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 Innovation Development manager discuss the current status of your startup project, and outline the initial plan for developing your idea into a company. This plan will include introducing you to tools like the Lean Canvas, helping you to identify 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 definition and development, business model, legal, regulatory.
IP Management & Strategy
A startup company needs to understand the intellectual property (IP) 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 Innovation IP group has broad expertise with copyright, patent, and trademark law. They can perform patent landscape analyses to understand the competitive space, 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 Innovation IP 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 and provide advice to the innovation team. 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.
We recommend the Lean Canvas, a planning document that organizes this iterative activity. The Lean Canvas presents the essential elements of the business model for a technology startup on a single page. In addition, we have resources to guide the team in creating customer surveys to engage with their market.
CoMotion Innovation Development managers work with the project teams to identify projects that require an advanced product design. When your project is ready for this step, the managers can work with your team to identify possible sources of funding and introduce you to local designers to explore and develop a compelling product.
Among the gap funding programs available for commercialization, our Innovation Fund emphasizes understanding customers and working towards a minimum viable product. As part of the Innovation Fund process, we provide the project team coaching, expert advisors, and other resources to address initial planning, customer development, product design, refinement of the business model, team building, IP strategy, and honing your pitch.
Commercialization Fellows Program
When they see an opportunity to accelerate a team and technology, the CoMotion Innovation Development managers will invite graduate students to apply for our highly competitive 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 to advance commercialization activities and project development.
Regulatory and Reimbursement Analysis
Regulatory and reimbursement analysis is essential in moving technologies like medical devices, diagnostics or therapeutics forward. Through the Innovation Fund, 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 process and set of documents that describe the elements and requirements for startup license discussions. We have created standard templates for the startup term sheet and license and an explanation of the terms within the templates. The simplified and standardized terms of this license template have been vetted by a panel of attorneys from several local law firms.
Through our Innovation Development managers and advisory boards we provide the startup teams with background information on the various parts of the license agreement. See our Licensing FAQs
Financial Term Sheet Process
In keeping with University of Washington’s pride in being a public university, CoMotion is committed to a fair and transparent process that treats all UW startup teams* equally, whether founding teams are comprised of new students or award-winning senior professors, and independent of the experience level of their business person or lawyer. This ensures each UW startup team is able to finalize their license agreement efficiently, with minimum legal fees, and with confidence that the terms in the license are both standard for their industry sector and investable. The term sheet includes standard financial terms for university startup licenses that have been vetted, are comparable with our peers, and based on sector-appropriate comparable data. CoMotion welcomes teams to bring their own industry-specific data to the discussion. Finalization of the term sheet is a data-driven process that ensures all stakeholders are considered. See our Term Sheet Negotiation Process.
*UW startup teams are those founded by the UW students, professors, and employees that developed the innovation.
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.
Startup Business Incubator
UW startups can participate in the CoMotion Labs located in at CoMotion HQ, Fluke Hall, and Startup 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 also helps UW startups identify and apply for outside commercialization grants. The "valleys of death" for technology startups between funding for basic research and ongoing development 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.