The VC landscape is evolving, thanks to new legislation and changes in university technology transfer. Andrew McColm, managing director of Cleveland, Ohio-based Early Stage Partners, said his firm has seen a greater emphasis on the quality and quantity of technologies coming out ofMidwest universities and research centers. “This has been very beneficial to ESP as we have a unique relationship with many of the institutions in the area, and have developed a specific practice area in commercializing university technologies,” he said.
In addition to improved tech transfer, the 2011 America Invents Act signed into law last September made a significant impact to theU.S. patent system – which had remained largely unchanged since the early 1950’s. Notably, the law now favors the “first to file” rule, rather than “first to invent”. “It is still unclear what long term impact the America Invents Act will have, but the most likely result in the short term will be a greater interest in filing provisional patents to protect nascent ideas that are in the process of development,” said McColm.
ESP, generally the first institutional investor in its companies, specializes in technology, advanced materials, life sciences, clean technology, and instruments, controls and electronics. In the wake of the America Invents Act and in light of the hot tech transfer scene, early stage support for startups is crucial. “We invest inOhioandMichigan, for the most part,” said Managing Director Jonathan Murray.” Each of those states has developed a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurial assistance, including incubators/accelerators, management support, grants and loan programs. We encourage each of our companies to tap into these resources, and also to apply for grants at the federal level.”
Three ESP companies: LineStream Technologies, Unitask Software, and OnShift Software, presented at the 2011 Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS). “Coming out of that meeting, each of those companies had significant interest from multiple investors,” saidMurray. “Two of the three have already received a signed term sheet for the next round of investment, and third is moving down that path, too. The MGCS gave these companies great exposure to investors and other support resources, and directly contributed to their receiving offers of financing.”