Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chris McKinzie of Fluid Innovation Talks about Managing Intangibles

Chris McKinzie of Fluid Innovation Innovation talks about Managing Intangibles such as IP, the challenge universities face in promoting their IP, and the first Open Innovation Industry Forum

What does Fluid Innovation do?

It’s about open innovation. Today’s economy is driven by intangibles such as patents, brands, systems, etc. For instance, Boeing’s value is not its airplanes, but its systems to design planes and its supply chain process for bringing it all together. No longer is its value on the balance sheet. Companies want to do a better job at managing those intangibles. So how does one capture, organize, and manage the value of such technology? We have a software system that does that, the Fluid Licensing System (FLS)

Do you have an example of it in action?

We are working with a major F100 firm on what’s called the IPZone. It’s a concept for transacting and collaborating on innovation and commercialization. We need a collaborate environment for doing that. It’s based in upper Manhattan, near Colombia. It’s part of an economic revitalization effort. We’ve taken our FLS solution and applied it as the collaborative platform for this project.

It sounds like technology transfer at the university level. Is it the same?

The university market is tough. We worked with Texas A&M, Columbia, and other universities. We want to do more than just build software. We want to foster commercialization, but to do that in the University segment we would have to assume more risk and actually license the IP and then turn around and relicense it. There’s a company called UTEK that does that. They go to the government labs and universities and license the technology and then resell it.
We’re trying to create a market for these technologies which requires us to bring the buyers into the equation. It takes more than just creating a website.

How do you approach this?

First you have to identify the buyers. If you initially focus on one type of technology such as software there’s an identifiable and manageable list of target companies. We found they want us to aggregate the opportunities and present them together in one format. We also found that the universities and companies whether it be UT, Texas A&M, American Express or whoever, all describe their technologies differently and when they do it’s a very technical description, this is very confusing for potential commercialization partners.

What’s your next step?

On September 8, 2008, we’re holding an Open Innovation Industry Forum in Chicago which includes Lockheed, GE, Microsoft, and American Express. We plan to sit down and discuss how we can improve the transaction process and asset merchandising – standardization on how to describe these technologies. Technology commercialization happens all the time but it’s not efficient and there is no central aggregation of the deal news.

How do people find out about Open Innovation and the resulting commercialization deals?

Part of what we’re planning to do with the IPZone is to begin publishing aggregated deal news about transactions on one of our domains, IPWire.

What other intangible assets are there?

Of course patents but there is also Trade Secrets, Know-how, Copyrights and Trademarks, for example, brand names such as those licensed by Major League Baseball is a big business. We’re actually evaluating the possibility of expanding our Fluid Licensing System offering to include capabilities for tracking royalty obligations.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jeremy Bencken of Apartment Ratings talks about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Jeremey Bencken of talks about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What do you see as a need in the local startup business?

I think we need more focus on SEO and PR early. I often see business plans with a line item for SEO and PR, assuming these things start after the product is launched. But from experience, when you start doing it, it’s turns out to be a lot more complex than you thought. You can outsource it but it’s expensive and it takes a long time to yield results. There are things you can do as an entrepreneur to lay the groundwork for initiatives to work more effectively.

What are some examples?

The way you design your website or start participating with relevant blogs early and build a reputation. And you can start monitoring the news and build a media list well ahead of your launch. The worst way is to wait till the product is ready to launch and then start working on building blogger interest.

Obviously time devoted to SEO and PR takes time from other product features, but it’s one of only a few things you can do where the cost is low, the return is huge, and the longer you take to start, the longer it takes to start working and the more it will cost when you do.

What is an example?

When we initially launched Apartment Ratings, we had a URL structure that was very long and search-engine unfriendly (our URL’s gave the appearance that we had a 25-level deep directory structure). And fixing it required significant work. I’ve seen a lot of new web-based companies make this mistake. Developers who aren’t aware of SEO implications sidestep the extra work required to make keyword-rich URLs that are grouped into meaningful directories, maintain consistent internal links, and maintain a single URL for the same page content. It might take an extra day or two to implement early on, but once you’ve launched, you could devote several months to migrating a site to pretty URLs and you have to keep track of the mapping between the two.

What’s the key factor in online marketing?

Conversion rate is the name of the game. If you can get that number higher, your cost of acquisition goes lower….and your margins are fatter or you can outspend your competitors to win more advertising placements, affiliates, bizdev deals, etc.

What’s your next project?
My next venture, BuzzStream, will launch in Fall 08 and is designed to help companies accelerate their media and SEO relationship-building efforts. I have a blog at PR4Pirates.

Best regards,
Hall T.