EC Tech Transfer conference draws 300 registrants

About 300 people pre-registered for yesterday’s “Technology Transfer Conference” in Chattanooga, according to Wayne Cropp, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Enterprise Center (EC).

EC organized the annual event, now in its fifth iteration, with Chris Daly, EC’s Director of Technology Development and Transfer, playing the lead role. Attendees included companies that have licensed technologies from Oak Ridge entities, investors, aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, consultants, service providers, and even high school students.

Sustainable Environment Technologies, LLC, of Knoxville, which recently licensed technology from the Y-12 National Security Complex, and Secure Waters, Inc., of Soddy Daisy, which licensed technology from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in late 2010, had booths at the event. Both companies will be profiled in upcoming articles on teknovation.biz.

John Chavez, President of the New Mexico Angels, delivered an insightful, but somewhat sobering message about capital availability during his opening session presentation. He said that “$25 to $50 billion will be deployed this year by angel groups,” a figure that sounded large until he told the attendees that 600,000 new companies started in 2012 alone will be chasing that amount. Of the companies started each year, Chavez said that 50,000 typically will be successful in securing angel investments, but only 1,000 will secure venture capital.

With Chattanooga exploring the creation of an angel network, Chavez devoted a significant portion of his presentation to describing the New Mexico Angels organization. He said that the group looked at 300 deals in 2011 and invested in three.

“We are important (to our start-ups) not only because of the capital we provide, but the ways we educate them about outside capital,” Chavez said. He noted that the traditional dollar range of a deal that would be classified as angel is from $10,000 to $100,000, but the amount can vary by angel group. He also described the differences between angel and venture capital funds including the timeline for decisions – two to four months for angels versus four to eight months for venture capitalists.

Chavez advised Chattanooga leaders exploring an angel network to link with other angel groups in cities like Atlanta and Nashville as well as to connect with the chamber and other relevant economic development groups.

“Figure out what is best for your community,” he said.

Chavez described a new initiative where his group is creating an intellectual property “holding company” that is licensing technologies from the University of New Mexico. He said the goal is to create three new companies by the end of 2012, and one is already started.

Dave Croslin, CEO of Innovate the Future, spoke at the luncheon where he praised Chattanooga for the progress that the city has made.

His provocative speech started with an audience dialogue as to whether “lack of . . .” was a cause for the failure of start-ups or an effect. Croslin asserted that “start-ups fail because of underlying mistakes” like inadequate communications, poor advisors or trying to commercialize an invention that is not an innovation. In his view, the result of the mistakes is the “lack of . . .”

Croslin cited 129 separate mistakes that start-ups make and placed them in 28 categories. He also cited 15 important relationships that can make or break start-ups and showed how the 129 separate mistakes can “cascade” through the relationships to create as many as 500 potential failure points.

After Croslin’s presentation, nine companies made pitches at the Chattanooga Venture Forum. The companies were Audience Point, Automotive Measurement System, Cumberland Signal Labs, Duke Vascular, Evgentech, Intraloque, Quickcue, Sensiotec and Smart Perfusion.

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