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Summit Venture Studio solves software accelerator challenges

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: April 21st, 2021

A detailed article On Summit Venture Studio’s software-specific commercialization engine appears in the April issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the full article, click here.  

When Peter Djokovich and Taylor Bench met at the University of Utah’s Partners for Innovation, Ventures, Outreach & Technology (PIVOT) Center, they quickly realized they had a common interest at heart — to accelerate the commercialization of software solutions created at Utah universities. Together they launched Summit Venture Studio, which provides capital and talent to develop, launch, and scale university software start-ups rapidly and efficiently.

Why a software-specific accelerator? Because there are typically fewer IP legal protections for software innovations, it’s critical to be fast-to-the-market, fast-to-scale, and nimble-to-pivot, making the go-to-market timeline much condensed. Those are challenges Summit aims to solve.

A major issue with scale-up, Djokovich explains, is that most software licenses coming out of universities are specific-use-case functional, almost never including the broad ‘wrap-around’ business operations, distribution management, regulatory compliance and customer service process automation functionalities needed to actually run a profitable business. That means there’s a great deal of operational and systems integration to be done; it’s fundamentally different from licensing a molecule, a device, or a chemical process to an existing (or new) distributor.

Prior to co-founding Summit Venture Studio, Bench spent about 10 years at the University of Utah’s TTO working in the start-up realm, helping professors get their inventions into the market through license agreements to start-ups or established companies. “We were spinning out about 10 to 20 companies a year,” he says.

Djokovich began developing software start-ups all the way back in 1987. He had developed both core operating platforms and software tools for large and growing business-to-business, direct-to-consumer and business-to-consumer companies. In his work as a “Mentor-in-Residence” at PIVOT, he discovered a significant volume of good and great software ideas that had real market potential and passionate inventors, but lacked business founder-champions. He knew they could bring them to market much faster and with less risk than the typical slow and risky methods of capital fundraising and long-cycle software development.

Bench’s university start-up experience and Djokovich’s software know-how made for a perfect match. The two worked with university administration and Keith Marmer, PIVOT’s chief innovation and economic engagement officer, for about a year before launching Summit.

Now it’s licensing software from the University of Utah and several other universities, including Utah State, Weber State, and BYU. It works with those schools to develop new software inventions professors create and help turn them into market-ready products.

“Our fundamental advantage is that because our team has been building and bringing to market software solutions for more than 30 years, we have a large and diverse library of proven operating platforms, engines, tools, and services that we can rapidly integrate with the original disclosed innovation to get it to market faster; months instead of years, weeks instead of months. This dramatically lowers the cost and risk of prototyping, release/revision, pivoting, and scaling operations,” says Djokovich.

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