Professor Richard Kaner participated in UCLA’s Office of Intellectual Property’s recent 3rd Annual “Pathways to Commercialization” event.
The event gave four UCLA faculty entrepreneurs the opportunity to shed light on their approach to commercializing academic research.
Kaner has helped start several businesses including Nanotech Energy, which uses graphene to make rapid charge storage devices known as supercapacitors; SuperMetalix, a company developing the world’s hardest metals for use as cutting tools, and Water Planet which focuses on cleaning up the oily water left from oil fracking.
To learn more about Kaner’s research, visit his group’s website.
From the UCLA/invents website (by Brian Bender) June 10, 2016:
Pathways to Commercialization – How UCLA Startups Found Success
Advice from UCLA Faculty Entrepreneurs
Much of the entrepreneurial and startup activity from universities starts in a research lab. The faculty in charge of those labs often play a big role in the process of creating new startups. UCLA’s Office of Intellectual Property held its 3rd Annual “Pathways to Commercialization” event this week to allow several UCLA faculty entrepreneurs to shed light on their approach to commercializing academic research.
The event was skillfully moderated by Kevin DeBre, an attorney at one of UCLA’s Startup in a Box service providers, Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP. UCLA faculty members featured on the panel, including Dr. Jonathan Braun, Dr. Dino Di Carlo, Dr. Ric Kaner, and Dr. David Haake, all have experience in co-founding several startup companies. Kevin led the discussion, letting each panelist share their thoughts and experiences on how they approached the commercialization process and the lessons they learned along the way.
“Don’t start a company under-capitalized.” –Dr. Ric Kaner
Dr. Kaner felt the underfunding of an early company distracted the team from working on developing the technology. Instead, his time needed to be allocated to fundraising at too early of a stage in development and ultimately led to this startup’s demise. Dr. Braun’s more philosophical advice was particularly astute for an audience heavily steeped in academic researchers. “I learned there is a big difference between a good scientific discovery and a good product.” He facetiously added that “boring ideas can actually make a really great business.”
“I learned there is a big difference between a good scientific discovery and a good product.” –
Dr. Jonathan Braun
Dr. Kaner and Dr. Di Carlo both have been a part of several new companies, most of which were co-founded with former students. They started with UCLA’s Office of Intellectual Property, where they secured intellectual property protection and at times made connections with OIP’s network of investors. But when it came time to run the company, most of them found experienced business leaders to become CEO. The students and the professors usually stay active as technical leads or advisors.
Pathways to Commercialization panelists
Opportunists pursue capitalistic ventures for a variety of reasons, but each faculty member at the table had a common and simple rationale. They wanted their innovations to improve society. Dr. Braun and Dr. Haake are clinicians who have developed therapeutic and diagnostic tools and wanted to see these discoveries and technologies help the lives they were designed to help. And trained as engineers, Dr. Kaner and Dr. Di Carlo both view their work with an application in mind from the very beginning. They all have a desire to remain in academia to teach and train new scientists and engineers, but they view the commercial markets as the most effective way to scale their innovations to improve society. And, the additional research funding it can secure doesn’t hurt.
“What sacrifices in your personal lives did you have to make to start these companies?” The question from the audience led to an important insight about the mind of a startup founder. “These are projects that we’re passionate about; we spend all day thinking about them and talking to others about them,” Dr. Di Carlo answered. “It’s not a sacrifice. It’s just…life.”
Photo caption: Left to right: Dr. Jonathan Braun, Dr. Ric Kaner, Kevin DeBre, Dr. Dino Di Carlo, Dr. David Haake