Monday 23 June 2008

University research and funding: bridging the 'expectation gap'

The most recent e-news bulletin of Technology Transfer Tactics reports that early-stage biotech investor Carl Weissman (President and CEO of Seattle-based venture firm Accelerator) has been criticising both venture capitalists and university tech transfer offices their complaints that there is a lack of access to early-stage funding. The funding gap, he says, is non-existent -- but what there really is is an "expectation gap". He points to the era of easy money in the late 1990s as fomenting unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes technology worthy of funding. He comments:
"Academic investigators need to face facts. If you have a great technology, with reasonable and lucid proof-of-concept, addressing a significant unmet need, and that can be protected as proprietary; and, if -- and this is the big IF -- you have reasonable expectations in terms of valuation and risk-sharing, then you will be able to attract venture funding. Plenty of it".
Weissberg points to his own experiences and track record in support of this and adds:
"If you are an academic and you cannot get someone to back your idea, do three things: take a hard look at your technology (or even ask someone else to do so); take a hard look at your expectations; and, take a hard look in the mirror. Honest assessment in these three efforts will tell you why...".
The 'expectation gap' is a useful concept. Although it has probably always existed, it is bound to be more fully appreciated, and properly dealt with, now that it has a catchy name.

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