All Posts By

Claire Lebedeff

ARE YOU READY FOR A TECHNOLOGY PARTNER?

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Young science-driven companies are different from consumer product startups

Developing and commercializing products from hard science-based technology have special challenges that startups in social media and non-technical business services just don’t confront.

While it’s true that you can buy just about anything you can think of, having the money to play boss to an ever-expanding set of functions may still leave you with a lot more heavy lifting, even after the bills have been paid.

 

Entrenched industry forces aren’t evil, but they are real

Your business plan probably calls for you to sell your new product to corporate customers rather than to consumers. It might be an advanced material for a sensor, an electronic component, a life science research tool, or even software protecting a machine or a network – it doesn’t matter.

The point is that if you’re planning on B2B sales of a new technology-based product, chances are you’ll be facing a rich and complex ecosystem. Paradoxically, the more disruptive an offering looks, the more resistance you’re likely to find, including from some big players and groups who can slow you down, or even keep you shut out long enough so you run through your cash pile.

On top of money itself, and the time and effort needed to raise it, here are several fundamental types of hurdles young technology companies (and startups-to-be) face:

  1. 2nd and 3rd gen prototypes
  2. Customer testing/validation
  3. Scale-up design
  4. Regulatory matters
  5. OEM integration
  6. Distribution complexity
  7. Manufacturing flexibility

 

But they’ll rip off my idea, steal my business and leave me with nothing…

Emerging technology teams often experience a nagging tension between remaining in stealth mode and letting the market see what they got to get some buzz and interest. While seeking an industry partner does mean having to show something, having discussions does not equal giving the farm away. The distinction lies in the ability to clearly articulate what you want.

So, if you are affected by one or more of the above challenges to the point where you are required to explain this to investors, you should think about the trade-off involved in industry collaboration partnership. “Trade-off”? Sure there is, but it’s not about morals and dreams, it’s about practicality and the overriding rule of collaborating with industry partners: know your purpose and goals for working with them.

Here’s an example: you need scale-up insights and the prospective partner wants to use include your technology in an application that doesn’t really interest you. Sound like a good fit?  It could be great – you receive the benefits of their expertise, have access to development insights, and let them spend money on an application that’s not strategic for you anyway.

 

Looking in the right places: smart gap-filling

Finding a venture group that is well-matched for you and your business, i.e., likes your technology and business plan, has a reputation for patience and support and is eager to use its network will make a quantifiable difference.

Unlike industrial companies, VCs don’t own the assets that you covet, and being referred by a financial investor to a top OEM for product testing is still no match for the backing of industry partner who says, “We’d like to work with you on this young company’s technology and it can lower final cost of the component by more than 10%. Please try it and tell us what you think?” That industry is likely to have other assets that can accelerate your scale-up and product development.

 

Define what you need, identify the players are, and figure out what it’s worth 

Some may comment “They’ll steal your idea” or “You want to sell out and work for a big company already?” But those comments miss the point: you know what your gaps are, and you seek efficiency and acceleration on your commercial path.

First, do your gap analysis and determine the milestones to achieve commercialization. Then, lay out your basic alternatives by economic cost along with the risk of failing to achieve them on time or at all. Finally, determine who the players are that have those resources to smart-fill your gaps. Here’s a sample gap analysis to get the juices flowing.

Next week, we’ll talk more about trade-offs and negotiating with industry partners – hint! they’re completely different from financial investors.

OPEN INNOVATION MADE EASIER AND FASTER WITH SEEDSPRINT 2.0

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Identify open innovation opportunities faster 

For industry tech scouts, patent licensing professionals, emerging technology startups and scientific researchers, the seedsprint platform helps to find collaboration and licensing opportunities quickly, and lowers the cost of executing a deal. It’s all driven by non-confidential profile information contained in a searchable database.

Our searchable catalogue is a starting point, and it’s connected to a set of practical and powerful tools. Before looking at specific tools, think of seedsprint itself as big tool for members and subscribers to harness the baked-in, mutual interests of industry, emerging technology and scientific research, to accelerate the move of scientific discovery into the marketplace. Let’s take a quick look at the community of interests available to be harnessed for the parties’ mutual benefit.

Beyond transactions, it’s about the power of networked collaboration
No doubt it’s great to find a patent to license that fits right in or a startup to collaborate whose innovative new product is ready to scale up. Nice work, and it’s the core job of tech scouts.

However, when tech watch finds an institution on the same wavelength, magic can really happen. In an interview last year with Leopold Demiddeleer, former head of Solvay’s Future Business unit (open innovation team) he talked about how getting to know three researchers in electronics materials who moved to Georgia Tech, turned into an eight-year collaboration, that generated over 60 patent applications, and which was funded by tens of millions of dollars from Solvay. Connect the dots: collaborative research, licensing, startups.

seedsprint brings network self-assembly to its members and industry subscribers
seedsprint platform facilitates network creation and expansion among institutional scientific research and corporate R&D. It does this by simplifying the process of finding each other and making it cheaper and more responsive to the ways that individual member and subscriber organizations work.

Research institutions: innovation headwater, source of quality and catalyst for startups
Institutional scientific and engineering research teams have a lot they can bring to the table in cooperation with industry. Likewise, industry has enormous contribution to make too  – not just money, but practical insights, deep knowledge market ecosystems and ownership of valuable specialized assets.

Why startups attract industry partners to the institutional licensor
Hundreds of institutions around the world crank out a lot of serious and novel research. Very smart scientists and produce academic papers, present at conferences and file disclosure memos that turn into patent applications. But how can industry tech watch identify which institutions it should get to know given limited time and resources?

Literature searches and citations can be useful, academic research networks can be a source, too. However, a growing body of tech scouts consciously seek out potential partners among institutions that actively generate spinouts and license startups. Some call that technology de-risking. We all know startups are risky business, but even if there is some real de-risking of the technology by the startup, that’s about the startup and not the research capabilities of the institution, or its suitability as a potential partner.

What startups do say about the institution is something else: the work of those researchers turned into a patent application which appeared practical enough to pursue and capable of making money at some point. That’s a big deal.

Leaving aside the occasional corporate-supported fundamental research program, industry typically looks to institutions for collaborative research to solve real-world problems, practical solutions convertible into cost reductions, higher performance, greater reliability or more user-friendliness ones – so their products are more competitive.

Active startup licensing is a great sign of the practical, real-world orientation of the prospective research partner, and most important of all, of its research faculty. Why? Not because the institution fosters entrepreneurs. Nope. It’s the other way around: it’s that the commercial prospects of the invention itself motivate a smart PI to pursue a business plan based on her invention, and to do so, puts her own, and other people’s money at risk.

Inviting startups to publish profiles is good for startups and good for the licensor
Some people think that the institution might be competing with its startup for industry collaboration or licensing. Actually, it’s a referral opportunity for each one – either to licensing or even further upstream to industry-sponsored research or downstream to a young company already out there trying to commercialize.

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seedsprint is free for scientific research organizations, incubators and young companies, and available at a fixed rate subscription for corporate use.

MEDICAL DIAGNOSTICS STARTUPS YOU CAN’T MISS ON SEEDSPRINT

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This week we would like to present a group of 5 emerging technology startups in medical diagnostics. We think their disruptive technology is definitely worth following. Let us know your thoughts.

 

BIOSENTINEL 

BioSentinel is committed to the research and development of tests for Botulinum Neurotoxin. This research has yielded a new kind of testing that is quicker, more accurate, and more sensitive than current tests for Botulinum Neurotoxin. BioSentinel has developed a wide variety of products for testing every class of Botulinum Neurotoxin and flexibility in application of the tests.

 

 

EUTROPICS PHARMACEUTICALS 

 

Eutropics technology provides patient-specific tumor susceptibility information to guide treatment of hematologic malignancies, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) & multiple myeloma (MM). Our proprietary platform provides important insight into an individual patient’s cancer, making personalized medicine a reality. Our technology also provides an important biomarker to guide cancer drug development.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

HOLOMIC 

 

A licensee of UCLA, dedicated to improving patient healthcare with the use of smartphones and biophotonics. Holomic’s first product is a suite of rapid diagnostic test readers for advancing diagnostic accuracy and access. Other products in development include a lens free holographic microscope, and handheld analyzers for blood count, allergens, and mercury contamination.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

LeukoDx 

 

LeukoDx is developing compact table-top POC (point of care) flowcytometer instruments based on microfluidics technology developed at CalTech for NASA. Disposable single use test-specific cartridges to be read by its POC instruments. This is creating a revolutionary breakthrough by which state-of-the-art lab level cell based analysis can be made available 24/7 and brought to the Point-of-Care.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

SeqLL  

 

SeqLL specializes in Transcriptome, DNA and RNA sequencing services and sequencers that are accurate, consistent, and unbiased using small sample quantities. Using Helicos Single Molecule Sequencing, SeqLL  was able to discover and analyze gene expression for drug targets, companion diagnostics, and validation. Small RNA measurements give the ability to produce extremely accurate results, giving more valuable data than with other RNA sequencing platforms.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 


 

 

Inside seedsprint, industry subscribers aren’t limited to a blurb and a website link. In about a 3-minute read – subscribers get a compact, non-confidential summary. It’s not only very informative and way more efficient than visiting or scraping websites, it lets users reach out to each potential partners if they want to go further. From secure messaging seedsprint goes on to provide online deal process tools – from NDA negotiation to data room access. No intermediaries and no transaction fees.

seedsprint is free for scientific research organizations, incubators and young companies, and available at a fixed rate subscription for corporate use.

5 EMERGING TECHNOLOGY MATERIALS STARTUPS PROFILED ON SEEDSPRINT

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We’re starting a new feature on our blog, presenting a group of five snapshots – of research, technologies and startups with something in common, such as the scientific domain of the research underlying their technology or the markets their applications relate to.

Let’s start with some super young companies in advanced materials:

BIG BLUE TECHNOLOGIES 

Technology-development company, whose expertise and intellectual property  will help industry-scale producers of light metals, specifically magnesium,and technical ceramics lower their production costs and reduce their harmful emissions.

 

 

INTEGRATED SURFACE TECHNOLOGIES        

A super-hydrophobic nano-particle coating based on an ALD/CVD deposition process of alumina. Developed as a conformal coating for protecting printed circuit boards from water damage. Products coated with this composite film exhibit excellent resilience when exposed to aqueous solutions. The nano-particle based film has a tunable durability such that the coating can be applied directly over electrical connectors without masking thus offering unique protection over entire assemblies.

 View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

 

LIGAR 

Ligar Polymers develops Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) to filter, extract or detect specific molecules of interest. Polymers designed to remove very specific molecules from a flow, even at ppb levels and they can be designed to work in a wide range of fluids, temperatures, pH ranges, flow rates and pressures. The filtration technology solves painful contamination problems and extracts valuable molecules, increasing sales and reducing costs.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

 

NANOGRIPTECH

Gecko’s feet are covered in millions of tiny hairs that give them their impressive climbing ability. nanoGriptech produces synthetic microfibers that attach to and grip to surfaces by attraction on a molecular scale, like geckos. Out of these microfibers nanoGriptech manufactures glue-free adhesives that are reusable and residue-free, fasteners that are flexible, silent, and hermetic, and high friction materials that perform even when wet or oily, all with customizable strength (shear/peel, directional).

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

 

REVOLUTION FIBRES

Revolution Fibres is an advanced materials company and a global leader in manufacturing nanofibres using electro spinning machines and designing commercial nanofibre products. Nanofibres have many incredible physical properties, and are very marketable. Revolution Fibres has the infrastructure, the expertise and a commercial track record turning nanofibre into products.

View seedsprint profile (available to subscribers)

 

 

Inside seedsprint, industry subscribers aren’t limited to a blurb and a website link. In about a 3-minute read – subscribers get a compact, non-confidential summary. It’s not only very informative and way more efficient than visiting or scraping websites, it lets users reach out to each potential partners if they want to go further. From secure messaging seedsprint goes on to provide online deal process tools – from NDA negotiation to data room access. No intermediaries and no transaction fees.

seedsprint is free for scientific research organizations, incubators and young companies, and available at a fixed rate subscription for corporate use.

5 STEPS TO SUCCESS: FIND THE RIGHT INDUSTRY PARTNER FOR YOUR EMERGING TECHNOLOGY STARTUPS

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Like you, we understand the advantage that an industry partner can bring to emerging technology startups, and how it can accelerate market entry and get traction. Unlike funding from VCs or angel investors, industry partners bring crucial resources to the table: scale-up experience for manufacturing, direct knowledge of the ecosystem from its own presence in the market, along with regulatory expertise, if relevant, and access to critical 1st customer relationships.

We know you don’t need convincing about the benefits of industry collaboration, so it’s less a question of if, and rather more about how to find the right partner and negotiate a good deal.

In trying to level the playing field, negotiating with a big company is already a challenge for any innovative, young firm. However, for young companies with IP based emerging technology from scientific research, finding the right industry partner and working out a collaboration agreement brings additional twists in the road along on the way to achieving the acceleration and market traction.

Before launching seedsprint, from extensive experience with emerging technology teams and industry we developed a number of practical insights about finding prospective collaboration partners.
In terms of teeing things up and starting the dialogue, here are five important things to do that can help you get there more efficiently:

1. First, map your gaps – it’s hard to fill them unless you can name them

For an partnership between and early-stage technology company and an industry partner to really pay off, it needs to work for both sides. While that’s true for financial investors, the goals are more straightforward: they put in money and seek a 10x return, via a trade sale or IPO. But prospective industry partners aren’t looking to hand you $500K or $1 million and walk away with a $10 million gain on a sale. They’re doing it out of strategic interest, with the goal of using your technology in their products for the markets they serve, rather than for financial gains.

For both sides, the “fit” is king. First, you need to work out the broad areas of your development plan. If raising money, a financial investor wants to know what you’ll do with the funds and what your timeline is. Strategic partners want to know that too, but rather than simply financing your development, e.g., the purchase of equipment, hiring consultants or funding a lease, they can make in-kind contributions of valuable resources. These can be cheaper and faster to get than by raising money and converting it to what you need. You also get things that are tough to, i.e., not just physical equipment or analytical services, but 1st customers, regulatory knowledge, scale-up insights and so forth. First do yourselves a favor and do a real gap analysis and figure out what you need that a partner can bring to the table directly. Below is a link to an example of a one-page results summary for an H2 storage technology company.

2. Think (and write) like an industry tech scout to present your company or technology

Tech scouts are bombarded with technology offerings and exciting new inventions. Another densely written, 5-page technology and business description, with 10 pages of back-up slides may not get the message across in order to get a dialogue going.

Explain product’s value proposition, the needs it fills, and what it replaces in the market
The most effective way to get tech scouts attention is to give them specific examples of how you improve on existing market solutions. Use an attention grabber – a simple statement that impresses and supports why your technology/company deserves a deeper look. Within the constraints of non-confidential information, don’t be afraid to get very technical about what makes your technology so good, and how it’s different.

Technology description
Clearly state the development stage – proof-of concept, lab results, market-ready, and so forth. Don’t forget to mention what markets are you targeting and how large they are. It’s good to mention the advantages your technology has over the status quo and competitors. Note regulatory requirements to be met, if any,  to bring your technology to market. State achieved milestones nice and loud, including any funding or awards received and any important publications – they are great proof of your commitment and help validate your concept and business model. Don’t be shy!

Make your collaboration goal nice and clear, put that gap analysis you did to work for you
Finding the right industry partner for an emerging technology company is much more like dating than finding VC money, and don’t forget why: prospective industry partners are interested in long-term strategic benefits from the technology. Make sure they really know what’s so great about what you have, and what you want from an industry partner. Though it may be obvious to you from your gap analysis, it won’t be to them.

You can talk about the funding you’re looking for, but unless you connect it to development tasks so that a tech scout can understand it – you’re missing a huge opportunity. Keep the collaboration goal simple to reflect what your want to achieve from the partnership – look at the gap analysis you did, e.g., seeking a partner to test integration of your product or material into finished good.

Limit your text
Be merciless with editing text: make your message lean and mean – and get it on a page – okay maybe two. No one has the time to read through lots of text – especially if they’re not yet sure about the potential fit. Stick to bullet points whenever possible (and not six lines long!), and make liberal use of tables, graphs and images.

 

3. Compile that potential partner list

Most startups can produce an overwhelmingly long list in 20 minutes; the trick is to put those companies in order of likeliness of a fit. If you’re not sure and it’s a guess, go with it. Then take your list and do some research on each of their websites. It’s not just hard factors like areas of interests, targeted markets, key innovation resources, but also their vision and culture – very important, yet often forgotten factors. See where they have research relationships, or from where they have licensed in technology. It will not only be easier to collaborate with people who share your values, but you might also avoid potential misunderstandings.

 

4. Protect your IP

Trust is a very important part of every successful partnership, but at the same time you need to make sure that your IP is properly protected. Never disclose any sensitive information before signing an NDA. If you’re affiliated with an institution, ask the Technology Transfer Office if they have a ready-to-go form or download our free form of mutual (two-way) NDA to be used with prospective partners.

 

5. Figure out the best way to reach them

Tech scouts come in all stripes, but they are often very hard to get through. Use any common point you have, shared contacts via LinkedIn, industry associations, academic connections and so forth.

When a partnership has been launched regular meetings should be scheduled to allow strong two-way communication between you and your industry partner. Follow-ups and feedback is a best way to avoid failure of the partnership you spent so much time establishing. We’ll post more on this later. Any questions? Just drop us a note.

TECH SCOUT VIEWPOINT – LEOPOLD DEMIDDELEER TALKS WITH SEEDSPRINT

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Today’s blog post comes from a recent conversation with Leopold Demiddeleer. Prior to launching Techbridgeone in 2013, a Leuven-based technology consulting firm, Leopold was responsible for Solvay’s innovation, technology watch and corporate venturing functions, and headed their Future Business unit.

Over his almost 40-year career, Leopold has been at the nexus of scientific research, new product innovation and business development. His role in innovation relates to a very broad spectrum of materials and manufacturing:  organic and mineral chemistry, catalysts, new polymers, polymers processing and pharma. With over 150 industrial R&D projects to his credit, and the sponsorship of dozens of cooperative research agreements with R&T institutions all over the world, Leopold has also invested in early-stage companies, both directly and via corporate VC funds.

He recently shared some interesting thoughts with me about industry tech watch. Leopold talks about technology commercialization offices and industry networks and focuses on one particular factor in attracting more tech scouts to the institution’s research capabilities and IP portfolio.

 

JL: Leopold, how do tech scouts search efficiently in real life?

LD: That’s a big question, and there are a lot of ways to do it. There are so many Technology Transfer Office websites to visit, portals, conferences, a lot of people to meet, and talk with, … it’s key to figure out what you’re looking for so you can avoid things that are unlikely to get you there, as interesting as they might appear.Tech scouts are bombarded with information and they need to keep clear and consistent strategic focus. Sometimes it’s just easier to say: “Unsolicited? I can’t look at it.”

 

JL: Fair enough, they’re under information assault, but we all have that problem? Why is tech scout resistance to a lead any greater than for prospecting activities, like sales or office site selection?

LD: For tech watch, the answer to: “Is it a fit?” is complex. Scouts are inundated with information and people trying to tell them how great an invention is. Not only time-consuming due to technical complexity – reading and having to work through multiple scientific and engineering claims, but interacting with people, determining know-how requirements, and so forth, make the evaluation process  a lengthy, big job. “Is this a fit in my organization?” is not a trivial question you’re facing before you sign an NDA and do any hard due diligence. The problem is that it’s so easy to put a lot of time in on something that looks like a fit, and bang – it’s dead.

Many scouts think they want the path with the fastest green light. But just as valuable, is a red light – an early and meaningful one – so you avoid misspent time and money.Alertness for “false fits” is critical to scouting efficiency – being able to say confidently, “Nope, despite the theoretical fit, it’s not for us.”

 

JL: Sounds like AWACS for tech scouts – warning system for false fits. Avoidance of time trapsit’s a big topic, do you have any single piece of advice?

LD: Yes. Figure out your strategic thrust, avoid things that don’t help you get there. And though not always possible, try to make every step of evaluation as compact and uninterrupted as possible – whether a 2nd phone call, initial deep-dive review, or in-depth due diligence.

 

JL: When you and your team found something interesting enough for a deep-dive, did you know what you wanted in terms of structure – a license, an acquisition, something else?

LD: Sometimes, but it varies a lot, especially once you get in there. On occasion, we’d really like the research, but weren’t satisfied with published IP – say, because the patent wasn’t written to protect what we needed – it happens a lot. Even with a smart and successful TTO guiding the process, patent applications can easily get written “academically” and not meet industrial licensee needs.

 

JL: Interesting point. In checking out a potential license, does the discussion ever morph into something else?

LD: Sure, for example, around 2005-06, Solvay worked out some strategic technology initiatives in advanced materials. Two of them were: (1) printed electronics/OLED lighting, and (2) PEM fuel cell membranes for electrodes and assemblies. Let’s look at what we did in OLED.

Solvay’s motivation had internal and external factors relating to fit. External factors for OLED were its broad potential demand in lighting applications, way beyond flat panel display (FPD). For fuel cells (FC), PEM had the best prospects for wide adoption due to production economics and operating environment. Judgments like that relate to external markets and technology, not to Solvay’s organization.

Organizationally, Solvay brought an enormous track record to the table of taking sophisticated materials, improving production efficiencies and scaling them into high value-added goods for the market.

To move forward, beyond reaching out to new academic research centers, we also invested in a few specialized venture funds to help us pursue open innovation more intensively. That was a big deal for Solvay, which, like a lot of European companies, had a very internally-focused R&D function, historically.

Sounds like the beginning of a joke: we came across a group of three research scientists – a Belgian, a Frenchman, and an American. But instead of walking into a bar, they moved from one university in the US, to Georgia Tech. That team was doing terrific work in OLED – not just FPD. One thing quickly led to another, and our collaboration took off and went for 6 or 7 years, with sponsorship of several million dollars – resulted in over 60 patent applications.

 

JL: I see the path. Going back to the general – if you found a technology at a university that looked potentially interesting, what do you do?

LD: Well, first I want to know if the research is ongoing – it’s a big deal for effective transfer to get know-how with it. Getting the author with the patent brings critical know-how useful for optimizing, and sometime just to make it work. Next, if my team had a connection to the researcher or institution, we’d probably get in touch and get a dialogue going right away.

 

JL: Suppose you didn’t know anyone there?

LD: Like everything else, you tend to work with people you know already because of everything else that needs to get done in a day. So, why create work to get to know a new place, with same or higher “no fit” risk, when there’s lower-hanging fruit. Of course, there are exceptions.

It’s easy to back burner a time-consuming project with an uncertain outcome. Tech watch is no different, and the problem is worse due to the frequent appearance of a fit, so many just don’t bother – it’s hard to break out of that circle.

 

JL: But what makes determining a fit so hard?

LD: Fit is complex. Back to OLED – I’ve looked at many OLED patents and papers – I mean tons. Say we’re looking for a material providing blue color – very elusive thing. You show me your blue-emitting material with 100 hrs of testing on commercially available parts for FPD. I should be happy right?

 

JL: Sure, I guess.

LD: No, Jon, it’s only a maybe. If you’re testing only covers conditions typical for a TV/FPD, but I need material for use in outdoor lighting where outdoor temperatures go from – 20 ° C to +50 ° C. So if the material degrades with temperature, though it’s blue, it doesn’t work for me. Right?

 

JL: Okay, but that should be easy to figure out up front.

LD: But it isn’t! Getting both sides to summarize clearly what they want isn’t easy for a lot of reasons:  focus, disclosure sensitivity, timing, prior practice, and so forth. Okay if you know someone, it’s a lot easier to be informal and get your answers fast, but figuring out if there’s a fit is complex and getting owners of a startup or a technology to put the story into a short, meaningful summary– is really hard.

 

JL: Okay. Let’s switch gears, and go downstream:  you talk to an institution and end up collaborating with a startup? Does it occur and what happens?

LD: Sure. After we started working with Georgia Tech for a while,we came to know a lot of startups in printed electronics, and we ended up collaborating with several of them,. In a couple cases made substantial equity investments. And some of that got reflected in work with GT, and so on.

With the startups, we saw that the teams were doing great stuff, but we’d also find some surprises that weren’t always good. Small companies can easily get hyper-focused on performance needed for a global market opportunity, but miss a major roadblock. In advanced, we find it safety or environmental issues that have not been addressed.

 

JL: But startups can hire a consultant – it’s simpler and faster, no?

LD: That’s not my experience. For example, one of the startups we worked with in OLED was very proud of the pilot line they’d built. And it was very good for what they’d had to work with. However, despite the all their VC money, they had a safety problem that would have made scale-up of their pilot line risky. Our experience and processing insights, let us propose an alternative production method that avoided big safety and environmental problems and market-entry delay. Maybe consultants could have found it, but it’s hard to know which one. In the safety and environmental area, global companies are focused on compliance – a topic that could easily get less time in the here-and-now thinking of a startup.

For us, it was what we’d been doing for decades – taking a good process and scaling it up for products that appeal to sophisticated, leading-edge industry customers, and making them safe for global standards

 

JL: Great example.  How about the connection between research capabilities and spinouts or licensing to startups? Say two places each file around 150 patent applications a year, and have active TTOs. If one has much more visible venture creation and early-stage licensing, would you care?

LD: My personal experience – and I don’t think I am alone – is “yes”, it’s a big connection. I’m not sure why TTOs and research administrators don’t exploit it more, because it’s a strong signal for tech scouts. Unless non-market-based incentives distort startup formation, activity in creating spinouts and in licensing to startups are clear and positive signs that other research is likely to have not just academic significance, but commercial potential: investigators don’t form companies and put their family’s money at risk just for fun.

 

JL: Maybe the TTO couldn’t license to a big company – aren’t startups riskier as licensees?

LD: Maybe, but that’s not the right question, you’re talking about returns on licenses – different topic, entirely. The issue for the tech scout is – are the people with the technical insights putting their time and money into work with commercial goals?

Looking at a patent description is okay, but it’s nowhere near enough to know if it’s a fit with my company, I have to do a lot more work. But startups connect the dots for me: here’s a technology that a smart team is actively trying to commercialize.

That’s a really good sign for tech scouts market-based solutions are motivating the researcher, not just peer recognition of scientific leadership. So, even with a flawed process – like the OLED pilot line I mentioned – industry insights can bring a lot. Also works for available technologies when TTO explains expected next steps to develop toward commercialization, that’s how industry thinks.

Remember, investigators hitched to a startup aren’t just making a theoretical connection between research and marketplace: they’re betting on it. As a tech scout, I’m far more interested in getting to know a new institution with vigorous startup-stage licensing/new ventures because it shows that they have investigators interested in real products for the market.

 

JL: So I guess the message for tech commercialization people is: helping startups shine attracts potential industry partners for them – but also makes the pie bigger – they’re also potential licensees and research sponsors for you.

LD: You got it.

JL: Thanks Leopold.

 

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seedsprint lets institutions boost traction for their startups & spinouts while broadening their industry network and bringing new opportunities in licensing and sponsored research. Free of charge.

Schedule a demo and see how it works.

3 ACTIVITIES THAT PUSH INDUSTRY TECH SCOUTS TO REACH OU

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Cut through the noise to reach industry technology watch

For technology commercialization professionals, trying to expand their network by reaching out directly to industry tech scouts poses many challenges. Corporate technology watch is bombarded with messages from technology transfer offices, specialized networks, technology search consultants and people promoting deals.

Anyone in the business of commercializing technology has to contend with a lot of other people’s messages, and that means noise. It’s not noise because other people’s messages are junk, but because they compete with attention for the technology topic you’re trying to talk about with a potential licensee or corporate partner, and may create confusion regarding your topic.

So, when they do take a look, how do you ramp up probability of follow-through?

Rather than trying to tackle the whole problem in one little post, here are 3 tips to help you motivate tech scouts to pick up the phone.

1. Make sure the message is brief

Your technology summary needs to rely on very limited text and needs to fit on a page – letter or A4 – or its web equivalent. Forget about multiple pages or 10 turns of the mouse wheel. Making your message partly graphical is also really helpful – using a table, chart or image or two. State development needs so they’re clear and easy to read. If there’s something else to say that’s really essential, but lengthy, put it in as a link.

2. Explain both technology & the economic/competitive argument

Though simply summarizing the technical part of the innovation may register in the tech scout’s mind, tying it to an economic or competitive argument makes it a far more memorable connection. Of course, not all inventions are cheaper, so lower cost may not be one of your arguments at all. Not to worry. Better performance, higher reliability or greater ease of use are all valid competitive arguments. Just as lower production cost makes an innovation competitive, improved performance, reliability or usability can be just very powerful drivers depending on the application vs. what’s currently in the market.

Example 1: Reduces toxic solvent use by 35% with no increase in production costs

Example 2: Single inoculation eliminates patient compliance risk

Example 3: Better durability of coating increases accessible market 300%

3. Lay out next development steps, related resources & timing

For a tech scout, reading about a technology may be enough to get their interest. But you want more, you want follow-up so you can assess fit – and not for your profile to go into the dreaded “also-interesting-pile.”

Tech scouts are just like the rest of us, they’re trying to manage time efficiently, and that means figuring where to spend time and money. So the more clearly you can show the tech scout the current plan for the support for transfer, and potential plan for development and commercialization, the higher the likelihood of follow-up.

Show next steps roadmap: On-going research, development tasks, available resources 

Tech transfer relating to a patent whose lead researchers are available and active in the field has much better prospects for transfer than one whose PIs are gone. When you have that situation, be sure to take advantage of it!

So, if the PI/team who did the patent app that you’re summarizing is available, make that loud and clear. Provide a link to the researcher’s site. But not just yet.

First, summarize the development steps in broad strokes, with associated estimate of time & money.

Example 1: Follow-on bench testing of service life; 4 to 6 months; cost of $25K – 30K
Example 2: Build larger capacity demonstration tool; 8 months; cost of $100K
Example 3: Write protocol for 510(k) study for Class II & III medical device; cost of $50K

Writing next steps for a technology might seem harder than for a startup, so treat it as a technology startup! If you’re not sure what the next steps are, drop the PI an email and ask for how the team would use a $500K grant in three or four bullet points.

And…your startups & spinouts can bring still more and relevant industry traffic to your website. 

Last but not least. Early-stage companies that are licensees or research partners of your institution are a great way to showcase the commercial focus of your research activities and the IP that comes out of it. We’ll walk you through how to leverage your spinouts and startups to bring more industry inquiries in this free eBook.

FEATURED MEMBER: EXPERIENCE CELLS LIKE NEVER BEFORE WITH NANOLIVE’S 3D CELL EXPLORER

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seedsprint’s new member startup, Nanolive, developed the 3D Cell Explorer – an incredible technology that delivers, for the first time, tomography of living cells without damaging it and with a resolution typically available only with very expensive confocal or SEM tools. Nanolive’s light microscope delivers resolution that good for a fraction of the price.

After placing the cellular specimen in the device, the 3D Cell Explorer performs a continuous rotational scan, while software allows displaying the cell on your computer in 3D within a second, and in a beautiful color. Save your raw images and not only re-reuse them, but re-stain them too. Learn more at www.nanolive.ch

Even though a commercial version of the 3D Cell Explorer won’t be available until later on this year, you can pre-order it now on special terms. For seedsprint members the savings are even bigger and for every 15 pre-orders placed a deserving high school will receive a microscope. Get exciting new life-science technology and help future scientists at deserving high schools.

WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR SEEDSPRINT COME FROM?

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With more than 25 years of private market M&A, capital-raising and other corporate finance projects, typically on behalf of strategic investors; my firm developed a practice called outventuring. Outventuring allows clients to realize value from technology projects and internal services they have developed that have become non-strategic to the developer, but could significant value for others, outside the firm.

Outventuring can’t help flawed technology, sloppily prepared IP, or products that have no imaginable demand. What outventuring can do is dramatically improve the fit between the project and its owner/operator. And, where outsourcing, is about capturing current value of an asset and ignoring the future value for others, outventuring goes after the opposite thing, i.e. the potential value from future activities.

Outventuring clients – the ones seeking to exit non-strategic corporate technologies and services and redeploy resources from non-strategic activities into strategic ones, finding the right partner had two economic benefits: (a) cash at closing and transfer of non-strategic expense, (b) development acceleration and therefore earlier receipt of royalties or other back-end payments. The other side got great benefits, too. They tended to be strategic investors rather than VC/PE funds – and you’ll see why in a second.

My team always got a kick out of the excitement on the part of incoming partners as they got to know the target project. While it was an exit situation for our client, because the project had become non-strategic, it was anything but that for the investing party. For them, the outventuring project was a like a time machine, and brought the train loaded with relevant IP, know-how and market potential back into the station. Beyond being interested in the target, the newcomers’ involvement had a turbo-charging effect on the target that came from the existing, specialized that could be put to work right away for the target technology. It is those specialized resources, e.g., scale-up know-how, ecosystem knowledge, access to first customers, and so forth, that really drove value.

We tried for a long time to come up with a way to deploy outventuring’s power in reverse for clients, and do in-venturing. I never saw a model that I liked. The technology search is well populated by firms with a lot of talented (and expensive) technical and scientific talent that I thought made no sense to recruit.

seedsprint was born when we figured out our clients’ tech scouts didn’t have enough time to comb through every potential collaboration, licensing or acquisition opportunity and wanted to find efficient ways to clear projects for due diligence.

SEEDSPRINT LAUNCHES PLATFORM FOR TECHNOLOGY STARTUPS & INDUSTRY

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seedsprint announces the public launch of its open innovation platform, bringing together industry partners and high-quality technologies spun out of leading scientific research at universities and laboratories. seedsprint is like a speed-dating service, quickly clearing the path for potential partners to figure out for themselves if there’s a fit.

Based on extensive testing with corporate tech scouts, seedsprint combines a searchable data base of highly-structured, non-confidential profiles with an internal messaging and work-process system. Users from either side can initiate contact, and move quickly and privately from reviewing non-confidential profiles, to private messaging, to secure exchange of due diligence materials.

 

seedsprint is free for institutions and young companies and available to corporate subscribers at a flat annual fee. Without transaction fees or intermediaries, seedsprint stays completely neutral.

 

In development for two years, seedsprint’s expanding network includes paid subscribers from industry such as CelaneseClariantDSMMerck GroupStryker and the fuel-cell JV of Daimler and Ford, AFCC.

 

Currently, about 60 leading university research centers, labs, incubators and accelerators, from the US, Australia, Europe, Israel and Mexico are platform members. US-based seedsprint is actively opening up to European membership and recently added Norway’s NTNU, whose Kavli Institute is home to Nobel-laureate couple, Drs. May-Britt & Edvard Moser, winners of the 2014 Physiology/Medicine prize.

 

To meet the high standards of corporate subscribers, startups and technology profiles are published by invitation only. With seedsprint’s profile-builder, users create and publish compact, actionable, and technically-informative summaries within minutes. Typically, members refer affiliated startups to profile themselves, and licensors can create profiles of selected technologies, available for development.

 

Jon Lillian, seedsprint’s founder, developed and launched the platform to respond to a basic challenge for industry technology watch: figuring out early on if a project is worth a deep-dive review. “Years of advisory engagements with industry clients kept revealing a big need: ability to have sufficient information to determine if a project looks to be worth a costly ‘deep-dive review.’” The key was to integrate non-confidential profiles with enough technical detail to be actionable, and link the directory to a streamlined process with secure communications and due diligence. You go from the profile review, to private messaging and NDA negotiation, to due diligence, with encrypted, online data rooms. We check profiles for sufficiency, but otherwise stay out of the way, so subscribers and technology teams can do their jobs and see if there’s a fit.

 

Free for startups and universitiescorporate subscribers pay a flat annual fee, and no per-seat charges.