Some people are “Idea People,” and some aren’t. I like to think of myself as an Idea Guy with a couple of drawbacks: I never have enough time to delve into all my ideas, and those I think are great usually turn up unprofitable after some market research. If you read my previous article, you know the intrinsic value of just an idea is pretty minimal. Once there’s some work behind an idea (a patent, some market research, some manufacturing, etc.), the value starts to go up.
Then there are a lot of people who are “doers” or “action oriented,” but can’t come up with an idea. They want to start a business and they know they could run a tech business, but they don’t have anything that really hits home for them. They don’t have any ideas for what kind of business to start. And for these action people, I have some good news: you can get all the ideas you could ever need!
Finding an idea, if you know where to look, can actually be the easiest part of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Funded research facilities across the world develop ideas. Places like universities and national laboratories exist in part to help develop and patent unique and advanced technologies. Most universities and laboratories have hundreds, or even thousands, of patents that they’re more than happy to license. They’re in the business of research, not starting companies, so they use Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) for their Tech Commercialization goals. By licensing their technologies, they can make money to support themselves.
In the past, it’s been a bit of a pain to search through each individual TTO website to find interesting technologies. Each lab and university had their own website, with its own unique interface, categorizations, and searching capabilities. But, with the innovation of “IP Exchanges” things got much easier. You can go to websites that have a large number of licenseable technologies from numerous organizations all in one place. Technology Ventures Corporation has its own site called TechWhiteBoard.com. We list technologies from over a dozen national labs and universities.
Once you get to an exchange or to a TTO website, take a look around. Look for any technologies that you find interesting and then start your research. If it starts to look good, give us a call at TVC, or contact the TTO directly (the contact information is usually listed on the technology’s web page). You may have found yourself an idea.