USC Stevens On Tech Transfer: Understand Venture Capitalists

The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation, the effort of the University of Southern California to foster innovation within its campus and the community, has been turning an eye to how to more effectively spin out academic efforts into companies. The institute said today that it has just published a white paper focused on helping universities to improve the spinout process, finding -- among other things -- that universities need to "get better at gathering, filtering, translating, and packaging new ideas." Among tidbits from their study: inventors are expected to be involved start-ups, but shouldn't expect to run the company as CEO; venture capital funds shouldn't be considered as "ATMs"--they expect to be "highly involved" in portfolio companies; and understand that venture capitalists are looking for a return on investment--either an IPO or acquisition. Technology transfer and academic spinouts, despite their deep technology roots and barriers to entry, are notoriously difficult to get funded and spun out of universities. The University said its white paper was based on 94, in-depth interviews among geographically and commercially diverse venture capitalists, who were at the partner or managing director level of early-stage or seed-stage, active venture funds.