Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why does Minnesota Suck? Reaction to the Kaufman Index of Entreprenurial Activity

the Kaufman Foundation released the Annual Report on Entrepreneurial Activity this week and, once again, Minnesota was WAY down toward the bottom.

Bad news... we fell off a cliff on "Entrepreneurial Activity," which is broadly defined as "The adjusted number of entrepreneurs starting new businesses."  


So I have a few things that I need to get off my chest. 

To Investors that are reading this...It is 2am on a Sunday morning, during Thanksgiving weekend. I am up working on my company, because this is what we do, this is the life we choose when we start a company. We live it every minute of every day. If you aren't up too, looking for the next great Minnesota company, what ARE you doing?
 
As for the stupid Kaufman report... If ONLY we had access to investors who would put money into pre-revenue companies we could stop whining about our crappy showing with regard to entrepreneurial activity. 


Category
2008 Rank
2010 Rank
Immigration of Knowledge Workers
31
28
Manufacturing Value-Added
15
22
Job Churning
34
23
Fastest Growing Firms
14
21
IPOs
16
20
Entrepreneurial Activity
15
42
Broadband
36
25
Health IT
26
4
Scientists and Engineers
18
8
Non-Industry Investment in R&D
43
39
 
Hold on to your socks...Dag is going to blow!
 
Without REAL early stage investment, what the hell do people expect? There are hardly any investors that will get into companies at an early stage around here. This problem is NOT caused by a lack of ingenuity or folks with good ideas and the ability to make them happen. This issue is strictly and completely at the feet of the so-called ANGEL/SEED investment community here in Minnesota. More to the point, there are almost no REAL angels or seed capital investors here at all.

But every ^%$#%^# investor will point to studies like this and say "This is why I don't invest in "Ideas... because there aren't enough good ones. Minnesota doesn't produce good ideas and it doesn't have enough entrepreneurs to invest in" That is patently Bull$#!+. There are TONS of good ideas and even more folks who would love to start companies, but they can't because there are no investors out there who will even speak to them without revenue flowing first.
 
I am sick of hearing people with money talk about how there is "plenty of money out there", because they all have friends that TALK about investing and the companies that they have invested in. What they never tell you is that they could have made 20 times more if they had been the first in, but because they were too gutless to support the company when it really needed the money, it couldn't hire the right people, couldn't market itself, couldn't iterate, couldn't meet with customers and, ultimately, grew at a much slower rate. These "investors" have steadily pushed Minnesota into a self-perpetuating cycle of anti-entrepreneurial sentiment and they are the reason that it takes an act of god to get early stage funding around here.

Not every Start-up should HAVE to go through an accelerator to get early funding. Sometimes $20K isn't enough, even if you are one of the lucky few that actually get into an accelerator. I would like someone to tell me when was the last time they invested in a good idea, with a solid team, that had no IP issues, had a solid legal foundation, an experienced entrepreneur at the helm, tons of research and voice-of-the-customer data, a solid marketing plan and well developed message, deep target-market industry experience and a financial model that made sense. Seriously, WHEN? Is it because there aren't any companies here in Minnesota that have all of these characteristics? NO

Instead, those entrepreneurs hear "what's your revenue?" As if that were the only criteria for gauging whether a company could become hugely successful in the future.

I am a 41 year-old, married, father of two, with a mortgage. I also have tons of experience getting companies off the ground and helping other people's Startups get their footing. I am passionate enough and sure enough about my company that I am risking everything that I have to make a go of it; and I am not alone...There are lots of us out there. So I can't fathom, with all that we have riding on the success of our companies, why an investor would look at us and say that we aren't a good bet. We have way more to lose than the investor does. That alone should be reason enough to take that chance. Investors should realize that we aren't going into this with some idealistic idea that this is going to be easy. We know exactly how hard this is, but we are doing it anyway, because we know it can succeed and we know how to make it happen. If we didn't, we would just get a frickin' safe day-job and cash checks every two weeks and go on vacation and put money into a 401k and work 1/3 as much as we do.

Are there seriously no investors smart enough to discern a good idea form a bad one? Are there no investors with enough experience to help entrepreneurs work through whatever issues may be holding them back? Also, what is so damn magical about 10X over 3 years? I honestly want to know. When folks invest at later stages there is no way they are seeing 10X returns, so why the hell does every investor use that as a benchmark? Every SaaS company will tell you that the only way to get the doggone thing off the ground is to do a land grab; Get as many customers as quickly as possible then watch the cash flow in as the company matures.

The recurring revenue streams that subscription model, SaaS, companies produce take a little longer than three years, but their upside is so much higher. Their services are sticky, their customer attrition is low and their costs as a percentage of revenue always go down. But Minnesota investors are just positive that existing revenue is the only thing that matters.

So, I say to all the investors that look at the Kaufman report and don't like what they see when it comes to Minnesota's entrepreneurial activity ranking: THIS IS ON YOU! It is your fault were are where we are and we will never get out of it until you figure out that you have to work as hard as we entrepreneurs do, to find companies, like mine, that are worth the risk. Then, like Cem Erdem, you have to put your money where your mouth is; You have to invest in them early so you can be instrumental in helping them succeed.

What can we DO about it?

With that said, I am committed to trying to help other entrepreneurs in any way that I can.  Because I spend so much time bitching about how hard it is to build a start-up, here in Minnesota, I might as well try to change the world…Or at least my world.  Right now, being involved in Project Skyway gives me the best opportunity to do that.

Being a part of the Project Skyway Selection Process committee has allowed me to sit in a room with a whole bunch of awesome, committed, individuals and hear their opinions on what characteristics make a great entrepreneur; what kinds of mentoring every entrepreneur needs; what every entrepreneur should know.  Most of all it has completely restored my belief in the entrepreneurial community here in Minnesota.  It has shown me that there are lots of people, just like me, who are just as sick and tired of whining about the entrepreneurial climate here and want to actually DO something about it.

3 months ago I could not have imagined that I would sit in a room with Cem, Brad Lehrman, Tom Kieffer, John Roberts, Joy Lindsay, Ernest Grumbles, Rob and Aaron (and hopefully Ryan) Weber, Kevin Spreng, John Montague, Casey Allen, Justin Peck, Scott Davis, Sarah Young, Gopal Khanna, John Littman, John Dahl, Kim Garretson, Jeff Pesek, Graeme Thickins and the dozens of others who have said they want to be part of something cool that helps entrepreneurs.  Can you imagine starting something if you had this group of frickin’ rock-stars on your team?  There is no way you could fail.

Now imagine what our combined networks could offer to an entrepreneur.  Imagine if you invited just one person, who you know has something valuable to pass on to a start-up, to come and talk to the project Skyway Participants for an hour or two.  (I’m getting chills just thinking about it.)

To that end I am trying to live up to this creed:

As a member of the Project Skyway Fraternity and in the spirit of innovation; We pledge to invest in people, not just ideas.  We strive to remove barriers to success from the paths of exceptional people with dedication and a passion for excellence.  (Are you weeping yet?)

It all starts with Cem Erdem, and his vision and commitment to this endeavor, but I am thankful that I get to be a part of it and I am grateful anyone who wants to help.

Other stuff from the Kaufman report

Study: MN Best in Midwest in the "New Economy"
Minnesota ranked 13th among states according to the 2010 State New Economy Index, which assesses each state's capacity to successfully navigate the challenges of economic change.

Minnesota is among the best 15 states in the nation-and the best in the Midwest-in meeting the challenges of economic change in the "new economy," according to a report released last week by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The report, called the 2010 State New Economy Index, uses 27 indicators to assess each state's fundamental capacity to address the challenges of economic change.

Minnesota ranked 13th overall with an index score of 67.5 out of 100. The state fared well in several areas, with top 10 rankings in the following categories: IT professionals (6); managerial, professional, and technical jobs (8); workforce education (8); high-wage traded services (5); investor patents (9); online population (7); health IT (4); and scientists and engineers (8).

The state's worse performance was in the entrepreneurial activity category, where it placed 42nd. Minnesota also performed poorly in the non-industry investment in R&D (39) and alternative energy use (31) categories.
  Regionally, the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, Mountain West, and Pacific regions appear to be tackling challenges, as 13 of the top 20 states are in those four regions. On the other hand, 18 of the 20 lowest-ranking states are in the Midwest, Great Plains, and the South. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recap of KickStart Meeting on: CHOICE OF BUSINESS ENTITY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT C-CORPS, S-CORPS AND LLC's

I got a lot of useful information at the KickStart Meeting this morning.  I thought the venue was perfect for this type of thing.  Our hosts, Olsen-Thielen & Co., Ltd, were very hospitable.  There was someone waiting in the front lobby to point us toward the correct meeting room and they even had bagels and coffee waiting for us when we arrived (above and beyond as far as I'm concerned); but much appreciated.  The room was big enough to accommodate everyone, but you could still hear what people were saying, because the tables were set up in a big square, so we all faced inward. 


Kevin Spreng, IP Attorney at RKMC and innovation catalyst extraordinaire, started us off by having us go around and introduce ourselves.  There was a great deal of diversity in the room; Everything from Bankers and Angel Investors, to students - Seasoned entrepreneurs to those considering taking the leap into the start-up world for the first time.  We had one guy who drove all the way from Duluth to be there and a woman in the St. Thomas MBA program who hails from Brasilia, Brazil.



The reigns were then handed off to Mike Bromelkamp and Scott Hoyles from Olsen Thielen.  We had a good discussion and got great insight into what investors are looking for when funding a business.  The handout that Scott passed out was invaluable and I am sure nobody left theirs behind.  I was very impressed with the knowledge and preparedness of Mike and Scott and now understand why they, and their firm, are so well respected in the business community. 



The tax discussion was a little bit over my head, but that, coupled with the dialog regarding the differences in legal entities, off-shoring and the whole, LLC/Partnership/Sub-S/C-Corp conundrum, really showcased how important it is to have a good lawyer and a good accountant that has worked in this realm for a long time.



We also had an interesting discussion about intellectual property; the reasons for, and methods of, protecting IP.  Kevin, Mike and Scott all shared anecdotes that highlighted how important it is to understand that if you can't afford to litigate against infringer's, it doesn't matter whether you think you have a defensible patent (or other protection mechanism) or not.  Kevin said that his firm won't even take patent infringement cases on a contingency basis, unless there is likely a 9-figure settlement involved, because the cases are so complex and costs so much to litigate.



That left me thinking that it might be a waste of time for most people to even file a patent, because in my experience, most inventions will never be that valuable.


All-in-all, it was a great meeting, that really drove home some important points for entrepreneurs like me, who often don't want to think about legal minutiae and the ramifications of not getting professional help when setting up a business entity.


I should also mention that there were a couple of us that wanted to have a quick discussion after the meeting so we commandeered a smaller conference room, so we could chat.  We were able to get online and have our meeting without anyone bugging us or kicking us out, which was way more than I could have expected.


Thanks Kevin Mike and Scott;  Well done!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Open Letter to AUTM: The REAL National Convention Debate Topic Should Be: "Why Haven’t We Embraced the Web for Marketing and (Express) Licensing of our Available Technologies?"

Alan Bentley, the president of AUTM recently announced that there would be a big "debate" about the pros and cons of "express Licensing.
First let me say that in my opinion having a “debate” on pros and cons of express licensing doesn’t go far enough.  The discussion should also include marketing technologies outside of our personal networks and why we haven’t fully embraced the technologies available to us for doing so.  Also, a definition of what folks think “express licensing” means, would probably narrow the scope to a manageable level.   Plus, asking the folks from tech transfer offices to weigh in on this doesn't make sense.  So few of them have a clue about how to effectively and efficiently tackle express licensing that you couldn't fill a closet much less a ballroom with those who could speak intelligently on the subject.
As a primer or maybe a “fight-starter,”  I would suggest that we are really debating the difference between inefficient methods and efficient marketing and licensing practices.  
I find myself writing this, having spent the last two-and-a-half years having thought, ate, breathed and slept "express licensing" and, in broader terms, Marketing University I.P. on the Web. 
My company, M.IP.P. Strategy has developed the First and most successful tool for SEO, Online Marketing, Express Licensing creation Administration and Management Application that is out there today; CaSTT - (Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer).  
And it was designed  in conjunction with a University Technology Transfer Office.
SO, with that having been said...

The problem is, express licensing isn't really the issue.  The real issue is the effective use of tools to market available technologies.  The reason that express licensing doesn't work and hasn't really caught on for most universities has little to do with the licensing part of the equation.  Instead the issues reside in the reality that folks can't find the technologies that we have available for licensing.

The Bayh-Dole Act recognized the incredible potential of university inventions, yet a staggering number of promising technologies remain untapped; The economic and humanitarian benefits unrealized, because of the gap in getting inventions noticed and into the hands of companies with the development funding necessary to nurture these vital innovations and discoveries.  Connecting companies with viable licensing opportunities remains the most significant challenge along the research-to-deployment continuum.
The typical marketing and licensing model, for US Technology Transfer offices, relies heavily on inefficient marketing techniques and constantly cultivating professional relationships with industry contacts. I am by no means asserting that we should not cultivate strong industry relationships, but employing this methodology means that when a researcher produces a new invention or makes a breakthrough discovery, the ability to successfully commercialize that intellectual property is often directly tied to the resources available to the technology transfer office and the personal contacts of the technology transfer professional assigned to marketing that technology.  Common sense dictates that if you are an overworked portfolio manager in a tech transfer office, juggling dozens, if not hundreds, of intellectual property disclosures, you are more likely to dedicate your time to ideas that will have huge, obvious, monetary pay-offs, rather than trying to shepherd inventions with less obvious commercial potential through the morass of red-tape and paperwork that accompanies most transformative ideas, coming out of pure research or academe. 
The tech transfer industry, as a whole, hasn’t kept up with the staggering advances in electronic marketing techniques and search engine optimization strategies, over the last decade.  Because of thsi fundamental truth, the only viable option for transferring the latest technology to someone who can turn it into jobs, growth and money for your university, lab or hospital, is sending more emails and making more phone calls, all-the-while eagerly waiting for serendipity to smile upon your efforts and leaving you hoping that the new technology is at the perfect intersection of innovation, need, ability, resources and the right person actually knowing the other right person, so they can engineer a meeting. In short; in the tech transfer world, it has always been about how much money you have and whom you know, rather than how good your idea is; but money is tight and “hope” is neither a sound strategy nor a successful tactic.
Because of this omnipresent paradigm, Technology Transfer Offices have fallen far behind the rest of the business world when it comes to utilizing the most helpful and transformative communication tools at their disposal; Web Marketing.  One of the effects that this deficiency in professional and organizational development has, is that technology transfer professionals, and specifically those who are tasked with marketing intellectual property, occasionally operate on differently communication levels than those with whom they are supposed to interact. 
The typical TTO - marketing person spends her time making phone calls, sending emails, and trying to figure out how to get the contact information for completely unqualified leads at monolithic companies.  Meanwhile, most of the jobs created in the United States, and most of the folks making revolutionary economic and societal changes, based on untapped ideas and elbow grease, are never going to hear about the wealth of amazing technological treasures available to them, because they aren’t part of a giant machine that churns out a new product once every ten years. 
Entrepreneurs; those far more likely to turn innovative research developments into practical business products, don’t spend their days waiting for someone in a tech transfer office to call them. Additionally, it is arrogant and na├»ve to think that corporate researchers and product development engineers have time to visit every university website; trolling the ivy covered depths of neglected discoveries.  The folks that will lead the nation and, specifically, the area’s most affected by the current economic distress, won’t do so by trudging through acronym-laden technology descriptions, jargon filled abstracts and indecipherable static files, meant more for their peers than for someone who might turn their work into a commercial venture. 
The reason the future of technology transfer for public institutions is so cloudy is that most new technologies, even the most exciting, promising and commercially viable ones, can only be found by an extremely persistent individual, who knows precisely which technology he or she is looking for; has somehow discovered the website where the information is stored; understands how to navigate through academic databases, journal publications and patent searches, to ultimately find enough information to lead them to someone in the Technology Transfer Office.  Even if one successfully runs that gauntlet, what follows is a significant investment in person-hours required, by both the potential licensee and the Intellectual Property owner, to facilitate the sharing of information, process paperwork and complete several manual steps in the data gathering and licensing process. 
Many Technology Transfer Offices, particularly those located in economically distressed regions, think they cannot afford the resource expenditure necessary to fix this problem or, even if they can, don’t know where to start, so they continue to use outdated and inefficient means to reach potential licensees.  These Technology Transfer Offices have been taught to believe this business model will lead to licensing, commercialization, and job creation.  The unfortunate reality is that inadequate marketing strategies, antiquated systems and inappropriately used software applications simply do not provide most tech transfer offices with a reliable mechanism to reach beyond their own personal networks, or outside their own geographic reach, to garner unsolicited leads.  The absence of adequate education and training targeted to the unique issues and circumstances that technology transfer offices face, and a lack of specialized technology development for this small niche industry, make it incredibly difficult to create an environment for potential licensees to even find viable licensing opportunities.
Efficient Licensing

The problem that I have with most folks that think they are doing express licensing is that they STILL NEGOTIATE!  It is as if we think it is our job to negotiate. 

Imagine if your TV broke.  You would have a problem that needed a solution.  Because we have trained licensee’s to think a certain way about buying (licensing) stuff from us, If you were buying the TV from a Target store, as if it were University IP, it might go something like this.

You/licensee: walk into Target and say to the manager “I would like to buy that TV.”

Store/Technology Manager; “Great; That TV is $539.  How would you like to pay for that?”

You/licensee: “Whoa, hold up big fella! We are going to have to negotiate.  I said I like the TV, and it does all of the things I need a TV to do, but I am not thrilled by the packaging; Especially the tape on the box.  No, before I buy that TV, I am going to need you to make some changes.  The thing is, I don’t really like the way it is packaged.  I need you to send it back to China, and repackage it.  Also, I need you to remove the tape with the red Target® logo on it and just use clear tape.

Store/Technology Manager; “Ummm. What?!”

You/licensee: “Yeah, if you do all that stuff, I will buy that TV for the exact same price that you have it listed at right now.”

Now, at Target, if the Store/Technology Manager calls security and has you (justifiably) thrown out, you can just got to another store.  But it is highly unlikely that you will turn around, go back to your house and decide that it might be easier to get exactly what you want by just building your own TV.  Even if you could, it would take too long and cost too much.  But this is the crazy, contra-intuitive, sandbox that we in tech transfer find ourselves playing in every day.

If we just said: “Nope, we have a set of standards that we cannot stray from so, if you want it, here it is!” Folks would have no option but to accept it – or not.  Either way we can justify our actions.

Does This Sound Familiar

Currently, when an individual or organization wishes to enter into a non-exclusive license agreement for the use of commercialized intellectual property with a University, a manual process must be undertaken whereby both the potential licensee and employees of the Technology Transfer office can expect to engage in an inefficient, and occasionally arduous, licensing process.

First, the customer must identify the product he wishes to license and either, contact the inventor for information on how to license the IP, or figure out for himself how to engage the TTO.

Then he must either call or email the appropriate TTO employee and wait for a response, after which they receive further instructions regarding the exact license parameters and the processes and procedures they must undertake in order to complete what should be a relatively simple transaction.
Licensing Non-Exclusives (Because Gerry mentioned it)
In the best-case scenario, using some forward-thinking TTO’s web site, a customer might be able to:

  • Obtain a couple of paragraphs of background information, a simple set of license instructions and a downloadable copy of the license, from the website, which is usually in PDF form.
  • The customer must then mail, fax or email several hand-signed copies of the license back to the TTO. 
  • They must, also remit payment for the license, either by mailing a check or via wire transfer (which has its own set of instructions and manual internal processes.)

In either case, several, steps must be taken to reconcile this transaction in the accounting process.  In cases that I am familiar with, the check comes in then sits on a desk or in a basket for a while.
  When it is opened, someone stamps a date on it and begins to enter the transaction and customer data into some central accounting system software (if they are lucky). Sometimes, however, the info gets added to  the TTO’s tech management database but there is a separate process by which the university and the TTO have to account for the money. In those cases, another step is added to the process which means that the check has to clear the bank, then a TTO staffer has to find and enter the details of THAT process into a different system before materials can licenses are approved and sent to the licensee.

Finally, upon receipt of the Executed License, the “cutting edge” University forwards an electronic copy of the reproducible materials and content to the licensee.  If the licensed materials are something that must be boxed up and shipped, there is yet 
another set of procedures for fulfillment and shipping communication.  and, of course, all notifications and shipping/tracking documents must then be manually entered then be tracked in your CRM or technology management system.

And what about export controls?

Our express licensing system has multiple levels of export control mechanisms.  We can restrict information, access and ability-to-license for all technologies or even individual license types for a specific technology, based on IP address, country, state, physical address of the licensee and a bunch of other variables.  So, for instance, someone in Afghanistan, could license the academic version of some piece of software, to use for research purposes, but not be allowed to even get technical information about the commercial or more developed versions of the same technology.

However, in most cases, using the “Old school ways of doing things, getting your hands on the technology once you have jumped through these hoops will take at best, a few weeks, and most often several months.


Let's Negotiate

Sadly, this is currently a “Best-Case” scenario for most TTO’s.  Most often though, the customer, since she has already gone through the trouble of actually endeavoring to speak directly to someone at the Tech Transfer Office, says:

“Can we change the language in section XXX  …I just don’t know if we can do it that way here at our company/ university/ hospital/ lab…,” etc?

To which the Technology Manager inevitably says “of course; just let me send that to our lawyers and make sure it is OK with them.”

This action triggers the customer to suddenly believe that if there are lawyers involved, maybe theirs should be too.  2 months later the technology, which could have been licensed immediately had there been a mechanism in place for doing so, is still stuck in legal terms-and-conditions purgatory and might never make it out.

This is, simply, a poor way to treat a customer who wants nothing more than to find a useful technology, learn more about it, pay for and execute a license and fulfill the order.  The worst part about it, for the TTO, isn’t even the delay; the worst part is that you have trained another customer to automatically assume that the terms and conditions, that are included in the licenses that you promote, are arbitrary and that one would be a sucker if they simply accepted them.  This is the same feeling one would get if one were to go to a used car lot and tried to buy a car.  We all know how much folks love to negotiate…

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great Bootstrapper's Breakfast today

Today's Bootstrapper's Breakfast was fascinating and well worth the time.  In attendance were the entire team from the winners of the start-up weekend, who have been working on no sleep and lots of caffeine.  Kevin Spreng kept the discussion on track and we all got to talk about what we are working on and, in most cases, what we do when we aren't bootstrapping a start-up.

One of the interesting themes was how much different it is to be an entrepreneur once you are married, have kids, a mortgage and the real responsibilities that naturally come along as one get's older.  Coming out of that discussion, I am seriously thinking about getting a group together that consists of a bunch of guys that have been involved in start-ups in the past, who might be able to lend some historical perspective, give some free advice and help younger entrepreneurs build their respective network's.

Playing off that discussion, I think there was some consensus that we can all serve the start-up community by working together and sharing our connections.

Jeff Pesek had some really interesting comments about the things that he has learned about being an entrepreneur in the Midwest which started a discussion about the differences between the Silicon Valley venture capital/startup environment and the Twin Cities'.  One of the things that I absolutely agreed with him on was when he said it is really important to consider the sources of the advice that you get as it relates to doing a start-up or finding funding.  He said, "there are a lot of poser's out there"...  Truer words were never spoken.  Jeff also talked about the current state of venture funding here in town and what he feels are ways that we can improve the climate.

The best part of the breakfast, for me, was at the end when we went around the table and shared what we are looking for, in terms of help for the various projects we are all working on, and also what we might be able to offer the other members of the group.

Afterward, Kevin held a little impromptu session on the merits and pitfalls of the various types of legal entities that an unfunded start-up might consider, when trying to attract seed, angel or venture funding.

I left thinking that I am amazed at how much more mature the Twin Cities start-up community has become since I first went out looking for venture funding back in 2000.  I mentioned that, back then, the only decent networking group in town was Netsuds, and all 6,000 members were trying to get a meeting with Michael Gorman.  Now, getting in the room with someone who can fund your idea is a little easier, and we are all getting better at realizing that just Because another company gets funded, that doesn't preclude ours from being successful too.

In the end, I think the most important nugget that I took from the event was that there are lots of people out there who are talented and well connected and if we all work together, share ideas, share contacts and use our past experience and lessons learned from our failures as well as our successes, we can help each-other avoid mistakes and turn the Twin Cities in to a more inviting environment for innovation.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

9 Steps to Diagnosing Lost Search Engine Traffic

I really like this article about figuring out why there is traffic loss on your website.  JillWhalen Knows her stuff.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Consulting Agency

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Association of University Technology Managers, Statistics, Over Time


AUTM Stats, Over Time

If you go to http://autm-stats-over-time.mippstrategy.com/, you will find a Motion Chart, which gives a graphical illustration of all of the stats that AUTM collects, each year, from its member institutions.  The difference between what you get when you do a query on the AUTM site, and what I have done, is that I have created a moving, graphical, representation of all of the statistics collected since 2002, so you can choose your own parameters and see how they interact and react against each other, by school or institution, over time.

This data can be used to benchmark against other institutions, or just see how your own school/institution has done over time.

If you have ever wondered how your school compares, over time, to all of the other AUTM members, or maybe just a couple of others, in any or all collected categories, this is a fairly easy way to find out.

I am interested to hear back from folks as to what they think about the way this data is displayed.

Please note: All of the data from this chart came from a blanket query of all of the statistics that are available to AUTM members on the AUTM websiteThere are a couple of obvious errors in one or two of the individual school’s data, but I used the data exactly as it was reported.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Truth, Opinions & Statistics?

A national survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the Exploratorium benchmarks how the internet fits into people's habits for gathering news and information about science.  Findings include:  
  • Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) online users have used the internet to look up the meaning of a scientific concept, answer a specific science question, learn more about a scientific breakthrough, complete a school assignment, check the accuracy of a scientific fact, download scientific data, or compare different or opposing scientific theories.  
  • Most Americans say they would turn to the internet if they needed more information on specific scientific topics. Two-thirds of respondents asked about stem cell research said they would first turn to the internet 
  • 59% asked about climate change said they would first go to the internet. Most of those searches would begin with search engines.  
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of internet users say they turn to the internet for science news and information because it is convenient.  
  • Two-thirds (65%) say they have encountered news and information about science when they have gone online with a different reason in mind.

Users of the internet for science information also report better attitudes about the role science plays in society and higher assessments of how well they understand science.  Specifically:  

  • 78% of those who have gotten science information online describe themselves as "very" or "somewhat" informed about new scientific discoveries; 58% of remaining internet users says this.
  • 48% strongly agree that to be a strong society, the United States needs to be competitive in science; 33% of remaining online users strongly agree with this.  
  • 43% strongly agree that scientific research is essential to improving the quality of human lives; 27% of other online users also say this.
     
Further, in a report entitled “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future,” Most surveyed believe that innovative forms of online cooperation could result in more efficient and responsive for-profit firms, non-profit organizations, and government agencies by the year 2020.
 

By an overwhelming margin, technology experts and stakeholders participating in a survey fielded by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s - Imagining the Internet Center, believe that innovative forms of online cooperation could result in more efficient and responsive for-profit firms, non-profit organizations, and government agencies by the year 2020.

A highly engaged set of respondents that included 895 technology stakeholders and critics participated in the online, opt-in survey. In this canvassing of a diverse number of experts, 72% agreed with the statement:  

  • “By 2020, innovative forms of online cooperation will result in significantly more efficient and responsive governments, business, non-profits, and other mainstream institutions.”

Only 26% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited: 

  • ”By 2020, governments, businesses, non-profits and other mainstream institutions will primarily retain familiar 20th century models for conduct of relationships with citizens and consumers online and offline.”

While their overall assessment anticipates that humans’ use of the internet will prompt institutional change, many elaborated with written explanations that expressed significant concerns over organization’s resistance to change.  

They cited fears that bureaucracies of all stripes – especially government agencies – can resist outside encouragement to evolve. Some wrote that the level of change will affect different kinds of institutions at different times. The consensus among them was that businesses will transform themselves much more quickly than public and non-profit agencies.

The Online Experience TTO’s Should Offer Their Potential Licensees


These are some of the things that we set out to accomplish when we were building CaSTT (Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer) 
 

Simple and Familiar User Experience

TTO's must make it easy for potential licensees to:
  • Search for and find a specific technology
  • Get detailed product information
  • Choose an appropriate license type
  • Enter Customer and payment information
  • Complete the transaction and fulfill the order
  • Buy with confidence - Use a secure E-Commerce transaction interface specifically tailored to the needs of University Technology Transfer offices

Administrative Control and Ease of Use

Application and Management Tools Should Help Technology Transfer Offices:
 
  • Track sales
  • Perform site-use analysis using Google Analytics (or your favorite web data package)
  • Find out where users are coming from, what they are searching for and what keywords they use to find a specific technology.
  • Review numbers and types of agreements.
  • Create non-negotiable licenses, with standard terms and conditions
  • Automate much of the purchase, fulfillment and product-information function currently performed by Tech Transfer Office staff or University inventors
You can read more about our experience building CaSTT for the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization on the M.IP.P. Strategy Website

How Does Your Tech Transfer Office Treat Potential Licensee’s?

Does This Sound Familiar

Currently, when an individual or organization wishes to enter into a non-exclusive license agreement for the use of commercialized intellectual property with a University, a manual process must be undertaken whereby both the potential licensee and employees of the Technology Transfer office can expect to engage in an inefficient, and occasionally arduous, licensing process. 

First, the customer must identify the product he wishes to license and either, contact the inventor for information on how to license the IP, or figure out for himself how to engage the TTO. 

Then he must either call or email the appropriate TTO employee and wait for a response in which they receive further instructions regarding the exact license parameters and the processes and procedures they must undertake in order to complete what should be a relatively simple transaction. 
Licensing Non-Exclusives

In the best-case scenario, using some forward-thinking TTO’s web site, a customer might be able to:

  • Obtain a couple of paragraphs of background information, a simple set of license instructions and a downloadable copy of the license, from the website.
  • The customer must then mail, fax or email a signed copy of the license back to the TTO. 
  • They must, also remit payment for the license, either by mailing a check or via wire transfer (which has its own set of instructions and manual internal processes.)

In either case, several, steps must be taken to reconcile this transaction in the accounting process. 

Finally, upon receipt of the Executed License, the “cutting edge” University forwards an electronic copy of the reproducible materials and content to the licensee. 

However, in most cases, getting your hands on the technology once you have jumped through these hoops will take at best, a few weeks, and most often several months.

Let's Negotiate

Sadly, this is currently a “Best-Case” scenario for most TTO’s.  Most often though, the customer, since she has already gone through the trouble of actually endeavoring to speak directly to someone at the Tech Transfer Office, says:

“Can we change the language in section XXX  …I just don’t know if we can do it that way here at our company/ university/ hospital/ lab…,” etc?  

To which the Technology Manager inevitably says “of course; just let me send that to our lawyers and make sure it is OK with them.” 

This action triggers the customer to suddenly believe that if there are lawyers involved, maybe theirs should be too.  2 months later the technology, which could have been licensed immediately had there been a mechanism in place for doing so, is still stuck in legal terms-and-conditions purgatory and might never make it out.

This is, simply, a poor way to treat a customer who wants nothing more than to find a useful technology, learn more about it, pay for and execute a license and fulfill her order.  The worst part about it for the TTO, isn’t even the delay; the worst part is that you have trained another customer to automatically assume that the terms and conditions that are included in the licenses that you promote are arbitrary and that one would be a sucker if they simply accepted them.  This is the same feeling one would get if she were to go to a used car lot and tried to buy a car.  We all know how much folks love to negotiate…

Darren Cox

Darren Cox
Founder and Chief Evangelist - CaSTT - Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer