Here’s a thought: When a potential investor invites you to lunch to discuss a technology, order a decent meal. You’ll earn his or her respect. That little tip is one of the “lessons learned” shared by three veterans of technology commercialization at the University of Washington (UW) during a forum moderated by Janis Machala of UW TechTransfer. Here are some additional take-home points shared by serial entrepreneur and cleantech consultant Jeff Canin, neurological surgery and pediatric dentistry professor Pierre Mourad, and bioengineering professor Buddy Ratner:
- Recognize the difficulty in bringing together engineers, talented managers, and money.
- Don’t become the stereotype of a scientist by showing naivety about the commercialization process. Accept that a technology emerging from the lab needs a great deal of work to become a product.
- Forge strong relationships among the people involved in your venture. Don’t allow infighting among scientists and managers to destroy a technically sound company. People are the most important success factors for a new company.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm about the commercialization process.
- Learn to explain your technology to different audiences.
- Have “persistence and passion,” Ratner said. Be willing to put your money into the technology and to fight for its success.
Ultimately, much of a new venture’s success comes from the right mixture of ideas, people, and timing, Mourad said. Napoleon once said he’d rather his generals were lucky than good, and that philosophy also applies to start-ups, he added. “There’s so much luck in everything we do that it’s frightening,” Mourad admitted.