Entrepreneur’s Playground: Stanford OTL


Every entrepreneur needs an idea and the Stanford Office of Technology and Licensing (OTL) has hundreds of patented, but unlicensed, ideas waiting to be commercialized and marketed. It is an entrepreneur’s dream and pitifully underutilized. 

I learned of this resource when I began another consulting project for Oxbridge Biotech Roundtable (OBR) to develop a commercialization plan for a positioning apparatus with lockable joints (Patent US 20110015647A1). Videos of this unlicensed, patented device are available here.

Over 12 weeks we developed a list of potential applications, validated the applications by interviewing key opinion leaders and potential users, conducted a preliminary competitor and market analysis, and developed a plan for commercialization for the inventors including two potential licensees, one from the maker community and another from a biodevice startup. The greatest challenge was to identify and engage potential users. Traditional channels to key opinion leaders in academia and industry, such as networked introductions and cold emails, tended to be slow and yielded modest returns. In response, we turned to social media and began posting about the project on Twitter and Facebook and reaching out to specific communities through local group networks like Meetup. By accessing a large audience quickly, we increased the speed of response and garnered the input of several future users. Two potential licensees came through social media as well.

Though our team did not parlay this specific device into a company, the OTL has an abundance of other options. To find ideas ripe for commercialization, use OTL’s Tech Finder site. It requires registration but is open to anyone. If you are part of the Stanford community and interested in going through a process similar to the OBR project, consider joining an Innovation Farm (iFarm) Team. The iFarm program starts biannually in February and September, lasts about six months, and includes mentoring and seminars by experts in patent law, entrepreneurship, and management. OTL Senior Associate, Luis Mejia, describes the program in his iFarm introduction here. In his introduction, Mejia highlights the greater benefits of licensing an OTL patent: “Products are made, royalties then are generated and get paid back to the university and…about two-thirds of the net revenues go back to supporting the research and education mission of the university.” 


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