The Office of Innovation and Corporate Partnerships is focused on integrating the university’s efforts in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and corporate partnerships for sponsored research and education.

two faculty talking in the Bizzell Memorial Library

Month: June 2022

I Didn’t Have This Problem Yesterday

One of the greatest insights into the entrepreneur’s mindset happened to me early in my incubator manager days.  I was doing lunch-and-learns for our clients, prospects, and anyone else who cared to attend.  After a series of these hour-long seminars on things like business planning, marketing, and employment law I noticed that our attendance continued to dwindle weekly.  Boring speakers?  Boring topics?  Most likely.  But we adjusted by adding other value – free lunches, upgrades to the lunches and things like that.  Attendance perked up initially but then again began to dwindle.

Internally generated content was supplemented with frequent and high profile outside guest speakers.  We amped up our own content to give it a broader appeal.  Similar results occurred:  initial upticks in attendance followed by a dwindling in attendance.  It was around this time I put together a really solid lunchtime seminar about managing cash flow.  We marketed it more broadly than usual to prospects and community members and we pushed to get as many of our clients there as possible.  The day came and the seminar went well but, yet again, to a sparse audience.  Terribly frustrating it was!

The day after the cash flow seminar I was out roaming the hallways chatting with clients and incubator tenants when I heard my name called from a very familiar voice.  Dmitry!  My favorite Bulgarian physicist who had a startup that was commercializing a revolutionary medical imaging technology.  In his deeply accented baritone, he asked if I had a few minutes to discuss an urgent and critical issue he was facing.  Of course, I replied, that’s I’m here for.  Let’s go into the conference room to use the whiteboard.  He then told me of a cash problem he was facing – a relatively common problem for startups.  He desperately needed some guidance figuring out the best way to quickly get it resolved.  We charted it on the white board but before getting into solutions, I had to ask him this: “Dmitry, this is a relatively common problem and is exactly what I spent an hour on yesterday in the lunch-and-learn on cash flow.  You weren’t there!”

Came the reply: “Of course not, I did not have this problem yesterday.”

Wow!  Insight!  These innovators and scientists that I had the honor of serving were so focused on what was in front of them, so busy with the business and technology at hand, that they didn’t have time to go to a seminar on a topic that wasn’t of immediate value or utility to them.  A topic that was of no interest to them unless they just happened to be experiencing it right now.

It wasn’t that I shouldn’t be scheduling seminars of interesting topics.  I should.  But it was my expectations of the entrepreneurial-minded audience that needed to be changed.  Issues arise for them on a need-to-solve basis.  Solutions without a current problem (e.g., attending a seminar on an obscure topic) are perhaps nice to learn about, but not essential to their day-to-day activity.  In Dmitry’s case, we got the problem solved relatively easily and in a timely manner for him and his company.  The only difference was that the issue occurred a day after the well-intended but obscure seminar provided a solution.  It was of no interest to him.  And perhaps it shouldn’t have been – that was his call. 

Keep the innovator at the center!

Tell Me So I Can Help

I can’t help you if I don’t know what you’re doing.  And that’s really the bottom line on any university’s need for disclosures.  It’s not at all about taking something from you.  If the discovery is entirely yours because it was developed outside the scope of your university employment, we will be the first to acknowledge that.  And even then, it will better position us to help you if you desire.  And if you have any lingering concerns about IP ownership, we have been re-designing the disclosure process to not just be simpler, but to erase any of those lingering ownership concerns.

Originally, I was going to do a blog that humorously listed the top ten reasons you should disclose…and I still have that list.  But the more I thought about this, the more I came to believe that this is all about opening the door to provide you as much help as possible to get your discovery into the marketplace.  For the marketplace is the ultimate judge of success or failure.  It’s the ultimate judge as to whether your discovery will truly impact society.  And that’s true whether the path forward is licensing to market-ready company or going the startup route.

Taking a discovery to the market without a clear understanding of your IP ownership position is fraught with risk.  Why?  Well, for starters, investors won’t touch an opportunity if it has any kind of IP ownership cloud around it.  And then there’s the specter that competitors will pick off your invention along your journey to the market if the invention itself is not properly protected.  Help us help you!

The bottom line is that it’s in every inventor’s best interest to disclose as early as possible.  And under today’s laws, that means disclosing before anything is published.  Disclosing and starting down the IP protection path, whether via patent, trademark or copyright does not hinder any future publication.  It simply protects you!

So what are some of the ways we can help you?

  • Take advantage of programs and opportunities like iPath and the Growth Fund; getting your disclosure out of the way makes for a quicker and easier time accessing these valuable tools.
  • Leverage our intellectual property expertise by tapping into our awesome OTC staff – more than anyone, they can guide you on things like getting your discovery into the market.
  • If it is determined to be university property, quickly find out how easy it can be to either license it for your own company or obtain an option to explore its market potential more fully.  Stay tuned for an upcoming Blog on our Limited Use License that eliminates early costs from the process!

We’re here to help in ways we haven’t even dreamed of yet – because we are entrepreneurs ourselves.  Help us help you forge new solutions!

Now back to that Top Ten list….

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén