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Session focuses on faculty entrepreneurship

About 30 faculty members from a wide variety of departments attended a Jan. 11 brown bag session that focused on entrepreneurship.

Calvin Goforth, president of Arkansas-based Virtual Incubation Co., spoke about his company’s model for commercializing faculty inventions. The firm works primarily with researchers at the University of Arkansas and is considering establishing sister companies or satellite offices.

Virtual Incubation’s team of professionals has expertise in areas ranging from engineering to marketing, Goforth said. The team works with multiple start-up companies at a time and provides gap financing when a start-up lacks the money to pursue the next phase of business development.

Goforth’s own experiences inspired him to start Virtual Incubation, which tries to help smooth the path to commercialization for faculty inventors.

He left teaching to start a company based on his own idea, he said, and ended up selling his house and taking on $100,000 in credit card debt to get the business off the ground. Though he later was able to sell his company, Goforth said he was naïve about how hard it would be to sell a new product and about many of the details involved in starting a business.

“It’s very common to underestimate the difficulty of selling your product,” Goforth said.
He noted it commonly takes about five years from the licensing of an innovation to production — even for the most promising ideas.

Virtual Incubation’s staff works in areas such as strategic planning, business development, financial management, accounting, market research, technical writing, legal, graphic design and science and engineering. As start-up companies’ needs change, different Virtual Incubation team members work with the firms.

Virtual Incubation has yet to earn a profit, but when it does it will be through the equity stake it takes in each of the start-up companies with which it partners. It’s now working with a portfolio of five companies to create and sell products such as biosensors and nanoparticle coatings.

Goforth said Virtual Incubation makes it possible for faculty members to continue their research and teaching while maintaining some involvement with companies trying to commercialize their ideas.


On the Internet
Learn more about Virtual Incubation Co. online at www.virtual-incubation.com.

 

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Last Updated: 10/14/08