Making Technology Transfer and IP Commercialization Work
Independence. IP commercialization is best done by an independent business unit or entity. This allows for proper decision making, hiring, and devising the appropriate market strategies.
Selection Process & Criteria. Which ideas should go to market? This decision making process needs to take place, not in isolation of the academia, as it often does, but in conjunction with industry, VCs, and experienced professionals. Significant time and resources can be saved by deciding what IP, and what portions of it have marketability, have potential for investor appetite and market demand. And if so, in what form.
Team. As in any business, the quality of the team will determine the success of the company. Great technologists are a blessing and difficult to find. They need to be paired with business talent appropriate for the industry, stage of the company, and its specific culture. Appropriate mechanisms need to be established to ensure that the inevitable tensions are dealt with in a professional and efficient manner.
Capital & Financing. Ideas are not financed, teams are. The team has to include the appropriate individuals who have the experience, credibility, and understanding of how to deal with investment professionals, establish business development relationships, and establish market acceptance.
Lifecycle Support & Considerations. Once a company has been launched, shown traction, and poised for growth, its needs and challenges change. Appropriate support needs to be given to the team to ensure risk mitigation, access to capital, and continued support as the company moves from seed to early, to growth stages.
Professional Advisors. Most younger entrepreneurs and academics do not understand the importance of good advisors. They view them as vendors and not advisors. Surrounding the team with the best advisors available is the best way to mitigate risk and ensure market alignment.
Being Part of the Network & Ecosystem. We are all too busy, but being part of the community and the ecosystem in which our companies live is extremely important. It allows for access to continuous and up to date intelligence, recruiting, business development, and community building.
Taking a Long Term Approach. Most venture funds have a ten-year life. That’s because building a company, in the best of circumstances, takes time. Never mind with the challenges and obstacles involved. In absence of a long-term approach and commitment, this will be an exercise in futility.
Cluster & Portfolio Management. As more and more companies are being developed clusters will form around specific verticals, sectors, or specializations. That will aid in developing appropriate KPIs to measure and monitor each company’s performance. Management and monitoring of this portfolio requires proactive approach to capital raising, business development, and M&A considerations.
Oversight & Governance. Managing this process shall be done by a board consisting of individuals from the institution, financial sponsors, and industry executives. There needs to be a set of agreed upon investment criteria, performance measures, and a clear understanding around ownership and M&A.
So despite the risks, frustrations, and false starts, this is a path worth pursuing, because as Jeff Bezos said, “There'll always be serendipity involved in discovery.”
Ivan Nikkhoo is an experienced entrepreneur, investment banker and VC focused on the life cycle of tech companies. He is a Managing Director at Siemer & Associates, and an advisor to Siemer Ventures.