Beyond the Pitch
Innovate IP Helps Research Institutions Focus on Spinning Out Startups
Technology transfer—the term fairly rolls off the tongue. It’s easy to say and difficult to accomplish.
Most universities and research institutions look upon technology transfer as the process of transferring scientific findings from a research environment to another organization to further develop the technology and bring it to the marketplace (commercialization).
“The intellectual property market and the associated commercialization efforts have expanded greatly over the past five to ten years,” said Jerry Weissberg, CEO of Innovate IP, a Columbus-based startup provides a web-based platform for institutions to manage their intellectual property.
It is extremely challenging for the technology transfer and commercialization offices to manage the commercialization process for the intellectual property (IP) created in their labs.
“There are patent applications, licensing agreements, royalties, milestone payments, and other legal forms and money flowing that has to be distributed to inventors, institutions, and to cover expenses,” Weissberg said. “The people who are managing all this activity need to know what kind of research is being done; how much revenue is being generated, and the status of the patent portfolio. It’s a lot of moving parts.”
The Ohio State University invents a solution and spins out a company.
Since 2014, the Ohio State University’s Technology Commercialization Office has created 47 startup companies, bringing the active startup portfolio to 59 companies. They are doing important work across many industries, from curing cancer to saving the environment.
Weissberg, a serial entrepreneur who has raised more than $30 million in capital and lead a successful $38 million acquisition, approached OSU about a year ago to explore licensing and startup opportunities.
“Ohio State developed this software and used it for five years to manage their own technology transfer office and then licensed the IP to Innovate IP,” said Weissberg.
OSU licensed the software, and the company raised initial working capital through Rev1 and private investors.
“With the two developers who built the software and lived in the tech transfer world as founding members of our team, Innovate IP has deep domain experience not only in the software but in business operations,” Weissberg said, “and this is a differentiator for us.”
He says that to meet the needs of his customers takes a dual understanding of the world of IP commercialization and the world of contract management, especially the terms and conditions and multi-year reporting requirements required by federal funding.
OSU’s heritage and reputation add to Innovate IP’s credibility with early customers.
Customers recognize the immediate value in the comprehensive reporting and powerful search capabilities of the system.
“When I first looked at this,” Weissberg said, “I wasn’t sure how big the opportunity was. There were three competitors who had been there for a while, and I couldn’t immediately tell why ours was better.”
So, he came to OSU and sat in a series of prospecting calls as the founders of Innovate IP were conducting online demonstrations with potential customers. “You could hear the expression on the other end of the phone with the people who are very frustrated with their current systems,” Weissberg said.
“Innovate is much more streamlined and easy,” he said. “When customers ask questions about things they would like to be able to do with their current systems, we can answer, yes, with just a couple of clicks. You can hear the excitement. They are relieved and intrigued; it builds throughout the call.”
Innovate IP has five customers they are bringing online. Four are universities, and one is an Air Force laboratory in Ohio.
“In the process of cutting over these first customers,” said Weissberg, “we have found money—where data had been entered improperly or invoices not billed or paid.”
Innovate IP’s platform has a built-in customer relationship management (CRM) system that manages deal flow through appointment scheduling and tracking, provides notifications, and alerts, and even has a compliance module that raises a flag when license and milestone payments are out of sync with contractual obligations.
“Our system allows a tech transfer office to do more with the staff they have,” Weissberg said. “We can streamline everything else that’s going on so that there is more time to spend on marketing and managing their portfolios. There’s more time to better protect and license the IP. We provide the information to help institutions get rid of patents that aren’t generating revenue and to be sure they are collecting on the ones that are.”
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