VC's Are In School
Just this morning I read a brief article in BioIT World by Michael Greeley a managing general partner of IDG Ventures. The article makes the the important point that academic institutions are full of innovation and represent a portfolio of inventions that have high commercial potential. Of course, the potential is only realized with seasoned management. No argument here.
However, he makes the case that VC's are not tapping into this value and would be well served to do so.
In Utah at least there is a strong drive to unleash the intellectual property potential inside Universities and Colleges in UT. Our company, VisualShare, is but one of many examples of a spinout from a Univerity (University of Utah) that has licensed technology from the UU Technology Commercialization Office. Each university in UT has an office which is actively seeking commercial licensing deals. Moreover, the State of Utah and the Governor's Office of Economic Development has funded commercialization both inside the universities and to licensees (VisualShare is a recent licensee recipient). There is also the state funded USTAR initiative to bring in (we have many already including a recent Nobel) the best of class researchers in biology, physics and so on to fuel commercialization in the State of Utah. The School of Business at the University of Utah Technology Venture Development group and the Lassonde Entrepreneurial Center furthers this same goal. Then there is the Utah Fund of Funds and the Utah Technology Council to name just a few venture oriented groups that work with the public and academic institutions.
There is no question that bringing technology from an academic culture to a commercial culture is a significant hurdle. I can just hear the gasps from scientists and business developers alike. Despite all this there is value.
At the end of the day, there is no dearth of Venture Capital oriented effort happening in Utah. Only time will tell how much these efforts will pay off.