McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Eric Beckman, PhD, recently presented the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Enterprise Development’s Limbach lecture entitled “Culture Shock for Fun and Profit: Stepping From Academia Into a Start-Up.” As reported by University Times writer Kimberly Barlow, Dr. Beckman offered his insights on what he’s learned during his entrepreneurial leave from the University, including what he’s done right and what he’s done wrong on the path toward commercializing TissuGlue as co-founder of Cohera Medical.
Following an overview of how the “accidental” formation of Cohera Medical occurred, Dr. Beckman shared with the audience what worked and what didn’t work along the road to development of a tissue glue that’s being brought to market by a company he formed in 2005. A major point he discovered was that a paradigm shift of thought was necessary between the world of academia and that of small business—at the university, money was most important; in business, time ranks No. 1.
Another surprise to him was learning what investors look for when they visited; the company team was just as crucial to them as the technology they were investing in. Working with partner companies was also critical for rapidly generating revenue and getting products to market; investors want to see their investment grow quickly.
Dr. Beckman cautioned that there is a huge gap between a lab technology and a product. For instance, in the lab, a researcher makes something in the morning and uses it in the afternoon. A real product must have a shelf life of months. Regarding intellectual property issues related to the product, Dr. Beckman advised would-be entrepreneurs to stay ahead of their own patent filings by having something new in the works before others can see those patent filings.
Other wisdoms he learned along the way include:
- Good venture capital firms can be of value in helping you network
- Monies are available for early-stage companies
- Large companies may track you if your product is a good one—be ready
- Keep your product simple—too many bells and whistles can slow product development and approvals
- Be prepared to teach those without science and engineering knowledge to understand what you’re doing
In summary, Dr. Beckman advised others that following in his footsteps might be for them if they have a product they passionately believe in and want to learn how the business world works from a small-company perspective.