Bringing new technologies to market and starting new companies based on such early-stage inventions takes experience, vision, and business and management acumen.
Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the University of Arizona that commercializes the inventions stemming from University research, has hired three "mentors-in-residence" — all seasoned technology entrepreneurs with track records of success — to advise its teams and the UA research community, helping to develop the pathways for these technologies to grow into successful ventures.
In its first three years of operation, the office has helped create 26 startup companies, and it has a goal of creating 13 more during the current fiscal year, which closes on June 30.
To help the process along, TLA began exploring a Commercialization Partners program in early 2014 to bring experienced business management into the startup mix. At the start, it brought in 12 individuals to serve as volunteers to help advise teams of TLA staffers and UA inventors.
The program continues to be a great success, and it has now added the mentors-in-residence role to further support UA startups. These are half-time TLA employees who apply their unique blend of talents and experience to serving the TLA mission and championing these newly created companies.
- Bruce Burgess will be dedicated to biomedical devices and diagnostics. He has 30 years of business experience, having developed numerous medical device, diagnostic and drug delivery products. He obtained a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan and was an executive at Eli Lilly on its artificial pancreas program. Burgess also obtained an MBA from the University of Michigan. As a president and CEO, he was responsible for the growth and acquisition of three early-stage companies: Sensor Systems Inc., HemoCue Inc. and TheraFuse Inc. Burgess has been working with TLA for more than a year as a commercialization partner.
- Kevin McLaughlin will be dedicated to physical sciences/engineering technologies. He brings more than 30 years of experience in technology commercialization and executive leadership, having worked for Motorola, Cray Research, Silicon Graphics Inc., Cisco Systems and Avid technology. He recently served as adjunct lecturer for the UA McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship. McLaughlin has been working for nearly a year with TLA license managers on early technology assessments and is mentoring several TLA startup teams. He holds degrees in physics and business and has authored many patents and papers.
- Mike Sember will be dedicated to pharmaceutical technologies. Sember brings more than 40 years of startup and executive leadership expertise, having worked for Marion Merrell Dow, Elan Corp. and Palyon Medical. He has been advising TLA startup teams for approximately six months. He recently served as chairman for the Bioindustry Organization of Southern Arizona, or BIOSA. Sember earned a B.S. in psychology/chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Rockhurst University.
Among them, the three entrepreneurs bring more than a century of experience as senior-level executives to bear on the future success of UA technology startups.
According to David Allen, vice president of Tech Launch Arizona, "These are exceptional people in our community who are tech curious, want to give back, and have a clear understanding of TLA processes and the UA academic research culture."