Why early-stage entrepreneurs should secure IP fast and inexpensively
When Aline M. Betancourt decided to start a biotechnology company that would develop adult stem cell-based therapies for diseases associated with inflammation, she knew the value of her company would be tied up in her intellectual property. Investors would want to know she had the rights to the IP, she said, and that competition would be diminished. "You want to make sure your IP and your rights to that IP are sound," Betancourt said.
Betancourt, now the founder and chief scientific officer at Wibi+Works Therapeutics, had been on faculty at the Tulane Medical Center for 15 years. She needed to negotiate an exclusive license for her technology from the academic institution, so her first step was to find an intellectual property law firm willing to help her for little or no cost -- or a small bit of equity. "That's very helpful to a startup that has limited funds," Betancourt said.
Here are other entrepreneurial insights from Betancourt:
Identify quality collaborators -- When Betancourt decided to apply for an SBIR grant for her startup, she sought to identify an expert collaborator who already had experience with the program. She found an investigator who was known in the field to participate in her study designs and consult on her application. "[The grant officers are] going to go with people they already know and had success with," Betancourt said.
Find free, local resources -- Without a business-minded co-founder, Betancourt has had to build her own business expertise. She found local business networks and resources, such as San Diego's CONNECT program, that offer mentoring, pitch competitions, and more. "All of that is geared toward helping you find and develop the right business model," Betancourt said. "You really need to have a group of people helping you out."
Use social media -- Social media is a free or low-cost way to get the word out about your startup, Betancourt said. She used some of her SBIR grant money to build a website and then joined Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks. "You get a lot of exposure," Betancourt said.