Sitting there in the meeting this morning and my mind wandering a bit (been doing that since first grade), I thought: “When/if the research grant goes away, what happens?”
Does the Research Center just go poof, everybody blowing away in the breeze to a new position, some repotted at the University in various departments; some going out to private industry; some retiring?
Then I thought about everything that is inside these walls. If you draw a box around this place and call it “Proprietary Intellectual Property (PIP),” it’s market value as a going concern is substantial when you include:
- Documents in general
- Calculators, algorithms, rules-of-thumb
- Archive of reports
- Processes and procedures
- Everything that’s on the web site: content, pictures, videos
- Curriculum, courseware, workshop and presentation materials
- Marketing and general collateral materials
- Database(s) and data
- Product info, specs, costs
- The Center’s collective rolodex of professional, industry, governmental contacts
- The Center’s brand identity and goodwill
- The Center team and their collective expertise and experience
- Continuing access to the best students
In a shutdown scenario, who “owns” the PIP? The University? The Funding Sponsor? Would either even be interested?
The big idea I’m left with is you could develop a business plan for the inevitable and at that time, license out the entire PIP by mutual agreement with the University and/or the Sponsor, and reboot the Center as a commercial enterprise. If you chose to do it big, you could attract some equity capital to fund startup costs for space, equipment, and competitive industry salaries, benefits, etc.
And that begins a whole new story.
A client of mine who has built a successful enterprise software systems development firm over the last 15 years, is now wanting to hire a consultant(s) to help him define some strategic objectives going forward. He finally has the disposable cash to do this kind of thing. He had me review the consultant’s proposal, and here was my guidance to him:
I think getting a fresh perspective from the “outside” can be a healthy exercise, but there is also some measure of risk that it can lead you astray. So go into it with eyes wide open.
Here are some due diligence questions to ask yourself before proceeding:
- Do you like these guys? Are you comfortable with them? Do you respect them? What does your gut tell you?
- Have you asked for three references that you can call? This is VERY IMPORTANT!
- What do they know about software and your market? Or, if they have no direct experience, do you think their general experience and skills can yield some valuable insights for your unique situation?
- Last question is, all things considered, for the price they charge, do you think there is not much to lose, and maybe something valuable to gain?
If you can ask those questions and they pass the test, then I would give it a shot.