Some six years after they started their journey as entrepreneurs, Shaun Gleason and Mike Paulus sold their start-up company ImTek to CTI Molecular and joined the acquiring company. Six months later, Siemens acquired CTI, and they became Siemens employees.
“Our main mission was to integrate the ImTek technology into the Siemens Inveon product line,” Gleason said in a recent interview with teknovation.biz. While the Inveon line was being developed, “CTI, and then Siemens, still sold the MicroCAT machines” that ImTek developed.
Gleason was Siemens’ Director of Pre-clinical Imaging R&D, when he decided to return to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in early 2008. “I came back to lead the research group that I left,” he said. Today, Gleason is ORNL’s Director of Institutional Planning. In that role, he is responsible for facilitating the strategic planning process and the discretionary investment program for ORNL.
Paulus, who was Vice President of Product Management for Preclinical, remained with Siemens’18 months longer before he was hired in November 2009 by this writer to serve as ORNL’s Director of Technology Transfer, the position that he still occupies.
Both still have the entrepreneurial bug. In fact, Gleason recently joined with fellow researcher Jim Goddard to found Innovative Vision Solutions, a company focused on commercializing a motion correction approach for people undergoing medical tests such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
For now, Paulus is very content helping entrepreneurs and established companies commercialize ORNL technologies. He says that he would “absolutely” consider another start-up at some point in the future.
The duo have seen the start-up world from many different directions – as researchers wanting to see their inventions commercialized, as start-up owners, as corporate executives, and now in their respective roles helping drive research priorities (Gleason) and commercialize the results of that research (Paulus).
We asked them about their thoughts, observations and lessons learned.
“What a ride . . . from building a device in our labs here (ORNL) to interacting with corporate executives all over the world,” Paulus said. “The most rewarding thing to ever happen was to walk in a lab and see scientists using a tool we created to cure cancer.”
Gleason advised entrepreneurs to “ask for help early . . . figure-out what you don’t know and get help.”
Paulus offered four keys to ImTek’s success. The first was to select a partner you can trust, restated by Gleason as simply to “choose your partners wisely.” A second was support from the entrepreneurial community, reinforced by Gleason’s statement that “we did not get a real path to growth and an exit strategy until we engaged with Tech 20/20.” The other two were ORNL’s support and timing which Paulus characterized as “excellent.”
Gleason added something that he called the trust factor.
“We were marketing to researchers,” he said in noting that the ImTek co-founders were peers with their target customer base.
In the end, it was clearly about the mutual respect and trust that Gleason and Paulus had for each other. They functioned as a team, and the result is clear.