Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 1: Dealing with a Large Company Having Small Innovation Goals

When in licensing discussions with large companies, startup companies must be willing to call off the relationship when the collaboration will not bear fruit.

For the past several months, I have been at the helm of Evgentech, a startup company with game-changing battery charging methodology.  Our technology was developed by young men who did not come from a traditional engineering background and, even then, their discovery was a serendipitous result of the co-founders’ recognition of a new principle stemming from investigations initially directed toward something wholly different from battery charging.  Put simply, Evgentech’s technology would not have been found if anyone–outsider or not–would have been looking for it.  We are now bringing to market the first truly new battery charging paradigm in over 100 years.  To put things in perspective, with Evgentech’s technology, you will be able to charge your batteries in a fraction of the time possible with existing battery charging methodologies, which means you can charge your iPhone to “full” in as little as 20 minutes, as compared to the about 3-5 hours it takes today.  Moreover, our technology is scalable to large format batteries, as well as a wide range of battery chemistries.

Not surprisingly, when companies with footprints in battery power find out about us, they are interested in finding out more.  We have recently begun preliminary discussions with a number of large companies, and I am seeing significant differences in the ways potential partners interact with us as a startup company, and I would like to share my point of view on occasion as we move forward.  I think this perspective can be of value to other startup up companies seeking to work with large companies, and perhaps our licensing journey will make it into a book one of these days.  (Interestingly, I have been giving people advice on licensing for many years, but when it is your technology, the perspective is certainly different.)

At this early stage of our licensing and commercialization journey, one thing I noticed straightaway is that there can be a real disconnect between the meaning of “innovation” between small and large companies.  Some–perhaps most–large companies appear to view innovation as a “super” product development team.  These are the folks who look for breakthroughs, but these so-called “breakthroughs” are expected to slot into an existing product or project at the company.  It’s almost like many large companies consider innovation to be the result of product development, instead of being the process of creating new products.   It is also significant that, for most of these companies, a wrong bet on partnering might set them back a bit, but it likely won’t put them out of business.

In contrast, at a startup like Evgentech the “innovation” is our whole business, which has been developed wholly independently of the products and timelines of the other company.  At this stage, almost 100% of our value is embedded in our innovation offering, and we must nurture and protect our sole asset.  Significantly, at this stage of our existence, if we bet wrong on a partner, we could very well be out of business.   We must be clear headed about who we choose to partner with and not get excited because a “marquee name” wants to talk to us, or we will set our company up for failure. Continue reading