It’s time to talk about the end. In previous articles, we discussed assembling a team, building a technology business, and financing it with investment capital. That’s the fun part of entrepreneurship, but inevitably your venture needs to grow up. To do so, it needs to exit the start-up phase behind and, more likely than not, deliver an economic return for its stakeholders. In this article, we will talk about the concept of an exit, methods of achieving it, and the motivations of players involved in the process.
University researchers are probably the largest potential source of commercially valuable inventions and yet they are generally not viewed as leaders in entrepreneurial value creation. We will therefore provide some commercialization tips for faculty members as well as some suggestions for investors and entrepreneurs working with faculty members. Joining me for this article is Dr. Lorne Whitehead, a previous CEO who has spent the last 20 years combining the roles of a university professor and administrator with a high rate of patenting and spin-off company creation.
There’s been a flurry of articles and a Hacker News Poll, highlighting entrepreneurs who despite, or maybe because of their success, turn around and screw their employees, collaborators, partners. Just look at the last few big deals this year:
Any organization should be continuously on the look-out for talented people who are capable of taking on leadership roles. In this context you hear the word ‘ownership’ a lot, in reference to ‘owning’ a function, project, or deliverable. The words are often used interchangeably but, I believe, have very different roles. In essence, leadership means leveraging others, while ownership means getting stuff done. All companies need both, but startups in particular succeed or fail on the basis of leadership and ownership in the organisation.
Finding a good cofounder is a key ingredient of a successful startup. Having had the opportunity to work with a variety of co-founders over the years, and now pairing up with individual co-founders for TandemLaunch portfolio investments, I have developed a couple rules of thumb for what to look for in co-founders.
The CTO fills a critical role in a technology startup. The title is really broad, and people tend to cling to different aspects of it, but what do you really need your CTO to do in a startup? Here’s a quick breakdown for aspiring Chief Technology (or Technical) Officers.
1. Understand the “Average”
A lot of undergraduate students ask me whether they should pursue an MBA or a technical PhD as a foundation of their entrepreneurial career. I have pursued both at some point, and frequently meet (and invest in) entrepreneurs with both degrees. Each has advantages but overall I’d recommend a PhD for most tech entrepreneurs. Here is why:
At TandemLaunch, we invest in multi-media concepts but ultimately we are trying to disrupt the university technology transfer space. I wrote about the benefits of improving this highly inefficient $50billion+ market earlier. It’s big; it’s inefficient; and we believe that it is ripe for disruption.
Investing in university ventures is difficult but worthwhile. The following are a few things to consider when you are negotiating investment deals with universities. All of this comes from my own experience and might not reflect the engagement with your particular university.