Entrepreneurship

  • TCE Entrepreneurship

     

    The TCE Entrepreneurship (TCE-E) section aims to be the first point of reference to TCE members (graduate students and faculty) who are interested in exploring the commercialization of their research. Undergraduate students are encouraged to visit the Bronica Entrepreneurship Center information page.
    The information in this page is arranged in the form of a decision tree that leads you to practical information or a pointer to the person to contact to get more relevant info.
     
    This is the first step in a long journey and our aim is to lift some barriers that exist to researchers in the Technion institution that prevent them from commercializing technologies.
     

    Page Sections

     
    We try to break down the info according to the process the person will go through. So you have an idea, now what?. We first describe how to talk about the idea with “outsiders”. You may have questions about funding options, but you are not ready to explore them yet!
     
    In any step or stage a relevant issue is assembling a winning team that will increase the chances of reaching the market.
     
    Now that you have done some research about the commercialization potential of your idea, read more on how to do it within the framework the Technion has set: TRDF (T3).
     

    I have an idea

     
    Excellent. This is just the beginning and the easy part. To learn more about finding the right partner with the next phases read the team section. Your option then are either to keep on going until you find your partner or let him/her read through and start pushing things forward.
     
    Now, you need to do some research to ensure that your idea tackles a valid pain point in the market. For this you can use the service of the entrepreneurship center that offers consultation services, which usually focus on the initial steps. The first thing to do is to go to http://www.yazamut.technion.ac.il/activity/consultancy/ and write a document answering as best as possible the five questions outlined there. Note that this is not something to accomplish in 30 minutes, it requires a lot of research and critical thinking. Once you complete the document, send it to the center and you will receive feedback, advice and a personal meeting to guide you further.
     
    If you get stuck at the point where you do not wish to reveal your idea to a complete stranger, read the next section and then complete the above.
     

    Story of the idea

     
    When starting there is also the dilemma of how much to tell and to whom. This is a very subjective matter and depends on the nature of the venture as well. In general, whether your technology is patentable or not, you can tell your story and engage people without revealing crucial information. At the end of the day your venture will live or die depending on the execution and not based on how good the idea was.
     
    Telling a story is a hard task! Each time you tell someone about your idea, you are actually engaging in a sales process since you either need something from that person or you would like them to be your ambassador.
     
    You story should be constructed in a similar way to the document that the Bronica Entrepreneurship Center (BEC) consultancy services require. Engage the person by telling them about the pain and make the listener relate to the pain, for example: “There is a huge problem of air pollution in Haifa, did you know that each year three people die from it?”, then move on to describe the market size, preferably in dollars so it will be easy to understand you are tackling something big. You can skip the description of the solution you have and move to describe a strong team that has the capabilities to solve it innovatively and has the tools to bring the product to market. In case your team can only deliver a solution, you need to specifically mention that you do not have the commercial abilities for two reasons; first, so people will know you are aware of your shortcomings, second, so that they may connect you with the person who can deliver.
     
    In the above suggested scenario you did not talk about your technology and you can be as extreme as to not give a notion for the solution just saying you have one. Use the fact that you are a researcher in a top technological institution!

     

    Building a Team

     
    Finding the right partner for a venture is of utmost importance and is an extremely difficult task. The person/s you seek will be unique to you and to the type of venture. There are several options at your disposal to look for the right team:
    • T3 is in touch with “EIRs” (Entrepreneurs In Residence) who are capable people looking to join and form a startup
    • BEC holds several events a year that can be the right platform to build a team. These events include hackathons, 3 Day Startup and monthly gatherings of its community
    • Through BEC you can contact several VCs to check with their EIRs
    • Talking about the idea with friends, family and colleagues can sometime surface excellent people looking for an opportunity to join someone they can trust
    All these options, some more than other, require you to be able to talk about your idea in a convincing way so it is recommended in any case to do some market research and confer with BEC to refine the storytelling part.
     

    Funding Options

     
    Definitions of the states used below – the definition is subjective and varies with each case and team:
    • Very early – there is an idea, but no thorough market research was done and no prototype or demo yet
    • Early stage – Technical feasibility research was done, idea is pretty formed and there is some document to send around. Might be with or without a demo/prototype – depending on the team’s experience – the more experienced the less they need for this stage.
    • Seed stage –  Silent launch was done and there are some insights as for the quality of the product
    • Round A – Beta is done, a basic product is out and there are sales. More R&D is needed to feed the product pipeline, but most of the money is used for marketing and expansion.
    • Anything above – you no longer need this website for reference…
     
     
     
     
     
    Stage
    Option Name
    Details
    Links/Contacts
    Very early
    Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS)
    Grants for very early stage technology based ventures. The most prominent one is the Tnufa fund that gives up to 200K NIS in very convenient terms. The entrepreneur needs to bring 15% of the funds from home. For example if you are granted 200K NIS, you will be required to bring 30K NIS of your own.
    There are some restrictions on the way the money can be spent (for example not as salary to the founders).
    Very early
    Angel investors
    An angel investor is someone who invests his/her own private money. These people usually invest in the person or team who presents to them as opposed to the idea/technology. Depending on the strength of your team, you can raise angel money when only talking about an idea, but this varies tremendously between investors. For ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) the usual funds raised at this stage in Israel are up to $150K-$300K, but usually lower.
    Approach faculty members who have raised funds.
     
    Approach the entrepreneurship center director/manager
    Seed stage/Very early
    OCS Incubators
    The OCS incubation program enables private investors to leverage their money with the OCS money. This means that for an initial investment of 15% of the money, the OCS will give the remaining 85% in very attractive conditions. Total funding usually revolves around 2 MIL NIS.
    Depending on the team, you can enter an incubator with a presentation. Usually companies enter with a proof of concept.
    Seed stage
    Micro VCs/VCs
    These are professional investment entities! A micro VC usually manages funds in the ranges of $10-$30 MIL while the bigger VCs usually manage hundreds of millions per fund.
    Seed means for investors that you have to have a product in its early stage and depending on the whether it is for businesses or for consumers, traction will be needed or initial sales
     
    All stages
    Crowd funding
    A recent option that has emerged is called crowdfunding with the most notable platforms being KickStarter and IndieGogo. The most natural use of these platforms are for pre-sales of tangible products where in the campaign you receive money for the production of the product which will be delivered several months after the campaign is over. Raising funds for non-tangible products is not trivial.
    Any company can use this method to either raise actual funds that will support the creation of its manufacturing and supply chain facilities or to use this channel as a benchmark to consumers’ interest and to test grounds “cheap”.
    Very early
    Accelerators
    In recent years a new investment vehicle has emerged called accelerator. This is usually a ~3 months program that comes in the following package: ~$20K investment for 5-10%, office space, a bunch of services such as law, accounting and bookkeeping, other saas tool all amounting to around $60K in practice, although most accelerators publish a much higher figure for the value of services. The main added value of these vehicles is the network of connections they are supposed to bring to shorten time to partnerships and market.

     

    TRDF (T3)

     
    T3 (Technion Technology Transfer Office) is a for profit business and its purpose is to maximize revenues from technologies developed by technion personnel.
    This text does not replace the regulations text and cannot be read as a legal interpretation of the document or a legal recommendation.
     
    Each employee (student for higher degrees, faculty, lab assistants) are signed a contract with the TRDF upon employment. The general deal is that the Technion owns the innovation, however it splits revenues 50-50 with the inventor, generally. However, there are several options that can materialize as you can see in the regulations. At the end of the day, as stated in clause 8.6, the Technion can claim 20% in any venture that is pursued even if the invention was not patented and even if the Technion has issued a waiver.
     
    The T3 Regulations can be found here. They are being revised and will be published in the coming year (2014) probably.
     

    Technion Entities Related to Entrepreneurship

     
    • Bronica Entrepreneurship Center – consulting services for early/super-early stage ventures (Tel: 4511)
    • TFL (Hebrew) – a mentoring network for Technion Alumni by leading industry figures. Send an email to Tfl@alumni.technion.ac.il  or contact through BEC.
    • Technion Technology Transfer Office (T3) – applying for a patent of a Technion technology, building a venture team to commercialize the technology, commercialization of technologies by licensing to industry player.

     

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