Commentary

Top 10 ways to kill a university startup


Recently, I was asked to be on a panel for the National Council on Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer (NCET2) conference that was in DC January 18-20). I was on the panel with Murali Nair, from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and Randy Eager, CEO of ATRP, a Carnegie Mellon spin out company which has received NSF SBIR funding (Phase I and Phase II). Previously, Rand, who used to work in tech transfer at CMU, and who has been CEO of another CMU spin out company, sent me a list of his top 10 ways to kill a university startup. I changed the list, editing, subtracting and adding. Then I realized, OMG, there are more than 10!

Be that as it may, here are my current top 10. They should amuse, but remember, the list is based on fact and past experience. These have all really happened!

This post is an adjunct to my post of January 19, 2012, called “How to kill a university spin out,” which were three case studies (real stories) of disastrous university spin outs.

The top 10 list

  1. I don’t need to disclose to the university.
  2. I just gave an academic talk; should I have patented 1st?
  3. Who needs patents? No one could copy this technology.
  4. As inventor, I should be the CEO, I know the technology.
  5. Who needs a business guy? Business is the easy part.
  6. This technology is a no-brainer for VC funding.
  7. I know how to get funding; I get grants all the time.
  8. We don’t need a lawyer; we’ll worry about the cap table later.
  9. The technology is so cool we will find customers right away.
  10. My PhD student doesn’t need to join the company.
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