by the same happening in academics. If you say “meh”, to that anything is possible argument, I can spell out why more universities should care about ROI, T-u-i-t-i-o-n b-u-b-b-l-e.