WisBusiness: UW starts program to boost university-related start-ups

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Faculty, staff and students at UW-Madison who want to start their own companies will soon have more help, thanks to a new program being unveiled today.

Sponsored by the university’s Office of Corporate Relations, the nine-point initiative is modeled effort is modeled after successful efforts at the University of Michigan, Stanford and other institutions.

“Our university does a terrific job of attracting research dollars and produces a large number of patents,” said Charles Hoslet, the OCR’s managing director.

“But we haven’t done that good a job of getting technology turned into companies here in Wisconsin,” he added.

“With this initiative, we want to help create, sustain and even spin off businesses.”

In years past, Hoslet said UW-Madison many patents have often been licensed to companies on the East and West coasts, where there is a stronger entrepreneurial climate.

“But that’s changed in the past 15 years and Madison has a number of start-ups,” he said. “We want to boost that by helping take ideas and turn them into companies.”

Hoslet lauded efforts by the Department of Commerce and the state’s Small Business Development Centers for providing what he called “outstanding support” for entrepreneurs and new businesses.

“But we can do more to aid companies arising from technology developed on the campus and from the ideas of our faculty, staff and students,” he said.

UW-Madison Chancellor John D.Wiley called the new initiative “another forward step in our determination to link the strengths of this university to the future of this state.”

Wiley established OCR in 2003, directing it to “serve the increasingly complex needs of the business community and help build a stronger Wisconsin economy in the 21st century.”

Larry W. Cox, director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship in the UW-Madison School of Business, called the new initiative “a perfect blend of the three overarching goals of the university: research, education and outreach.

“It explicitly connects the business community with faculty and students, all of whom have something substantial to learn, contribute, and gain from the starting of new ventures.

“Obviously, the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship is very pleased to be working with OCR to encourage the creation of new ventures – especially ventures that utilize intellectual capital created at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Hoslet, who has managed OCR since its inception in mid-2003, explains, “This initiative is a key element of the OCR strategic plan to assist with the creation of new businesses that will help build a stronger economy.

“UW-Madison has already established a strong record of new business formation, amounting to more than 175 new companies that have been started by our faculty, staff and students and/or spun off from university-based research.

“Most of them have been started in the last 15 years, creating thousands of high-paying jobs.”

Hoslet said the nine components of the initiative have been organized into three areas:

  1. Assistance

    –CEO Mentoring, which includes counseling and assistance for chief executives of UW-Madison start-up companies, will assist them in fine-tuning their business and financial strategies, including presentations to potential investors.

    –An Entrepreneur-In-Residence, to be housed in the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship on campus, will be a non-funded, limited appointment that will assist faculty, staff and students who are considering a start-up venture by facilitating access to MBA students, other university resources, and local service-providers.

    –Business Opportunity Consultations will be provided in collaboration with the Entrepreneurial Management graduate course in the School of Business, under the direction of Larry W. Cox. This program will provide a venue for faculty, staff or students having rough ideas about potential businesses to examine and vet their concepts with an independent business-oriented group.

    –Entrepreneurial Development Micro Grants will be awarded to early-stage entrepreneurs from UW-Madison start-up companies to help offset the cost of their participation in conferences, forums, short courses and other seminars that are vital to their success.

  2. Events

    –The CEO Breakfast Series will be a monthly meeting convened by the Office of Corporate Relations for chief executives of emerging UW-Madison-affiliated companies, and will provide peer-level networking and support.

    –Venture Capital Roundtables, hosted by the Office of Corporate Relations for the venture capital community, will serve as a venue for early stage and concept stage UW entrepreneurs to discuss their business concepts with representatives from the venture capital community to gain feedback on how to advance business ideas toward a fundable opportunity.

  3. Publications

    –The “Guide for New Business Ventures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison”, which highlights the key steps faculty, staff or students should consider in starting a company, has already been completed in conjunction with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

    –“Succeeding with Tech Transfer at UW-Madison” is a unique conversation with UW-Madison faculty who have mastered the various aspects of business start-ups and on-going industry-relations issues. Now in development by the Weinert Center’s Gerard George, an assistant professor in the School of Business, these conversations are being captured in both video and DVD formats with funding and co-sponsorship by WARF, and will be provided to faculty and staff as a way to share with them the insights gained by other successful entrepreneurs in the UW-Madison community.

    –Surveys of Start-up Outcomes will be conducted periodically by the Office of Corporate Relations to identify and examine issues that have been faced and lessons that have been learned by UW-Madison entrepreneurs.

The initiative’s web site is http://www.corprelations.wisc.edu/entrepreneurs.html. It will be managed and coordinated by OCR. The program’s expenses will be paid by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Gilson Endowment.