UMC Links

Seasoned Entrepreneurs Engage with University Startup Companies

November 24, 2008–It has been said that wise people learn from others’ experiences. This is the genesis of the University of Utah’s new initiative: the Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program. The plan is to align seasoned entrepreneurs with young university startup companies to help the new companies as they develop business plans, acquire financing, and begin operations.

Since the establishment of the Technology Venture Development (Tech Ventures) office in 2005, more than 60 companies have been launched from university technologies. The University of Utah is ranked 2nd in the country, behind only MIT, at starting companies from its research. The companies not only help move research forward through the licensing royalty revenue for the university, but they provide jobs for the people of Utah and help to strengthen the economy of the state.

“We strive to support university startup companies rather than leaving them to struggle on their own,” says Jack Brittain, vice president of technology venture development. “A little extra attention, connection with experienced entrepreneurs and simple operational support are sometimes all that is needed.”

Tech Ventures has amassed a group of veteran entrepreneurs to help the startup companies make it through initial growing pains. These business trendsetters are then paired with various young startup companies. As the entrepreneurs and companies become acquainted, the mentors work as consultants. They assist with market analysis, product evaluation and placement, capital acquisition, and other general startup activities. Their goal is to help new and often unstable companies gain sure footing.

University startup companies participating in the EIR program include those based on technologies in software, energy, diagnostic testing, and drug delivery.

EIR member Stan Kanarowski has over fifteen years of entrepreneurial experience, including founding and running multiple startups. He also has experience sitting on the opposite side of the entrepreneurial table providing venture financing. “As an entrepreneur and investor, I have looked at hundreds of companies and talked to a variety of research schools. The University of Utah really stands out as an institution at the forefront of trying to create successful companies,” says Kanarowski. “This new program is a great way to connect executives and experienced entrepreneurs with the advanced business ideas being incubated at the U.”

All university startup companies participating in the EIR are at a very early stage and some don’t have any employees or product sales yet. Even so, that’s an ideal time to make sure they succeed. “We want these companies to establish a strong foundation,” says Brittain. “That is why, instead of leaving these companies to fend for themselves, we’re investing experienced human capital in them.”