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From Scientist to Entrepreneur (Parts 1-3)

From Scientist to Entrepreneur

Presented By


The New York Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with experts in the startup community, organized this From Scientist to Entrepreneur Series to foster innovation and entrepreneurship among Academy members and the wider NYC scientific community by demystifying the exciting process of taking an innovation from bench to market. By equipping scientists with the tools they need to recognize a commercializeable innovation when it crosses their path and then to turn that innovation into a viable venture, this series opens the door for the successful translation of technologies into commercial products.

Preparing not only those interested in commercializing their own technologies, but also those eager to help other scientists turn their innovations into businesses and those who are considering joining an existing startup company, the series included sessions on intellectual property and the patenting process (Part 1), opportunity recognition (Part 2), the technology transfer process (Part 3), and the path to a comprehensive business plan (Part 4).

Part 1: Science, Technology, and Intellectual Property

David Anthony, 21 Ventures, Inc.
Jeffery Rosedale, Woodcock Washburn LLP, An Intellectual Property Law Firm

Intellectual property (IP) is the foundation of all technology ventures yet the laws governing and protecting IP rights are unfamiliar territory for most scientists. What should researchers know in order to protect their inventions and innovations? This question was answered in the Science Alliance workshop Science, Technology, and Intellectual Property held November 2, 2010, at the Academy.

The seminar began with an in-depth look at the classification of patents by chemical engineer-turned-patent lawyer Jeffrey Rosedale. Rosedale's talk covered the legal rights patents provide, who owns these rights, the types of inventions that are patentable, the legal requirements for patentability, problems that can arise, and, finally, the process for patenting an invention. In the U.S., the patent process can take at least 24 months from the time a patent application is filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the time a patent is granted.

For the second part of the workshop, venture capitalist David Anthony led a discussion of the case named "Intellectual Ventures." The case involves a business that acquires patents and generates revenues through licensing deals. Anthony challenged the audience to think about the problem this company is trying to solve and if its business model would actually work. By analyzing and reviewing the case, attendees were able to see how the initial steps in the technology commercialization process are implemented.

In the end, this session provided the audience with clear information about the kinds of inventions that are patentable, the steps involved to file a patent, and common pitfalls to avoid. Hopefully, this knowledge will enable more scientists to get involved in translating academic research into businesses.

Part 2: Evaluating Opportunity for a Tech Venture

Paul Tumpowsky, Square Zero, Inc. & InSITE
Joshua Spodek, Columbia University School of Business
Marshall Cox, Columbia University

It takes more than a good idea or invention to start a successful business. Before embarking on the commercialization process, it is important that scientists know how to evaluate an innovation critically in the context of the current market and to determine if it would make a viable entrepreneurial endeavor. Since most scientists are not trained with these business skills, Science Alliance's From Scientist to Entrepreneur series included a session dedicated to the business concept of "opportunity recognition" called Evaluating Opportunity for a Tech Venture held November 16, 2010, at the Academy.

Entrepreneur and CEO Paul Tumpowsky covered a suite of concepts that are important for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn before pursuing a startup idea. Tumpowsky addressed the difference between invention and innovation, ideas versus execution, and the indicators of successful projects, and he provided his audience with practical skills for creating a value proposition, a report on the prospective worth of a project. In addition, attendees learned how to assess competition, identify and confront challenges, and weigh costs and risks against potential revenues and rewards. Tumpowsky also led his audience through the process of determining the appropriate next steps to take as they guide their innovations to the market.

During the session two guest speakers shared real-world stories of turning academic research in business ideas. The first, Joshua Spodek, was a graduate student in the astrophysics PhD program at Columbia University when he founded the company SubMedia. The second, Marshall Cox, is presently a PhD candidate at Columbia and is working with the University's technology transfer office to start a new business. Both presented the process and hurdles they have faced in moving forward with an entrepreneurial idea.

Overall, this session was a primer for science PhDs with limited business experience who wanted to learn how to evaluate the promise of technology startups. This was a follow-up of the first session on "Science, Technology, and Intellectual Property", which focused on the legal aspects of technology commercialization.

Part 3: Navigating the Technology Transfer Process

Andrew Koopman, New York University
David Anthony, 21 Ventures

After evaluating the market for his or her technology and determining that patent protection is worth pursuing, the next stop for an academic researcher is the university technology transfer office. The third installment in Science Alliance's From Scientist to Entrepreneur series, Navigating the Technology Transfer Process, was aimed at unpacking and explaining technology transfer, a complex and often frustrating step in commercializing research. The event was held November 30, 2010 at the Academy.

Guest presenter Andrew Koopman, Manager, New Venture Development in the Office of Industrial Liaison/Technology Transfer at NYU, provided the overview of technology transfer—what it is, how it began, and why it's important. Signed into law in 1980, the Bayh–Dole Act grants nonprofits, including universities and small business the right to retain control over inventions developed with federal funding. Prior to this law, a strikingly low percentage of US patents had been commercialized. After 1980, however, universities had an incentive to help bring their researchers' inventions to market: they could profit from those inventions.

According to Koopman, "Technology transfer is a term used to describe a formal transfer of rights to use and commercialize new discoveries and innovations resulting from scientific research to another party." He further explained that, "The major steps in this process include the disclosure of innovations, patenting the innovation concurrent with publication of scientific research, and licensing the rights to innovations to industry for commercial development."

Following Koopman's overview of technology transfer, David Anthony, a venture capitalist who has licensed over a dozen patents from universities and research labs across the world, ended the session with a discussion of why this process can be frustrating to researchers. As attendees heard, technology transfer officers are liaisons between the PIs, university provosts, patent lawyers, government representatives, existing companies, and venture capitalists. Balancing all these competing interests can be quite a challenge.

Part 4: Business Plan: Inception to Fruition

Jahan Ali, New York City Investment Fund
Bala Mulloth, NYU-Poly
Samir Ajmera, Anzenna, Inc.
David Anthony, 21 Ventures, Inc.

Writing a business plan is a critical part of launching a startup. On December 14, 2010, the final session in the From Scientist to Entrepreneur series Business Plan: Inception to Fruition provided both the theoretical and practical skills necessary to produce a comprehensive business plan.

Before delving into the components of a business plan, Jahan Ali, Senior Vice President of the NYC Investment Fund (NYCIF), discussed NYCIF as a potential funding source for aspiring entrepreneurs. In her talk “Financing Economic Development in NYC,” Ali presented the kinds of investments NYCIF makes in venture/private equity, social ventures, and public-private initiatives. Importantly, she shared business planning lessons that she has learnt from working in the startup community.

Bala Mulloth, Senior Manager of the Office of Innovation and Development of Entrepreneurship at NYU-Poly, followed with a step-by-step guide to writing the business plan. Components of a good plan include: an executive summary, a description of the new venture idea, a business/financial model, market analysis, an operations plan and prospective milestones of success, background information about the management team and about their qualifications, and some critical success/risk factors. About this latter section in the business plan, Mulloth commented, “If anything can go wrong, it will,” so it’s important to show that you have contingency plans. The presentation finished with the top ten reasons why businesses fail, the number one reason being making financial projections that are too optimistic.

The real world experience of a young entrepreneur was then shared by Samir Ajmera, co-founder of Anzenna, Inc, a company he started with his Principal Investigator while in graduate school. According to Ajmera, it’s important to use your skills and abilities as an engineer or a scientist to your advantage in approaching a business proposition. His recommendations for tackling the plan are to be thorough and clear, to aim for brevity, and to be wary of focusing too much on explaining the technology and instead to focus more on the business model and strategy for success. He offered additional tips for new entrepreneurs and encouraged them in particular to build their network and to “learn from successes and even more from failures.”

Venture capitalist and course director David Anthony wrapped up the session with his final thoughts about the business plan from the perspective of an investor.

Use the tab above to find multimedia from events in this series.


Grant Support:

  • Manhattan Borough President
  • New York City Economic Development Corporation


David Anthony

21 Ventures, Inc.
e-mail | web site

David Anthony is an experienced entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and educator. Since founding 21Ventures in 2004, the fund has provided seed, growth, and bridge capital to more than 40 technology ventures across the globe. David Anthony sits on the board of 21V portfolio companies including: Advanced Telemetry; BioPetroClean, ETV Motors, and Variable Wind Solutions. Anthony also serves on the board of directors of publicly traded companies including: Axion Power International, Clean Power Technologies; Solar EnerTech and ThermoEnergy Corporation.

Previously, Anthony collaborated with Dartmouth College professor John K. Shank and consulted for Fortune 500 clients on capital investments, mergers and acquisitions, and entrepreneurship. In addition Anthony is an adjunct professor at the NYU Stern School of Business where he began teaching technology entrepreneurship in the Fall of 2009. He received his MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 1989 and a BA in economics from George Washington University in 1982.

Monica Kerr, PhD

New York Academy of Sciences


Samir Ajmera

Anzenna, Inc.

Samir Ajmera currently works in Business Development at Anzenna, Inc., a company he helped found with his graduate supervisor and where he has worked since June of 2008. From 2006 to 2008 Ajmera studied at New York University, Polytechnic Institute, and in 2008 he earned his MS in Bioengineering. Before that Ajmera was a research associate at Lux Research during 2006. He also holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from NYU-Poly, a degree he earned from 2003 to 2007.

Jahan Ali, PhD

New York City Investment Fund
e-mail | web site

Jahan Ali is Senior Vice President at the New York City Investment Fund and manages the Fund's investments in the health care sector, including the BioAccelerate NYC Prize competition. Prior to joining NYCIF, Ali ran her own technology commercialization consulting business, where she worked with entrepreneurs and not-for-profit research and product development partnerships. Prior to that, Ali was the Director of Technology Transfer at the Hospital for Special Surgery, where she focused on creating partnerships and licensing in the orthopedic sector. Before that, Ali was with Mojave Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing therapeutic vaccines, with heat shock protein delivery technology, where she successfully identified partnership opportunities, research collaborations and competitor market research. Prior to that, Ali was at Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Office of Industrial Liaison. She has a PhD from New York University School of Medicine.

Marshall Cox

Columbia University
e-mail | web site | publications

Marshall Cox is a PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at Columbia University. Before joining Columbia, Cox was the first non-founding employee at QD Vision, a high-tech startup spun out of MIT, where he was the primary engineer for the development of a new display technology. Concurrent with his PhD program in Electrical Engineering, Cox is a founder and CEO of Columbia University spin-out Chromation, a company developing a novel miniature spectrometer. Marshall Cox holds 6 US patents and is experienced in intellectual property, intellectual property development, valuation and transfer. He received a bachelors and masters in Materials Science from Cornell University.

Andrew Koopman

New York University
e-mail | web site

Andrew Koopman is currently Manager of New Venture Development in the Office of Industrial Liaison/Technology Transfer at NYU. His responsibilities include due diligence for the patentability and commercial potential of early stage technologies in the life sciences, along with marketing and licensing such technologies and intellectual property strategies.

Koopman began his career in biotechnology as a scientist at Unigene Laboratories, a small, contract research-based biotechnology company that went through the IPO process during his tenure. He then moved on to Ortho Diagnostic Systems where he was involved in the collaboration between Johnson & Johnson and Enzo Biochem to develop DNA-based diagnostics. Continuing in this field, he then went to Hoffman La Roche to become one of the first members of a new division, formed to develop and commercialize the PCR technology purchased by Roche. Koopman then joined the merchant investment banking and strategic advisory group of Beroff Associates.

He earned a BS in biology from SUNY Binghamton and an MS in molecular biology with a graduate minor in business from the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University.

Bala Mulloth

Office of Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, NYU–Poly
e-mail | web site

Bala Mulloth is the Senior Manager of NYU–Poly's Office of Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship. He is a digital media enthusiast who is pursuing his PhD in technology management from NYU-Poly with a research focus on entrepreneurship and social innovation. Mulloth also teaches a data communication and innovation-related course in the Department of Technology Management at the University.

Jeffrey Rosedale, JD, PhD

Partner, Woodcock Washburn LLP, An Intellectual Property Law Firm
e-mail | web site

Jeff Rosedale is co-chair of both of Woodcock Washburn's nanotechnology and clean-technology patent prosecution and client counseling practice groups. In addition, he's an active member of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices' "Nanotechnology Customer Partnership" and the Nanotechnology subcommittee of the Intellectual Property Owners Association. His practice encompasses many disciplines, including chemical and mechanical engineering, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, physics, materials science, optics, chemical and biological analysis, biochemistry, biomedical devices, biotechnology, nanotechnology and bionanotechnology.

After receiving a BSE in chemical engineering from Princeton University and an ME in the same field from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Rosedale continued his graduate work at the University of Minnesota as a PhD student. In 2001 he earned a JD from Temple University Law School. Rosedale has coauthored 18 research articles in a number of international peer-reviewed journals. Culminating in the issuance of four U.S. patents, Rosedale's research work—which he began in the mid-1980s at AT&T Bell Laboratories—continues to be referenced today by numerous researchers, many of whom are in the field of nanotechnology.

Joshua Spodek, PhD, MBA

Columbia University School of Business

Joshua Spodek received a PhD in 2000 from Columbia University and graduated from Columbia Business School in 2006 with an MBA. He is an executive / personal coach and entrepreneur who currently works with Columbia Business School's Program on Social Intelligence. Spodek helps clients develop effective leadership skills and optimize their professional and personal lives by helping them understand what brings them meaning and happiness and acting on it. He has been quoted and profiled in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Fortune, CNN, and the major broadcast networks. Esquire Magazine named him "Best and Brightest" in their annual Genius issue.

Paul Tumpowsky

Square Zero, Inc.; InSITE

Paul Tumpowsky is the CEO of Square Zero, a development stage company building a platform designed to achieve real-time data processing and analytic capabilities for today's large-scale data challenges.

Prior to Square Zero, he was a principal with Metropolis Venture Partners in New York. Tumpowsky sourced deal flow, evaluated business plans, conducted due diligence and interviewed companies for early-stage venture fund focused on investing between $1–$10 million per transaction in the telecommunications, networking, wireless, and enterprise software markets.

Prior to business school, he spent over four years at Andersen Consulting, where he specialized in acquisition advisory, custom database design and development, and logistics strategy. In addition, Tumpowsky is the chairman of the Board of the InSITE Fellowship program in New York and has led the early-stage selection committee for NYNMA's VentureDowntown conference.

He received his MBA from Columbia Business School, where he concentrated on finance and entrepreneurship, and a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois. He has also studied at the Shibaura Institute of Technology in Tokyo.

Grant Support

  • Manhattan Borough President
  • New York City Economic Development Corporation