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How lean start-up principles can be applied to university tech transfer

In her recent blog post, Rebecca Stoughton, vice president at tech transfer firm Fuentek, argues that the principles of the lean start-up can also be applied to university tech transfer offices.

The key to a lean startup is measuring how customers respond to your product, using that data to either pivot or preserve your company. You then end up with a minimum viable product (MVP) that contains only the features essential to your customers’ needs. “Getting feedback on the MVP before investing heavily in the full product’s development ensures that, if your product is going to fail, it fails early allowing you to conserve your resources and pursue other opportunities,” writes Stoughton.

In a similar vein, TTOs also have something to gain by learning as soon as possible if an offering is likely to fail by performing first a rapid screening, then an in-depth validation of the market potential of a university technology.

Just as lean start-ups focus on what the product does for the target customer, TTOs should focus on what the student- or faculty-developed invention does for the user. Also, rather than getting feedback on the MVP from customers, TTOs should consult with industry experts on a technology’s commercial potential and what is needed to increase that potential.

“Time and again, when we [at Fuentek] have conducted market research and gathered competitive intelligence on a technology, we’ve gained insights about what the market really needs in order to be interested in that technology,” says Stoughton. “It could be minimum performance specifications or test data or price points. This feedback — which can be used by the inventor to improve the technology to better meet the market’s needs — maps nicely to the build-measure-learn feedback loop.”

Source: Fuentek

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