If you pursue translational research that meets a clear market need, want to guide its development, and have the passion and perseverance, you might consider starting your own company. UI Ventures, part of the University of Iowa Office of Research and Economic Development, works closely with the UI Research Foundation to connect you to the resources you will need to get started, including consultation, gap funding, market research, and mentors.
As with patent applications, no two cases are alike when it comes to startups. However, below you will find the steps generally involved in creating a company.
Contact UI Ventures
If you are interested in creating a startup around your new technology, reach out to UI Ventures at 319-384-3425, or email Directors Jordan Kaufmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Dymerski at email@example.com.
Meet with UI Ventures Staff (and, possibly, UIRF)
We’ll discuss the pros and cons of starting a company and whether it makes sense to submit your invention to the UIRF, if you have not already done so. After reviewing your invention and defining the product or service you plan to deliver, we’ll help determine which path makes the most sense for you, and inform you of available local, regional and national resources.
Pre-Venture and Research Stage
During this stage, we will work with the founding team to assist in completing market discovery. This is done through our I-Corps Lean Startup process. You will be encouraged to participate in entrepreneurial training and apply for gap funding, as appropriate. If ready, we may introduce you to a potential mentor.
Form the Company
If the research stage yields favorable results, the next step is to officially form the company. To do so, you will work with outside attorneys to set up the company. After your company is formed, you will be required to complete a Conflict of Interest (COI) Form to update your COI status with the University and allow for appropriate conflict management. During this stage, we also work with you through the process of finding incubation space, developing a business strategy, management team, marketing strategy, financial projections, and more as needed for your particular situation.
Complete a Standstill Agreement with the UIRF
Once ready, the UIRF and UI Ventures will help prepare you to sign a Standstill Agreement. Standstill Agreements serve several purposes to help you develop both your startup and your technology including:
- Ensuring the UIRF does not pursue other companies or license your technology to someone else.
- Holding your IP while you continue to develop your venture.
- Signaling your commitment to funding groups that you intend to develop the technology.
Standstill Agreements typically last 9-12 months, during which you will work with the UIRF to sign a License Agreement, which gives you the right to further develop your technology. In addition, the Standstill period gives you time to develop a business strategy and identify available lab or office space, as needed.
Meet your Mentors
Finding mentors to learn from is an important part of starting a company. We will work with you to find a business mentor and develop a team of both experienced science and business advisors, if needed. Many mentors and advisors are willing to volunteer for a few hours a month to help guide you as you launch your company.
Raise Additional Funding
Finding adequate funding for your startup company requires working multiple avenues such as:
- Networking events, hosted by UI Ventures.
- The Iowa Connect network.
- Occasionally, through your mentors.
- Applications for Iowa state low interest loans, Angel investors, corporate partners, SBIR/STTR grants.
- Regional investor meetings.
Never fundraised before? No problem. We will assist you in developing fundraising skills and materials, including talking points and strategy. You can lead this task, or work with a mentor acting as an “Interim CEO.”
After you launch the company, UI Ventures will continue to serve as a resource, although you are likely to need our help less and less as your company gains traction. In exchange for the help you have received, we will ask you to help future startups as mentors or advisors.
Agreements for Business Partners: The UIRF provides the following agreements for faculty/staff startups.
- Standard Startup Term Sheet & Standstill Letter: Contact your UIRF licensing associate for more information.
- Confidential Disclosure Agreement/Non-Disclosure Agreement Form (CDA/NDA): This agreement allows an individual or company further access to information about a specified technology within a legal framework restricting any further release of that information to other parties. Please see this page for more information.
Other Entrepreneurial Resources
- UI Ventures: Assists university inventors with creating new ventures based on their research. It provides education and mentoring to advance entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies by linking them with the capital, talent and other critical resources needed for success.
- Iowa Connect
- Translational Research Incubator (TRI): a unique business space on the University of Iowa’s campus whose goal is to provide an environment for early, research-based companies to accomplish critical milestones toward commercialization.
- MERGE: Located in the heart of downtown Iowa City, this facility–launched in fall 2016–is a hub for entrepreneurs, startup companies, engineers, technology professionals, graphic artists, hackers, students, professionals, and business resources. It includes office and meeting space as well as protostudios, a cutting-edge biomedical and electronics prototyping hub that features 3D modeling software and hardware and electronics equipment.
- UI Research Park: Leases building sites and space to growing technology companies that require sustained research relationships with the university. Home to a world-class business incubator program that has nurtured nearly 100 UI spinouts and other new ventures since its start in 1984, the park is located just north of Iowa City and within a 15-minute drive of the Eastern Iowa Airport. Here, growing enterprises have access to a state-of-the art business incubator, world-class research facilities and a dynamic faculty of scientists, physicians and engineers at one of the world’s leading public research universities.
- John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center (JPEC): A national leader in teaching and supporting innovation and entrepreneurial development, JPEC (run through the Henry B. Tippie College of Business) offers a range of campus and community entrepreneurial development programs, ranging from intensive training and certificate programs to seed funding for Iowa-based technology and high-growth startup companies.
- State funding resources: A wide range of funding resources are available in Iowa, including through the Iowa Economic Development Authority and its Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC), as well as other agencies. Talk to your UIRF liaison for details.