University of Minnesota launches incubator to support startup companies based on research discoveries
The University of Minnesota announced today the formal launch of a startup incubator designed to help companies based on University research succeed in bringing their discoveries beyond the lab and into the marketplace.
The Discovery Launchpad program was developed by the Venture Center, part of UMN Technology Commercialization, to provide expert coaching and support for researchers interested in forming a startup company to commercialize new technology. The program builds upon the broad network of resources available across the U that focus on early-stage support for technology development, such as MIN-Corps, MN-REACH, and the Business Advisory Group.
“The Discovery Launchpad helps researchers explore what is needed in commercializing a University invention via a startup—namely, understanding the business model, market demand, competition and the resources necessary to be successful,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center. “By offering individualized advising from experienced executives and entrepreneurs, we can improve the success of new startup companies based on U of M research, bring new technologies into the market, and increase the overall return on investment for research.”
The program begins with an assessment, where the company founders and researchers meet with Discovery Launchpad advisors to discuss their discoveries and create a customized work plan. Startups that qualify for the program then receive a formal invitation to participate. Over the course of several months, Discovery Launchpad provides participants with shared office space as advisors coach them through the process of creating business, marketing, and sales plans, as well as working on financial management and developing a business pitch. When this phase is complete, the startup officially launches, and continues to receive advising and support for up to two years.
The advisors and researchers will together explore the skills, time and resources required to successfully bring their innovations to market. Many of the opportunities will require an outside executive to work with University researchers to launch a company. The Venture Center and Discovery Launchpad advisors will help recruit qualified candidates for the researchers to consider.
The Discovery Launchpad is currently working with eight startups, and plans to graduate eight from the program this fiscal year.
“The Discovery Launchpad has helped us to hone our pitch, articulate our value proposition, and gain insight into the investor thought process, all of which get us closer to achieving our ultimate goal—to launch our company and attract investment,” said Patrick Walsh, co-founder of startup Anatomi Corp and a researcher in genetics, cell biology and development with the College of Biological Sciences. “The staff have been incredible, bringing many diverse business backgrounds and viewpoints, and are always available to provide advice.”
The program features five external advisors who coach participants through the process of launching a startup company. These advisors bring to the table extensive experience serving as executives of startup companies in many different industries, as well as professional experience in major companies such as Cargill, 3M and Medtronic.
“It’s been extremely helpful brainstorming and pressure testing our ideas with the Discovery Launchpad team,” said Brian Larson, co-founder and CEO of University startup Darcy Solutions. “Their playbook made it clear how much ‘we didn’t know we didn’t know.’ Their experienced hand has helped reassure us throughout the process. Because of their expert guidance and close involvement, we feel confident we’re on the right track and are taking the right steps to position our business for success.”
Since its founding in 2006, the Venture Center has launched more than 140 startup companies based on discoveries by University faculty, staff and students. The Venture Center offers customized support services to University startups, including coaching, executive recruitment, and marketing assistance. It also works closely with internal and external partners to connect faculty with funding opportunities and other resources that help researchers to advance ideas through the critical stages of business development toward company creation.
To learn more about the Discovery Launchpad program, visit https://z.umn.edu/discovery-launchpad.