The University of Colorado is committed to entrepreneurial efforts as part of its mission to bring technology to market for the benefit of society. The CU Innovations Office engages in proactive facilitation of start-up companies based on CU technology.
20 Years of CU Startups! - Click the image at left for a printable poster highlighting CU's history of startup creation and sustainability over the past 20 years (1994-2014).
CU Startup Process
Startup Assessment - The decision to consider a startup occurs after the initial technology assessment. The inventor(s) and the CU Innovations licensing manager for the technology work jointly to assess both the commercial and the technical value of the invention. In some cases, an engagement team may be formed, under the leadership of our office, to conduct a more detailed evaluation of the invention’s potential. The following factors are considered to evaluate the potential for a startup:
An inventor interested in influencing product development for commercial use
A third-party business champion/entrepreneur identified
A best deployment option in place for the technology (potential for different products/services derived from the technology base)
Potential for raising investment or other development funding and attracting additional management
An understanding of conflict of interest (COI) issues and a workable COI management plan
In addition, we examine patentability and assesses potential patent claim breadth, technical feasibility, and commercial interest to determine whether licensing to an existing company or creating a startup makes the most sense.
Guidance and Feasibility - Once a decision has been reached in favor of a startup, CU Innovations develops an intellectual property protection strategy. In addition, CU Innovations and the inventor will work to create an advisory group involving any combination of technology/market domain experts, business process experts, serial entrepreneurs and early-stage investors. During this initial period, the primary focus is to determine the feasibility of the company. Over time and as feasibility becomes more apparent, CU Innovations will work with the inventor and other proposed members of the technical team to determine the level of their participation in the new company.
Transferring the Technology - After the startup team with a relevant mix of business experience and technical knowledge has been established and the company formed, CU Innovations will typically negotiate with the lead business person, or "business driver," to secure intellectual property rights for the new company from CU. Our preferred initial approach for the company to secure the invention is to execute a time-limited option, giving the company the right to enter into a future exclusive license for the invention. The option agreement will include certain performance requirements for moving to a license, such as a defined and agreed-upon role for the inventor(s), a university-approved conflict-of-interest management plan, a viable business strategy (as evident in the business plan), an experienced outside CEO, and initial funding and solid prospects for accessing additional needed capital.
Resources and Information
Our publication "Starting a Start-up: Successfully Managing the Dynamics of a New Company" contains detailed information on the start-up process and important legal and business considerations, as well as additional resources to help start-ups start right.
CU Innovations and the State of Colorado provide proof-of-concept programs to help mature university technologies.
CU Innovations also works closely with the Innosphere to bring the knowledge of domain experts to bear in shaping commercialization plans for university technologies.