The formative stages before launching a new technology company typically last 12-18 months. Before launch a UW Startup Project prepares its market strategy, strengthens its startup team, identifies key milestones toward securing customers or investors, and builds prototypes to support these milestones. CoMotion provides planning and resources to promote higher-quality startup projects.
CoMotion also makes resources available to young UW Startup Companies. Although a startup opportunity may be compelling enough to launch, it usually faces a challenging period of refining its offering in order to engage early customers and grow toward stability.
By providing a comprehensive system of resources for technology entrepreneurship, we have resources available for other distribution models.
Resources for UW Startup Projects
You will meet with your technology manager and with staff from CoMotion New Ventures to outline the initial plan for developing your startup idea. This plan will include introducing tools like the Lean Canvas, identifying markets and leads, and estimating resources and the highest level milestones.
Meetings with EIRs and other mentors
CoMotion Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) can supplement the project team, bringing to bear their experience with company and product development within the sector addressed by this project. This is not general matching - we recruit EIRs for their fit with the current portfolio of startup projects.
We also maintain an active network of mentors who can advise on specific aspects of a startup project. The EIRs and mentors give the project teams access to skills and experience to help address all aspects of the startup: team, early customers, product or service, business model, legal, regulatory.
IP Management & Strategy
A startup company needs to understand the intellectual property landscape in which it will compete. This includes not only the IP that the startup controls but also IP that the startup will need to license for its product and its competitors' IP. The CoMotion IP Management group can perform patent landscape analyses, and they work with outside counsel and the project team to define a strong IP strategy for this opportunity. As a standing client with several law firms, the IP Management group is able to oversee the quality and costs of the IP portfolio while the project team is working toward company launch.
Marketing strategy includes both a top-down analysis of markets that the product or service could be sold into and a bottom-up development of specific early customers. It is essential that the project team lead in developing relationships with customers, but they can be helped in preparing for these meetings and in understanding the larger markets by MBA fellows and interns, by our Commercialization Boards of Advisors, and at times by professional consultants.
Commercialization Boards of Advisors
Successful commercialization, especially through startups, requires a team with a wide range of knowledge and skills. CoMotion has formed Commercialization Boards of Advisors to help UW innovators connect with the local talent they need. To make networking more efficient, the commercialization boards are organized by sector:
- Medical Device Board of Advisors
- Therapeutic and Diagnostics Board of Advisors
- Software/IT Board of Advisors
- Clean Tech Board of Advisors
The advisors also participate in reviewing the business model, the market strategy, regulatory issues, and presentations.
Product and Customer Development
To create a technology startup company with good prospects for growth and success, the startup team has to find a business model that effectively engages first customers. This is an iterative process of developing relationships with potential customers, defining the minimum viable product they need, and evaluating the competitiveness of this offering. There are several resources available to support this work.
For a planning document that organizes this iterative activity, we recommend the Lean Canvas. The Lean Canvas presents the essential elements of the business model for a technology startup on a single page.
Among the gap funding programs available for commercialization, our Commercialization Gap Fund (CGF) emphasizes the co-development of customers and minimum viable product. As part of the CGF process, we provide coaching, expert advisors, and other resources to address customer development, product design, refinement of the business model, team building, IP strategy, and honing your pitch.
CoMotion technology managers work with the project teams to identify products that require an advanced product design. The technology managers then arrange for designers to explore and develop a compelling product design.
Commercialization Fellows Program
The CoMotion technology managers will invite graduate students to apply for this fellows program to explore commercialization in their fields of study. Strong preference is given for graduating PhD students. Each commercialization fellow will work closely with both their faculty advisor and the CoMotion project team.
Regulatory and Reimbursement Analysis
Regulatory and reimbursement analysis is essential in moving technologies like medical devices, diagnostics or therapeutics forward. Through the Commercialization Gap Fund, the Coulter Translational Research Awards, and the Institute of Translational Health Sciences, CoMotion sources outside consultants to help project teams address these critical issues.
Resources for UW Startup Companies
Startup licenses have a number of unique components. In order to facilitate discussions with our startup teams, CoMotion has created a set of documents that describe the elements and requirements for startup license discussions. We have created templates for startup term sheets and licenses and an explanation of the terms within the templates. The simplified terms of this license template have been vetted by a panel of attorneys from several local law firms.
Through our technology managers and advisory boards we provide the startup teams with background information on the various parts of the license agreement. See our Licensing FAQs
We are pleased to share a new CoMotion agreement template tailored for startup companies based on University of Washington intellectual property. This template was put together with the generous guidance and comments from an expert advisory committee comprised of top attorneys in the Seattle-area innovation ecosystem who pre-negotiated the language with the goal of creating an agreement that requires only technology-specific customization. This new template simplifies and expedites the licensing process for our UW innovators and entrepreneurs and demonstrates a collaborative effort towards streamlining and enhancing our innovation ecosystem.
CoMotion would like to sincerely thank the start-up template advisory committee members for their participation and support: Sonya Erickson, Cooley; David Clarke, Perkins Coie; John Steel, DLA Piper; Joe Wallin, Carney Badley Spellman; Craig Sherman, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Parag Gheewala, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Capitalization Table Board of Advisors
Allocating shares in a new company is one of those critical decisions that too often is initially made in error. The allocation has to primarily reward future value while acknowledging past contributions among the founding team, consultants, early investors, and other stakeholders.
The Capitalization Table Board of Advisors is a panel of expert attorneys, investors, and entrepreneurs who understand best practice, current market norms, and deal terms for allocating shares in technology startups.
Startup Business Incubator
UW startups can participate in the CoMotion Incubator in Fluke Hall. The unique benefits of this business incubator include ongoing access to CoMotion programs, proximity to the UW research base, and participation in a community comprised of UW entrepreneurs.
SBIR/STTR and other funding
The CoMotion gap-funding manager helps UW startups identify and apply for commercialization grants. The "valleys of death" for technology startups have long been recognized, and many federal agencies and non-profit foundations make grants available to help technology startups succeed. These translational or commercialization grants provide the startups with non-dilutive funding, and they maintain working ties between the startup and UW research group.
Bridge Funding Program
The CoMotion bridge funding program helps UW startup teams hone the skills they have developed in moving their startup project to company launch. The startup team has access to coaches to improve their presentations for investors and to prepare for investor diligence. The CoMotion bridge funding program can introduce the startup to potential investors and can access investor feedback on the company's readiness with respect to business model, team, and challenges.