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University of Houston: What should a faculty inventor’s role be in their startup?

Should you lead the company that's taking your technology to commercialization? Maybe. But maybe not. Graphic byMiguel Tovar/University of Houston

Are you a faculty member at a university? Are you a researcher with an invention that you want to monetize? Do you want to start your own startup company? If you answered yes to these questions, another question you need to consider is, should you leave your research position at the university to lead your company or get out of the way entirely?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. Some faculty inventors want to leave and launch a company based on their research. In most cases, faculty members want to keep their university roles. What is the right decision for you?

Douglas Hockard, the assistant vice president of Tech Launch Arizona at The University of Arizona, said, in a Tech Launch blog post, to consider your passion, time and expertise.

Do you have the passion?

Passion is required for anyone to enjoy their chosen career paths. Without passion, you are not going to want to dedicate your time or seek the expertise to become the best.

“Faculty researchers chose their careers intentionally, dedicating years of study and research to arrive where they are today. Most faculty are not interested in abandoning that career path,” Hockard said.

Leading a startup requires the same dedication that it took to get where you are in your university role.

Do you have the time?

A startup is not a part-time job. “While faculty researchers are rarely interested in leaving their career in the university, investors want a committed, and focused, leadership team. More than anything, the startup needs someone to focus full-time… to eschew any other pursuits and devote themselves fully to the success of the startup,” Hockard said.

Do you have the expertise?

Hockard mentions in his blog that there are roles that exist in startups for university faculty. The faculty inventor is the technology expert, and their knowledge will help in the commercialization of their technology. Sometimes there are better ways to support the startup while remaining in your university position.

“A scientific role in the company allows them to help guide the company technology direction while allowing someone else to focus on company formation, strategic planning, business development, and importantly, raising capital. What is most important is aligning the myriad needs of the startup with the knowledge, skills, and singular focus best suited to fulfill those needs,” Hockard said.

What's the big idea?

If you don’t have the passion, the time, or the expertise to run a startup or you just simply want to keep your university, maybe someone else should lead your startup.

“Without a doubt, identifying leadership can be daunting. While the desire might be to zero in on a ‘superstar,’ a startup needs someone that can commit the time and the effort and knows ‘what to do next.’ How can startups find that person?” Hockard said.

Your university’s technology transfer office can provide support and can be a good place for you to start. “TTOs provide myriad resources to help inventors move innovations ahead, including technology and market analysis, intellectual property protection, marketing, and more. Many full-service TTOs also have dedicated personnel to help launch startups based on university technologies.” Of course, it’s up to you who should join the company— especially to lead it— but having the support of “experienced potential partners” will help you make the right decision.

Startups need a lot of resources to become successful. Bringing in someone to help, if you don’t have the passion, time or expertise, could be very beneficial. If you do have all three of those things and you want to leave your university role, then go be the lead in your startup.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Cory Thaxton is the communications coordinator for The Division of Research.

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Building Houston

 
 

Here's what Houston startups and innovators will be honored at the Houston Innovation Awards Gala on November 9. Graphic via Gow Media

The Houston Innovation Awards Gala is just a few weeks away — and now the city knows who all it will be celebrating on November 9.

Eight judges evaluated over 150 companies and individuals across 11 categories for the 2022 Houston Innovation Awards. The event is a collaboration between InnovationMap and Houston Exponential to showcase the best of technology and innovation in the Bayou City.

This year's judges includedCarolynRodz, founder and CEO of Hello Alice; Wogbe Ofori, founder of Wrx Companies; ScottGale, executive director of Halliburton Labs; AshleyDanna, senior manager of regional economic development of Greater Houston Partnership; KellyMcCormick, professor at the University of Houston; PaulCherukuri, vice president of innovation at Rice University; LawsonGow, CEO of Houston Exponential; and NatalieHarms, editor of InnovationMap.

All 43 of the finalists will be honored at the gala on November 9, and winners will be named in each category. Additionally, the event will honor the 2022 Trailblazer Award recipient, Blair Garrou of Mercury, who was announced earlier this month.

Without further adieu, here are this year's finalists:

BIPOC-Founded Business

The finalists for the BIPOC-Founded Business category, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by BIPOC representation, are:

  • Blue People — nearshore software developer of custom technology solutions.
  • Clutch — digital marketer that connects emerging brands to next-gen creators.
  • Steradian Technologies — health tech startup that uses deep-photonics technology to diagnose respiratory diseases in seconds, all for the price of a latte.
  • Tradeblock — peer-to-peer barter exchange for collectibles.
  • Unytag — creator of universal toll tag platform that uses a mobile app and a custom-built RFID tag.

Female-Founded Business

The finalists for the Female-Founded Business category, honoring an innovative company founded or co-founded by a woman, are:

  • Accel Unite, LLC — creator of science-backed self-cleaning fabric.
  • Ampersand — platform that upskills entry-level professionals, leveling the playing field with the skills and confidence they need to transition from school to the workforce.
  • CDR Companies — human resources tech platform that provides in-depth assessments, executive coaching, digital avatar coaching for all employees, leadership development and talent management services.
  • Prana Thoracic — medical device company that's providing early intervention in lung cancer.
  • Sesh Coworking — women and genderqueer inclusive coworking and community.

Hardtech Business

The finalists for the Hardtech Business category, honoring an innovative company developing and commercializing a physical technology across life science, energy, space, and beyond, are:

  • ARIX Technologies — robotics and data analytics software company that helps industrial facilities like petrochemical plants and electric utilities prevent costly shutdowns and environmental disasters due to pipe corrosion.
  • Fluence Analytics — real-time analytics solution that optimizes processes and provides novel insights into material properties that enable customers to increase yields, improve product quality, and reduce costs.
  • Milkify — creator of patent-pending process to freeze-dry breast milk into a powder that is easy to use and transport and lasts for three years on the shelf.
  • Prana Thoracic — medical device company that's providing early intervention in lung cancer.
  • Saranas — medical device company focusing on improving patient outcomes through early detection and monitoring of internal bleeding complications.

B2B Software Business

The finalists for the B2B Software Business category, honoring an innovative company developing and programming a digital solution to impact the business sector, are:

  • Ampersand — platform that upskills entry-level professionals, leveling the playing field with the skills and confidence they need to transition from school to the workforce.
  • Liongard — software company that unlocks the intelligence hidden deep within IT systems to give MSPs an operational advantage that delivers both higher profits and an exceptional customer experience.
  • Pandata Tech — tech company that helps companies and federal organizations figure out what sensors they can trust to make critical decisions in daily operations and unforeseen events.
  • Rivalry Technologies Inc. (sEATz) — platform developer for sports and entertainment venues and has been a proven partner at stadiums and venues across the USA, and expanded the proven mobile ordering technology and best practices to develop the myEATz platform, which supports daily operations at facilities in healthcare, business dining, and leisure industries.
  • Solidatus — data management software solution that empowers organizations to connect and visualize their data relationships, simplifying how they identify, access and understand them.

Green Impact Business

The finalists for the Green Impact Business category, honoring an innovative company providing a solution within renewables, climatetech, clean energy, alternative materials, and beyond, are:

  • Bucha Bio — biobased materials company that combats animal and plastic waste and promotes ethical and natural bacterial and plant-based ingredients in the process.
  • Cemvita Factory — biotech company that uses a sustainable, economical, nature-inspired approach to empower companies with sustainable products and environmental technologies to decrease their carbon footprint, reverse climate change, and create a brighter future for the planet.
  • Encina Development Group — circular chemicals company that provides the basic building blocks for customers to meet their renewable content goals by enabling cyclical production and reproduction of products across a broad spectrum of ubiquitous goods, including consumer products and packaging, pharmaceuticals, construction, and much more.
  • IncentiFind — database for green building incentives that's transforming real estate through $70 billion in incentives.
  • NanoTech — materials science company that's designed a product to fireproof and improve thermal efficiencies.

Smart City Business

The finalists for the Smart City Business category, honoring an innovative company providing a tech solution within transportation, infrastructure, data, and beyond, are:

  • Pandata Tech — tech company that helps companies and federal organizations figure out what sensors they can trust to make critical decisions in daily operations and unforeseen events.
  • Rescunomics — platform that provides innovative solutions global safety pain points.
  • Sensytec — IoT Solutions platform that expedites and enhances concrete construction operations.
  • Sparks Spaces — builder of hospitality-focused electric vehicle charging hubs
  • Unytag — creator of universal toll tag platform that uses a mobile app and a custom-built RFID tag.

New to Hou Business

The New to Hou Business category, honoring an innovative company, accelerator, or investor that has relocated its primary operations to Houston within the past three years, are:

  • Allthenticate — platform that replaces passwords and keys with an easy-to-use smartphone phone app.
  • Bucha Bio — biobased materials company that combats animal and plastic waste and promotes ethical and natural bacterial and plant-based ingredients in the process.
  • Fluence Analytics — real-time analytics solution that optimizes processes and provides novel insights into material properties that enable customers to increase yields, improve product quality, and reduce costs.
  • INGU — pipeline inspection solution to achieve Net Zero and ESG compliance for the water and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.
  • Venus Aerospace — creator of a hypersonic spaceplane capable of one-hour global travel.

People's Choice: Startup of the Year

The finalists for the People's Choice: Startup of the Year category, selected via an interactive voting portal during of the event, are:

  • Cemvita Factory — biotech company that uses a sustainable, economical, nature-inspired approach to empower companies with sustainable products and environmental technologies to decrease their carbon footprint, reverse climate change, and create a brighter future for the planet.
  • LevelField Financial — financial service platform that serves customers interested in the digital asset class.
  • Milkify — creator of patent-pending process to freeze-dry breast milk into a powder that is easy to use and transport and lasts for three years on the shelf.
  • Rivalry Technologies Inc. (sEATz) — platform developer for sports and entertainment venues and has been a proven partner at stadiums and venues across the USA, and expanded the proven mobile ordering technology and best practices to develop the myEATz platform, which supports daily operations at facilities in healthcare, business dining, and leisure industries.
  • Tradeblock — peer-to-peer barter exchange for collectibles.

DEI Champion

The finalists for the DEI Champion category, honoring an individual who is leading impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and progress within Houston and their organization, are:

  • Arianne Dowdell, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist
  • Juliana Garaizar, head of Houston Incubator at Greentown Labs and lead investor at Portfolia
  • Kara Branch, founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer Corporation
  • Loretta Williams Gurnell, founder of SUPERGirls SHINE Foundation
  • Rob Schapiro, director of the Energy Acceleration Program at Microsoft

Mentor of the Year

The finalists for the Mentor of the Year category, honoring an individual who dedicates their time and expertise to guide and support to budding entrepreneurs, are:

  • Alfredo Arvide, chief innovation officer at Blue People
  • Barbara Burger, board member, mentor, and advisor to several startups
  • Craig Ceccanti, founder and CEO of T-Minus Solutions
  • Emily Reiser, associate director of innovation at the Texas Medical Center
  • Kara Branch, founder and CEO of Black Girls Do Engineer Corp. and developer and manager at Intel Corp.

Investor of the Year 

The finalists for the Investor of the Year category, honoring an individual who is leading venture capital or angel investing, are:

  • Chris Howard, founder of the Softeq Venture Fund, Softeq Venture Studio, and Softeq Development Corp.
  • John (JR) Reale, managing director of Integr8d Capital and venture lead of the Texas Medical Center Venture Fund
  • Juliana Garaizar, head of Houston incubator and vice president of innovation at Greentown Labs and lead investor at Portfolia
  • Samantha Lewis, principal at Mercury
  • Sandy Guitar, managing director of the HX Venture Fund

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