The recent KiwiNet group hug in Wellington showed the value of having a dealmaker come salesman attitude when it comes to commercialisation.
KiwiNet is the collective commercialisation arms of eight CRIs and universities – combining knowhow and networks and providing an outward facing view for much of our tertiary smarts and ideas.
The May 2 forum was an opportunity to up the networks, and provide practical knowhow.
In this regard, Anthony Francis managing director of South Australia’s Flinders Partners (part of the same named university) reckoned there must’ve been a mistake when he was brought in the commercialisation scheme.
But it was soon clear that the ex-accountant (who got out before he was bored to death), and has been involved in some private ideas to market ventures, is the ideal dealmaker in this commercialisation space. There’s a suspicion that this Aussie is more in the ‘ask for forgiveness rather than permission’ camp.
If there was one Francis take-home message, it was NOT to get too tied up about where/who has the intellectual property.
FP’s general policy is to vest the IP in the separate company that is set up. Often this was someone else with money and/or passion, and willing to drive the idea. Basically, they’re told to get on with it.
Francis isn’t than enamoured of the idea of licensing IP either – “it sets up an adversarial mindset right from the start”.
He gave one example of some IP ‘freed’ (sticK’s description) from Flinders – where large collections of data in the form of icons or images are displayed in a 3-D array organised about axes of relevance.
As described on thereitis.com’s website:
“Scanning large collections of visual data, users are able to detect clusters of the type of objects they are looking for – often in their peripheral vision. They then focus on the general area to further refine their visual search until frequently they announce ‘there it is!’ Our studies to-date show a significant reduction in search and find times”
This startup is less than a year old, has already been valued at $5 million and has been selected as one of the most innovative technology firms in Australia.
It is a perfect illustration of what Francis described as “it is good to be where the problems are.” From that you can figure:
- How to solve them
- How to extract value from solving them
He gave a couple of other illustrative quotes.
‘Entrepreneurship is the process of creating or seizing an opportunity and pursuing it regardless of the resources currently controlled.’ (Jeffrey Timons)
“A good idea is a bad idea that learns”
‘The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.’ (Henry Ford)
Another of FP’s relationships is with the Aussie Rules team the Adelaide Crows. Now sport’s not something that a university would normally be thought to be part of; but some of Flinder’s thinking is applied to how the players can be better decision-makers on the field. In other words, upping player’s sports-smarts.
For Flinders, having Francis in the driving seat doing some of the deals has been a savvy move – do the deal, don’t get too worked up about the IP (let it go free!)