Let’s say, for example, that you are a true entrepreneur and have a great management background. If you were to put the word out that you are looking for a technology to commercialize, you will likely end up with every “garage inventor” in town knocking at your door. Please note: there is nothing wrong with the “garage inventor,” after all, that’s where Bill Gates got his start. It is simply that you will be inundated with all types of ideas – most of which will be difficult to assess.
I recommend that you stop by your local university and talk to a representative of its office of Technology Commercialization (TC). There you will find a myriad of technologies that are waiting to be commercialized. These technologies are off shoots of a faculty member’s research. The faculty member may want to see his/her research in the public domain, but s/he is not always willing to leave the university or commit the time to work on the business. The Technology Commercialization office may even have done some vetting of the technologies and have the “most likely to succeed” list already available.
What is nice about this process is that you get to be the CEO/CFO of your own business and many times, the faculty member will take on the role of CIO, Chief Information Officer, and act as more of a consultant as you move through the process of commercialization.
There are also funding opportunities that are specific to technology that you may be able to access. Turning a technology into a business is generally too risky for a bank to be involved. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has a program called Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) and Small Business Tech Transfer (STTR). These are grant programs designed to assist technology-based businesses with funding as they work through the feasibility, prototyping and commercialization of the concept.
The rewards to starting a business like this, is that you have the support of top researchers in the field to assist you as you bring this business to fruition. There may be several iterations of the technology and you continue research and prototyping, but through this process you have the ability to change and modify that technology for the use of one of our Federal agencies. They then have the access to that technology, you have access to their research dollars, and you also have the opportunity to place the technology in the commercial market. This can be the epitome of a win-win situation.
Understand however that this is not a fast process. Phase 1 can generally take up to a year, Phase 2 can be several years, and then Phase 3 – where you are on your own to fund through more traditional sources – can take as long as you like.
For more information on technology business creation and funding those ventures, contact your local ISBDC for assistance.
Susan Davis is the Regional Director for the Hoosier Heartland Indiana Small Business Development Center, an organization with the mission of having a positive and measurable impact on the formation, growth, and sustainability of small businesses in Indiana, and to develop a strong entrepreneurial community. Susan can be reached at [email protected].