TCO event matches OSU innovators with those who may be able to help them commercialize their ideas
By Melanie Baker
What isn’t a widely known is many of Ohio State’s best and brightest aren’t just creative, but downright entrepreneurial — and being able to feel the transformative affects of commercialization first-hand has ignited a creative movement sweeping students and faculty alike.
Startups stemming from Ohio State’s research innovations have been steadily on the rise. In fiscal year 2012 Ohio State created five new high-tech startups, compared to two from the year before.
Brian Cummings, vice president of Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer, attributes the rapid growth to both a shift in culture at Ohio State and the creation of new entrepreneurial programs that encourage that kind of activity.
For example, this past month, Columbus businessman Robert Underhill found himself on an entrepreneurial “speed date” with Jane Wright, curriculum manager for OSU Extension, to learn more about a mobile-based teaching platform she had developed called “Total Animal” and help think about the prospects of developing a business product from it.
Underhill had been drawn to TCO’s South Campus Gateway office for the “speed dating” event — actually called Startup Snapshot — that showcased a sampling of Ohio State’s startups in the pipeline.
More than 60 CEOs and entrepreneurs were invited to TCO to hear 10 faculty startup pitches — including Wright’s — and one student startup pitch. Each presentation was a brisk three minutes, after which the round-robin “speed dating” session broke out to match CEOs with inventors.
“Presenting at Startup Snapshot forced me to distill my idea down into its basic elements yet allowed for in-depth conversation too,” Wright said. “It was the whole elevator approach with the added luxury of immediate followup. Audience members were truly engaged and I connected with enthusiastic entrepreneurs who would make great partners on any number of projects.”
The event was slated to last until 8:30 p.m. but a few passionately engaged attendees finally called it a night at
“The engagement from our researchers and the community has been more than we could have hoped for,” Cummings said. “To see our faculty out late into the evening working on their new company ideas was amazing.”
Wright found the experience of pitching her brainchild to a room of seasoned entrepreneurs to be anything but intimidating. “I had an absolute blast. Along with being incredibly helpful, it was so much fun.”
Of course, the event was about more than just a good time. The affects of the event are all pointing to a successful launch. Twenty-five followup company deep-dive meetings are scheduled, 15 new mentors agreed to be a part of TCO’s expanding mentor network and TCO projects the creation of two additional companies from that event alone.
The Startup Snapshot is slated to be a semi-annual event at TCO and could mean great news for both Ohio State and central Ohio’s economy with the creation of new companies. The next event is scheduled for autumn 2013.
“We’re designing a suite of comprehensive early stage services for our businesses so we can play an active role in their success,” said Chris Hirsch, new ventures strategist in the TCO. “Partnering with Ohio State provides a distinct advantage over other opportunities because world-class researchers, faculty and staff are all accessible through our office.”
Along with propelling Ohio State startups forward and connecting them with the business community, TCO’s New Ventures team has big plans for the future.
“This year has really been a great first year for New Ventures. We’ve launched eight startups in our first six months of existence,” said Chris Koenig, New Ventures strategist.
“Going forward we’re anticipating rapid growth of Ohio State startups. We’re currently tracking 39 potential startups with at least 12 slated to launch by the close of the fourth quarter. Through the efforts of TCO, Ohio State is placing high priority on university startups. There’s never been a better time to be involved.”