Sunday, April 14, 2013
Dan Sharp Talks about the UT Office of Technology Commercialization
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
What university did you go to?
I received his J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law and B.S. in Electrical
Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.
What brought you to Austin?
I came to UT in 1992 to study electrical engineering and have pretty much stayed here.
What is your group’s mission?
The Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) is the engine charged with ensuring an
efficient transfer of the university’s knowledge and discoveries into the marketplace for society’s
use and benefit. We protect, market and license the the university’s inventions and software. We also
educate the university’s faculty on patent protection and commercialization processes as well as promote collaboration with industry, investors and those within the tech commercialization ecosystem.
What need does it fulfill?
OTC serves many functions, but for purposes of this article, I think it is helpful to think
of OTC as the conduit from the lab to the private sector. We vet technology disclosures,
assume the risk of patenting the technology, locate partners, and in many instances, locate
funding sources for the underlying research to continue development.
What exactly does the OTC bring to startups?
Generally, the OTC will work with startups intended to develop UT intellectual property. This
typically is different from a startup that creates an app or a web portal. We are able to link a
startup company with technology that is being developed in a university lab, which is quite an
asset for a cash-starved startup.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?
There is a tendency to want to do too much and to lose focus on the core functions of the
OTC. It is vitally important that the OTC remains cognizant of the functions that it performs
well. We must focus on those functions and continue to develop those capabilities. There are
functions that we will never be able to perform particularly well and we need to make sure that
we outsource those functions to entities/people who can perform them well.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is awfully exciting. But it is also hard work and it is not a get rich quick scenario. The
advice I would give is embrace the difficulties and challenges since entrepreneurship is more art than
science. There is no way to truly learn how to start companies without doing it and struggling along the
way. Trite as it may sound, starting a company is a very hard way to make a living.
What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
The people of Austin. The community in general is quite supportive. I think that is one of Austin’s