CoMotion Blog

CoMotion Connect panel shares insights for entrepreneurs

Written by Meg Herndon / December 3, 2018

Some UW innovators want to create a startup but they don’t know where to start. Some students have exciting ideas for new technologies and products but don’t know how to bring them to market. Wherever UW innovators are in the process of building a company, CoMotion is here to help. That’s why we recently hosted CoMotion Connect, an event to share insights and resources about how the UW community can move their innovations from idea to impact.

We invited an experienced panel to share their insights at CoMotion Connect. Ingrid Pultz of PvP Biologics, Lilo Pozzo of Membrion, Ivan Liachko of Phase Genomics, Dr. Shwetak Patel from Senosis, and Dr. Stephen Fink from the UW Center for Educational Leadership, shared candid advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Four key insights

Making your company a target for acquisition

Patel, whose company, Senosis, was recently acquired by Google, shared that while patents are one piece of intellectual property, they’re not the only intangibles companies may want to acquire. Instead, he advises innovators to think broadly about the value they’re providing. This could be data, infrastructure, or an algorithm. Beyond patents, many assets are valuable to the tech industry.

Grant funding opportunities

Ivan Liachko, CEO, Phase Genomics

Not all founders have considered grants as a source of funding, but they’re an excellent opportunity for some companies. Liachko shared how Phase Genomics hired a grant writer to improve their applications, which so far has been highly successful. The best thing about grants is simple: they give entrepreneurs the ability to invest in the work they’re trying to accomplish — and you don’t have to repay them!

“In total, we’re just shy of $2 million in grant funding,” Liachko said. “It’s a very good buffer when you’re trying to [research and develop] new things.”

He also shared two tips about applying for grants. First, write a grant proposal for something you’re planning to do anyway. This helps companies have a clear game plan for how they would use the funding. Second, stay true to your business model when applying for grants. Consider whether the grants you’re applying for are the best means to achieving your company’s mission and vision.

Venture capital versus acquisition

Ingrid Swanson explained how her company, PvP Biologics, was able to avoid the task of securing venture capital entirely by forming a partnership with pharmaceutical company, Takeda. Through this partnership, PvP was targeted for acquisition earlier in the process.

“It’s a win-win situation because we’ve never had to deal with or take venture capital money,” she said. “On Takeda’s side, they get to purchase the company at a predetermined price with, relatively speaking, a small amount of development capital on their end.”

Exploring opportunities in entrepreneurship

Helping UW students learn about entrepreneurship is another of CoMotion’s goals. As an entrepreneurial-minded professor in the chemical engineering department, Lilo Pozzo helps her students explore entrepreneurship, ranging from connecting them with resources to helping them explore avenues for commercialization. She also shared the benefits of doing this kind of work:

“[Many students] think they must work for major established corporations and that coming up with novel ideas and novel products is out of their reach,” she says. “I don’t think that’s true. I tell them this is going to be a tough road and we might come out with empty pockets, but you will have grown through it and you will be a better engineer and a more marketable person because of this.”

We’ll be posting more blogs with insights from CoMotion Connect and sharing links to these posts in upcoming newsletters and via our social media channels. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to be sure you don’t miss one!