Tech Transfer eNews Blog

‘Pre-Seed Workshops’ for inventors help make ‘go/no-go’ decisions

By Steve Lewis
Published: July 7th, 2009

Of all the decisions a TTO executive has to make, the “go/no-go” decision on new technologies is one of the most difficult. Marnie LaVigne, PhD, director of business development for the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, a University of Buffalo research center, says she has made that process a bit easier by sponsoring a series of “Pre-Seed Workshops” for inventors. The programs, launched about five years ago, are now being sponsored by universities throughout the state; LaVigne was one of the first to sponsor such a program and has now done three. “We have so much great technology here that the problem is how to sort out what we might want to pass on,” LaVigne explains. “The end result of the program is evaluating the key components of a good business, and then presenting those to a group of investors.”

The programs can help point out weaknesses in an otherwise strong endeavor, adds Mike Zwick, PhD, MBA, CEO of Buffalo-based AndroBioSys, Inc., a spinoff of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute that is involved in testing and developing prostate cancer drugs. The two founders of the company attended a workshop three years ago, says Zwick, and that actually led to their bringing him on board. The pre-seed workshop was the impetus the founders needed “for them to recognize they needed a business professional to help with the company,” he says. What’s more Zwick adds, he subsequently attended the workshops himself, and was introduced there to a consultant who ultimately helped the company gain VC financing.

The workshop has two phases, scheduled a week apart from each other. First, the inventor teams are tutored by a group that includes consultants, IP attorneys, MBA students, and fellow entrepreneurs. A week later, after refining their presentations, they present their ideas to a panel of investors. “What’s different about the program is that there is an entire team of coaches around these individuals who help them evaluate the business opportunity,” says LaVigne. “The investors may not necessarily be serious enough to give the inventors money, but they do provide feedback on what would make their endeavor an investable opportunity.” This process, she notes, takes place even before the inventors go for seed money, which “can be very helpful to TTOs because they have to decide whether to pay for patent costs,” LaVigne adds. A detailed article on pre-seed workshops appears in the July 2009 issue of Intellectual Property Marketing Advisor. For subscription information, CLICK HERE.

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