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Cornell, Columbia collaborate on workshop for fledgling companies

Cornell will partner with the Columbia University Center for Advanced Information Management to help six promising technologies get a boost toward commercialization at a March 2008 workshop in New York City.

The Pre-Seed Workshop, a national program that helps turn university research into start-up ventures, is scheduled for March 4, 5 and 12 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension office in Manhattan. Participants in the workshop will be selected from Weill Cornell Medical College and from Columbia University.

"The workshops merge business and technology at a very early stage in a company's life," said Roger Williams, director of technology transfer at the New York State Center for Life Science Enterprise at Cornell's Ithaca campus, a NYSTAR designated Center for Advanced Technology. "The experience gives the owner of the technology a better understanding of what they're going to need to make this into a business. It compresses a lot of trial and error and because it's focused on their technology, it's much more meaningful to them."

The Pre-Seed Workshop model brings researchers or technology owners together with a start-up coach (usually a seasoned or serial entrepreneur), a venture capitalist and an MBA student, an expert in the technology or industry and other professionals such as an attorney. These people form teams that work to determine the commercial prospects of the technology, examine the human resources needed and determine the next steps. Team members answer questions like "Do you have a product?" "To whom will you sell?" and "How will you operate?"

The workshop is aimed at helping promote entrepreneurship. Support for the workshop is being provided through the Centers for Advanced Technology and technology transfer programs at both universities.

Williams has held six pre-seed workshops in Geneva and Ithaca, involving 30 technology teams. Of those 15 were based on Cornell technology; 17 resulted in start-up companies that have received outside funding and/or are generating revenue from sales; and 10 resulted in potential start-up companies that are being organized and looking for funding. The remaining three did not to move forward toward commercialization.

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