Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tech Scouting as a job...fun in Business Development

Part of my job is finding new technology for my company.

SO - I get a ton of emails every day from people (university tech transfer offices, professors, other companies) trying to get me to take their stuff off of their hands in exchange for a pot of money. I would say that 900% of what I am offered is really COOL stuff, but for which there is no way on earth to sell it or make it in to a product. All 5 people on the planet who could use/buy that already have it and possibly participated in developing it. To them, it is obviously the most important bit of technology on the earth, and we should pay dearly for it.

University tech transfer offices protect me from most of the inventors, but I was on the phone the other day with one and the question was "Why don't you want my stuff", and my response was "We don't think we can sell it and make money, but I do agree that it is really clever and pretty cool". His response was "Hah, I will take it and crush you like bugs", which I can respect. If he does, I will feel like a twit, but I can't say I wish him the best of luck. I am not trying to be a jerk, but I am also not trying to accumulate as much useless technology as I can for the highest price possible.

The amount of stuff that is USEFUL is very small. Some USEFUL is COOL, but not all. Most COOL is not USEFUL. Where USEFUL is defined as something that either is or can become a product and COOL is defined as something where I go "OOOOOHHHHH, shiny shiny" Example of NOT COOL but VERY USEFUL is tissue culture media. Invitrogen sells an absolute ton of the stuff, which in this business defines USEFUL. I have rarely (ever?) heard someone go "Tissue Culture media is SO COOL...oh my god!!!!!!!!" PCR, when it came out (and even today, but now somewhat deadened to it by the passage of time) was both COOL and USEFUL. I don't have a good example of COOL but not USEFUL, as by definintion not many other people would know what I was talking about.

Much of cool is a subset of the term used by an excellently foul mouthed professor in the department I got my Ph.D. in. To whit "Molecular Masturbation" which referred to the desire of people to put up slides showing how they had been particularly clever at cloning something and had done some very neat, and long, steps to get a construct built. The thing was, what they had wasn't particularly more useful than what they had started with but at least it had taken them a long time to make it. That had to be good for something.

Or maybe I missed something.

Those talks rarely had any data in them.


jb said...

Interesting post. I'm coming from the other side of the fence - univ tech transfer, so I think it's interesting to read about your perspective. I would say that if you're being contacted about tech with no commercial potential, the tech transfer office isn't doing it's job. I couldn't find an email, but I'd like to ask a couple more things about your post.

yes said...


I put up a post about how to contact me. If there is something you don't want to ask publically, just put up a comment and I will create a throw away email address to converse.

I hope you understand that as I have to deal with tech transfer offices all the time, I can't really let on who I am.