A Startup Company’s Experiences with Open Innovation-Part 2: Adventures of a Chief Frog Kisser

After many years of counseling small companies on how to license their technology to large companies as an IP attorney, the tables are now turned.  My new role is as CEO of a startup company with breakthrough battery charging technology available for licensing.  I am finding that many of the things I knew to be true as an expert, really aren’t true at all now that I am an entrepreneur.  This is the second post in what I hope will be an ongoing narrative that tells of my journey through the world of Open Innovation as we attempt to find one or more licensing partners for our company’s breakthrough battery fast charging technology.  (The first post is here.) One piece of advice that I knew even before embarking on this entrepreneurial journey that was absolutely not true was”build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  As I have written about before, ideas themselves mean little when 90 % or more of the “better mousetraps” covered by patents are worthless.  So, I knew that our technology destined to become “shelfware” unless we did something to get our name out there.  An old friend with sales experience Continue Reading →

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

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 Continue Reading →

It’s Time for Your R & D Team to Stop Inventing and Start Innovating

In a recent post on his 15 Inno blog, Open Innovation guru Stefan Lindegaard presented the ostensibly nonsensical hypothesis:  R & D leaders are often a “threat” to innovation.  Stefan’s post resulted from an interaction he had with a senior R & D person at a mid-sized tech company, who apparently adhered to the outdated notion that he and his scientists and engineers know more about the company’s business than anyone else could possibly even try to know.  As a result, this R & D leader believes that they cannot maximize (or even create) value for their organization by looking outside the confines of their existing R & D infrastructure to solve the company’s pressing business problems. Reading this, R & D professionals might likely think:  “What’s this guy smoking?  How can R & D be a threat to innovation?!  We’re the reason this company has any innovation at all.  We’re scientists!  Inventors!  Innovators!”  But, unless their companies are consistently experiencing year over year growth coming solely from sales of innovative new products and technology or cost reductions resulting from process innovations, such protestations prove Stefan’s point:  many R & D leaders kill their organization’s ability to innovate due to Continue Reading →

Open Innovation Insights: 5 Biggest IP Legal Mistakes Small Companies Make When Working with Large Companies

Open Innovation guru Stefan Lindegaard recently asked me what the biggest IP legal mistakes small companies make when they are working with large companies.   This is a subject very near and dear to my heart, as I am currently “moonlighting” as GC of a start up energy company that is moving toward licensing our technology into large companies.  Also, as a senior IP lawyer at a multi-national consumer products company, I was on the other side of such deals on more occasions than I can count.  Prior to that, I was a law firm partner representing large and small corporations in patents and licensing issues, and in doing so, I now realize that I killed more deals than I ever facilitated, a situation that is more typical of law firm lawyers than it should be, unfortunately. In view of this multi-faceted experience, I present this list of the 5 most common mistakes companies make when working with large companies in Open Innovation. 1.  Thinking you have all the answers for the large company’s problems: As a small company, you often have only have a single idea or technology and you quite properly focus your attention in this direction.  This can Continue Reading →

Companies Adopting Open Innovation Must Incorporate Patent Information at the Front End

(Editorial note:  This is a repost from this blog over 2 years ago, but the content is more relevant than ever.  On January 20, 2010, I am participating in a Yet2.com webinar with Ben DuPont and Jason Lye where we will be sharing our thoughts about marketing technology to “non-traditional” technology buyers, many of whom come to the table because they are adopting Open Innovation into their product and technology development processes.  I thought this “classic” post would be a good overview for anyone of my viewpoint for those who find my blog as a result of this event.  For regular readers, well, I hope you enjoy this too.  I will post a link to the recorded webinar when it is available. ) Open Innovation is unquestionably becoming a “hot” area of focus for U.S. companies, especially in the current economic climate in which businesses are more than ever focused on smarter ways of doing business. And, why wouldn’t Open Innovation be an intriguing business model when companies can fill their product and technology pipelines for significantly lower cost and with more variability of ideas than typically is possible from their own R&D infrastructures? As a result, more and more Continue Reading →

Success at Open Innovation Requires Finding the Right Partners: Here’s How to Improve Your Success Rates

With more companies building open innovation into their product development platforms, there would appear to be increasing opportunities for companies and independent IP owners to sell or license their technology.  In my many conversations with corporate innovation professionals, I find that that the desire to in-source externally developed products and technology may be strong, but few know how to go about finding and acquiring what their companies need.  As I have written about before, developing fruitful open innovation relationships is very much like dating:  you may want to do so, but unless you know where to show up, and how to initiate conversation, chances are you will remain single for a long time unless you engage a matchmaker. Well, I guess you could be your own “matchmaker” and search for potential partners.  This is easier today than it used to be because many corporations have idea submission portals and a few, like General Mills and Clorox, are even publicizing their detailed needs to the public.  This is a lot like finding your own mate, however.  You may show up someone all dolled up, but if your ideal mate isn’t also at the same place with the same message at the Continue Reading →

An Innovation Expert Sticks Up for IP Lawyers!

Regular readers of this blog know that I strongly believe that IP lawyers can do a whole lot more to better serve the needs of innovation teams.  Much of the disconnect between what IP lawyers do and those of their innovation clients can be traced to misalignment of incentives, as well as a structural and cultural impediments that makes it difficult for legal and business experts to communicate and work well together.  Last week, along with my good friend Deb Mills-Scofield and Mike Riegsecker of Menasha Packaging, I co-led a workshop on this topic at the 2nd Annual Open Innovation Summit.  The workshop was well-attended, and the response was very positive. Also, it appears that my message got through to at least one attendee, who is a prominent innovation consultant.  Keven McFarthing of Innovation Fixer wrote this post in which he asks open innovation professionals to not just look at their IP lawyer as an “extraneous irritant,” but instead as a member of the team.  Kevin also provides these recommendations: Ideally, make the lawyer a member of the formal team. If that can’t happen, treat them as if they are on the team. Don’t leave the final decision up to Continue Reading →

2 Ways to Reduce Open Innovation Risk: Convert the Naysayers and Bring on the Seasoned Veterans

Open Innovation is risky.  It’s like letting a stranger in your house to see what valuables are there for the taking, and letting them keep the key to your secrets even after you finish working with them.  For some, this perception of risk is enough to stop any attempts of Open Innovation in its tracks.  Other corporations respond to the risk by “lawyering up,” which, at a minimum, markedly increases the costs of proceeding or, at worst, causes the relationship to break down before any collaboration can occur.  And I, as IP counsel to a number of corporations in my prior life, must admit to being responsible for shutting down Open Innovation due to my role as IP risk the person responsible for mitigating my clients’ IP risk. After leaving the Friendly Confines of defined roles and responsibilities set out in my corporate and law firm life where it was clear that my job was to stop risky behavior, I now realize that this approach to risk mitigation was, quite simply, wrong-headed and misdirected.  Indeed, halting or slowing third party collaboration as a result of perceived risk is actually more risky than taking the leap into Open Innovation.  I mean, Continue Reading →

Corporate Business Leaders: Want to Create Value from Your IP? Stop Making it Your Lawyers’ Problem.

One of the biggest complaints I get from corporate innovation and product development professionals is how risk averse their lawyers tend to be about dealing with intellectual property (“IP”) issues.  It doesn’t matter whether these business people are talking about their outside or in-house lawyers, either.  To a person, the complaint generally tracks the contention that their IP lawyers “don’t get what they do” and, as a result, make it more difficult for them to meet the objective of adequately filling their product pipelines and introducing innovative new products that will keep the lights on at their corporations. I have written and spoken about this topic on several occasions.  But, recently, I have been thinking a lot about the issue of risk aversion and IP lawyers for a couple of reasons. First, I am co-leading a workshop at the 2nd Annual Open Innovation Summit next week in Chicago with my good friend Deb Mills-Scofield and Mike Riegsecker of Menasha Packaging.  In this workshop, we are going to discuss our experiences with corporate culture and incentives as these relate to achieving success in the world of Open Innovation.   Much of what I am going to talk about is how those seeking Continue Reading →

Success in Innovation Requires IP Counseling on the Front End: Here’s How to Make it Happen

The 2009 Open Innovation Summit was held in Orlando two weeks ago.  The event was attended by corporate practitioners of Open Innovation, including people from P&G, GSK Consumer, Cisco, Whirlpool, J&J, HP (here are Phil McKinney’s slides), Clorox, and many others.  Leading consultants in Open Innovation also attended, including Stefan Lindegaard of Leadership+ Innovation, Braden Kelley of Blogging Innovation and Robert Brands of Innovation Coach.  A number of vendors of services were there, too.  I thought this was a great knowledge share event, and a must do for folks wanting to learn more about Open Innovation.  Another Summit is planned for August 201o in Chicago. At the Summit, we spent much of the 3 days hearing how the attending companies, many of which include those in the Fortune 100, view Open Innovation as a critical aspect of sustainable growth and profits.  We also heard about successes and lessons learned.  Anyone interested in obtaining a sense of the discussion should check out the Twitter feed from the event.  A table of bloggers including Braden Kelley, Andrea Meyer, Hutch Carpenter, Adam Hansen and myself live blogged the event, which serves as a record of the event for posterity.  The Twitter feed is Continue Reading →