Posted in News

Why a Crowdfunding Campaign?

Part II, Lessons to Be Learned

Recently, UR Ventures launched a crowdfunding campaign in support of further technology development for a project that may offer relief to children with autism (and their caregivers) faced with toilet training. We have done this in order to raise money for the project; obviously, but – more importantly – we also hope to test some assumptions.

First of all, are our assumptions about this project correct? We believe in the Quick Trainer System. We know that autism spectrum disorders affected 1 in every 68 children[1] in the United States in 2012. Recent findings put that number at 1 in 45.[2] All of those children need to be toilet trained. Our research indicates that as many as 35% of children with autism are not using the toilet for urination by the age of 5. We believe that frustrations surrounding toilet training – for the children, as well as for the caregivers – contributes to this delay. The developing evidence shows that our system, developed by Dan Mruzek, Ph.D. and Stephen McAleavey, Ph.D., reduces training-induced stress and achieves toilet training success as much as 30% earlier than traditional methods.

We assume that problems surrounding toilet training children with autism are self-evident. We assume that the public will understand those problems and will care as we do. We assume that they will want to help us to alleviate these problems by contributing to our campaign and by spreading the word. We’ll never know if we’re correct, however, if we don’t ask. What better way to test our assumptions than by asking people to give to the cause? If we succeed, we can consider our assumptions to be vindicated. Success can easily be measured by funds raised, by the number of backers, and by web traffic surrounding the campaign.

Second, can we advance the hardware of the Quick Trainer System to a commercializable state? We won’t know the answer to this question until the dust settles and we use the funds raised to reengineer/redesign the system components as described in the campaign.

Third, what if we fail to raise the requested amount? Some might consider this possibility a total failure, but we would see a failure to meet the goals of this campaign as a successful outcome. Not the outcome we wish for, of course, but a success nonetheless.

Low traffic to the fundraising page would mean that we have done an inadequate job of promoting the project. This will mean we need to reevaluate our methods of communication.

Heavy traffic, but low donations will give us an answer to our first question: are our assumptions about this project correct? If it turns out that the world at large doesn’t recognize a need, or sees the need but fails to consider our solution adequate, then we can focus our efforts elsewhere.

In either case, the outcome is a success in that it will provide us with valuable information.

Fourth, are we successfully getting our message out? We can use this campaign as a very real test of our various communication channels. Which sources will drive traffic to the fundraising page, and which will result in donations? Which message will work best to generate interest? We all have our opinions on these questions, but we will soon have data to support or refute our positions.

Our next post will address other questions raised and soon to be answered by our foray into crowdfunding.

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
[2] https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/new-government-survey-pegs-autism-prevalence-1-45

Posted in News

Why a Crowdfunding Campaign?

Part I, the need

The University of Rochester is a basic research institution. This means that our world-class scientists ask questions of the universe and then attempt to tease out the answers. They ask questions like: Why do we sleep? Can an object be hidden in plain sight? Or Can a surface be modified to repel water?

The vast majority of research conducted at Rochester – like at every other basic research institution – is funded through grants. That’s great news for the early research, but what happens when our research results in an important discovery with commercial potential? Such discoveries are often very early-stage, requiring additional research, data, or a simple demonstration that our assumptions are correct and our solutions efficacious.

Grants don’t pay for proof-of-concept follow-up research or prototype development. They pay only for pure research. Developing discoveries to the point where they are commercially applied and serve the public good is beyond their scope.

Therefore, universities turn to commercial partners to get important discoveries to market. Commercial partners, as a rule, are risk-averse and disinterested in licensing basic research discoveries until those discoveries have been developed and de-risked to the point of a reasonable likelihood of commercial (and financial) success.

Scott Catlin, Associate Vice President for Technology Ventures, uses an apple metaphor to explain this disconnect: Customers want to buy beautiful, juicy apples. We have a handful of seeds. We’re pretty sure – but not always 100% confident – that they’re apple seeds. A grocer can’t sell seeds to her apple-hungry customers, but if we show her a tree laden with beautiful, juicy apples we can do business. There may be an occasional grocer who will take our word on the quality of the fruit if we can, at the very least, prove that our seeds grow into healthy apple trees. It is, therefore, incumbent on us at the University – at UR Ventures – to grow as many seeds as we can into trees.

At the University of Rochester, one of the mechanisms we have to develop our discoveries to the point at which they attract commercial interest is the Technology Development Fund. The TDF is funded by the University, the Medical Center, UR Ventures, and through generous donations, but there is never going to be enough available resources to fund every worthy project. As it is, we manage to fund between 4 and 8 projects annually. This means we need to find alternate means to advance the rest. To this end, UR Ventures is field-testing a crowdfunding campaign to see if this might be a viable option for a few select projects. The project was discussed in the April 2016 issue of UR Ventures Technology Review and the campaign may be viewed here.

Posted in News

Introducing UR Ventures

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Changes have come to technology transfer at the University of Rochester. As of 21 October 2013, OTT is now UR Ventures. We are changing more than our name – we are changing our focus. Traditional thinking in technology transfer is to concentrate primarily on patent generation to protect potentially valuable ideas, often with limited proactive effort to develop or market the technology. In other words, this approach runs the risk of making patent prosecution all-important. The issued patent can become the goal, rather than the development of innovation from the laboratory to the marketplace.

At UR Ventures, we are adopting a technology-centered project management approach, focusing on getting each discovery to the finish line as quickly and efficiently as possible. We seek to identify and procure the resources necessary to get each discovery to the public . . . or to define the gaps and missing resources standing in the way of success. If the obstacles prove insurmountable, we want to arrive at that conclusion as quickly and cheaply as possible.

UR Ventures sits at the nexus of academic research and the business world. Our function is to match our discoveries with businesses and investors that will be able to move them to market. Our challenge is to help develop, prove, and de-risk innovations within the University to a stage at which those businesses and investors can believe in them enough to carry them forward.

We have begun realigning some of our operation to accommodate this new approach, and more changes are coming. We look forward to the journey and hope that you’ll join us. For more information, please visit our web site at www.rochester.edu/ventures. There you will find links to all of our social media platforms.

Posted in Pertinent Patent Regulations

Is Technology Transfer (Finally) Going Mainstream?

2013 has been a banner year. In his State-of-the-State Address of 9 January, Governor Cuomo mentioned Technology Transfer by name. (Transcript of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2013 State of the State Address, specifically paragraphs 11 & 12). Okay. The Governor actually called our profession “tech-transfer” (twice) but he did explain what we do quite succinctly. He mentioned New York State’s lack of VC funding as one of the gaps we need to fill. In his address, the Governor strongly put forward the idea of “innovation hotspots” that are currently being discussed as an important end-of-the-legislative-term accomplishment that needs to get done in the next week, or so.

On Tuesday, President Obama announced plans to deter unhelpful patent litigation by legislating against non-practicing entities. In the common parlance, these NPEs are known as “patent trolls.” In fact, the White House press release uses the word “troll” no fewer than five times.

Articles have sprung up all over, with catchy titles like “Obama announces action against patent trolls” (World Intellectual Property Review), “Make Patent Trolls Pay in Court” (The New York Times), and “Obama wants to crack down on patent trolls. That’s not enough.” (The Washington Post). We will discuss the issue of non-practicing entries in another post.

For now, it’s simply a relief to have formerly esoteric topics such as patent trolls and, indeed, the entire discipline of technology transfer being openly discussed. Who knows where this will lead? A general and wide-spread understanding and awareness of technology transfer? Maybe even one day the e-mails announcing deals on servers and the telephone calls soliciting employment in the Information Technology Department will stop. But probably not.

Posted in Events

HTR Software LaunchPad Demo Day!

LaunchPad Demo DayAfter an intensive three months of learning from potential customers and constantly refining their business models, the twelve software teams in the HTR LaunchPad program are ready to show off the fruits of their labors.

Adapted and brought to the Rochester area by High Tech Rochester and funded by the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, the LaunchPad is an entirely new way to vet, validate and improve the way businesses are created.

A key premise of the HTR LaunchPad is that software start-ups are not yet businesses; rather, they are entrepreneurs with ideas that must be validated through extensive customer discovery and learning.

Demo Day begins at 4:00 pm with a networking event among Rochester’s vibrant entrepreneur, investor, and general business community.  In addition, each team will have a display table in the Geva lobby, where they’ll preview their new software-based businesses.

At 5:00 pm, each team will formally present their business story and description of their software innovation, backed by Power Point visuals and/or a live hook-up to show the software in action.

The LaunchPad Demo Day will be moderated by Jeff Valentine, a partner at the private equity firm Exium Partners and recently involved with High Tech Rochester as a judge in the 2013 Rochester Regional Business Plan Contest.  Jeff was CEO of Callfinity, a company he co-founded in Boston, moved to Rochester, grew by 500%, and sold to M5 Networks in 2011.  He is also an active angel investor with the Rochester Angel Network and advisor to local startups.

At 6:30 pm, networking resumes in the Geva lobby with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 4, 2013: 4:00 – 7:30 pm (program begins at 5:00 pm)

WHERE: Geva Theater, 75 Woodbury Blvd., Rochester, NY 14607

Registration: Free and open to the public; registration requested.

Please Register Here

 

Posted in News

Gastroenterologists Use New Technology to Detect Precancerous Cells

Vivek - Esophagus AnnouncementEsophageal adenocarcinoma is now the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States, but gastroenterologists at The Center for Advanced Therapeutic Endoscopy at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) have been using an innovative technology to detect precancerous cells in time to prevent disease progression.

The WATS3D computer-assisted brush biopsy takes a wide sample of tissue from the esophagus and then analyzes it using a 3-Dimensionial computer imaging system that is based on an algorithm developed as part of the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative missile defense program.  WATS3D stands for “Wide Area Transepithelial Sample.”

URMC Gastroenterologist Vivek Kaul, M.D., along with Gastroenterology Fellows Danielle Marino, M.D., and Donald Tsynman, M.D., today in Orlando, Fla., presented new research examining WATS3D at Digestive Disease Week®, the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

Full Announcement

Posted in F.I.R.E. Series

F.I.R.E. Series, “IP Issues in Transactions”, May 14th at 12 pm!!

The Office of Technology Transfer, in cooperation with the Center for Entrepreneurship proudly present F.I.R.E. in May:

“IP Issues in Transactions”

Intellectual Property issues are pervasive in many kinds of transactions. This talk will provide a brief description of the various types of IP and focus on how these different forms may effect transactions and technology valuation.

Our presenter this month is Ralph Loren, a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer. Ralph lectures around the country on a variety of patent, licensing and litigation topics, including arbitration issues. He was a part-time professor at Boston University School of Law, where he taught patent law.

Where: the Class of ’62 Auditorium (G-9425 & 1-9425)
When: Tuesday, 14 May 2013, 12:00 – 1:00 PM

A light lunch will be served following the presentation. Please contact David Englert, or call 585.276.6615 for more information or to register for this event.

Although the F.I.R.E. Series continues to be free and open to the public, a small fee for parking may apply (usually between $5 and $6). Registration would be appreciated by noon Monday, 13 May 2013.