If there was ever an exciting time to be an inventor, it would be now.
At least that’s what Bellevue-based Intellectual Ventures’ Vice President of New Ventures at the company’s Invention Science Fund (ISF) Incubator Conrad Burke has observed.
“This is a very exciting time we’re in right now,” Burke said. “At Intellectual Ventures, one of the things we do well is we keep up with the times. We’re constantly evolving, constantly changing, adapting to the times and capturing the moment and the opportunity.”
Led by Burke since February, the ISF Incubator could be described as a type of matchmaking service.
But instead of pairing lovers, it’s pairing industry entrepreneurs around the world with Intellectual Ventures’ vast intellectual property portfolio to start technology companies funded through venture capital.
“It’s as simple as that,” Burke explained.
Already Intellectual Ventures has produced 15 companies, with many in Bellevue, including Echodyne, Pivotal Commware, TerraPower and Modern Electron. Kymeta is based in Redmond.
And there are many more in the pipeline.
While not all of them will be in Bellevue, Burke said a new partnership with Utah-based Technium has put the incubator on the fast track.
Under the program, Technium’s network of entrepreneurs can select from a vast library of inventions to propose a potential high growth business. After review, using Technium’s proprietary methodologies, entrepreneurs receive financial support and mentorship as they lead ISF Incubator’s new startup.
“This is the first of many relationships we want to start around the country and around the world,” Burke said of Technium. “… We’ve already, in a very quick fashion, started up a company, which we’re not at liberty to talk too much about today, but it’s in the consumer portable energy storage market …”
The initial projects involve disruptive inventions in technology areas including power control management, voice recognition security, medical devices, secure charging systems and new food processing methods.
Partnering with Technium was attractive because of their speed and agility to help the incubator find, select and screen entrepreneurs as well as validate technologies and get more companies started faster, Burke said.
The feeling is mutual with Technium.
“From our very first meeting, we knew we had the potential to create a unique model for the creation of venture backed companies,” Brian Cummings, CEO of Technium, said in a news release. “The first time we peered into ISF’s wealth of inventions we felt like kids in a candy store; it was like we were built for this role.”
Burke said he, too, as a serial entrepreneur, felt like a kid in a candy store when he joined Intellectual Ventures. He said the company’s capabilities in intellectual property, patents, and its 87,00-square-foot lab coupled with the people, brainpower and mentorship opportunities make it quite unique.
“If you look at the cumulative effect of the 15 businesses we’ve spun out to date, those companies have raised more than $700 million in venture funding,” he said. “They’ve created over 400 jobs, cumulatively. I think that track record and uniqueness is what makes us attractive.”
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies for the incubator, however.
The biggest challenge, which happens to be the most time consuming, is in finding the right talent.
“We spend a lot of time looking for those men and women entrepreneurs that want to start a company and have that drive and motivation,” Burke said. “And finding and seeking those – it takes a special type of person to want to go run a company.”
That challenge isn’t unique to Intellectual Ventures. In fact, the company has to compete with other companies for Bellevue and Seattle talent, which Burke described as “phenomenal.”
It’s one of the hot spots in the country,” he said. “We compete to get that brilliance to work with us and start great companies together. But, when we do, we have a very high bar in terms of quality in the types of people we want to have and the uniqueness of their skills.”
Of the four CEOs the incubator has hired in the last seven months, two of those have been from Bellevue.
But because technology is moving at a “dizzying” speed, the company must be competitive but also move with the fast-paced environment.
One of those fast-moving companies is a Bellevue startup incubating in sensor technology for autonomous vehicles.
“We’re very excited about the whole autonomous vehicle, self-driving market,” Burke said, adding that sensor technology will be critical in terms of having safe self-driving vehicles on the road.
Burke said autonomous vehicles is a game-changing sector that is going through a mass investment and revolution – a revolution that behooves Intellectual Ventures’ ISF Incubator to participate in.
“I think there’s a big upset in the works here in how we transport ourselves and people around the country and around the world and the investment will be unprecedented,” Burke said.
“That is in the DNA of Intellectual Ventures: Disruption, big impact, big market and hard tech. We like hard technology and there is a pendulum shift right now back to hardware, which we find particular exciting. It lines up very beautifully with what we’re interested in and what our rich intellectual property portfolio is really made up of. So we see a huge opportunity here.”
Intellectual Ventures was founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. Upon matching entrepreneurs to intellectual property and its lab, the company’s ISF Incubator provides a six-week intensive boot camp for entrepreneurs, and companies are given seed funding and access to resources.
Prior to working with Intellectual Ventures, Burke, who is based in Silicon Valley, led Innovalight, a nanomaterials technology firm specialized in photovoltaics (solor) sector, and later sold it to DuPont Corporation, where he then managed two different global marketing businesses.
For more information on Intellectual Ventures’ ISF Incubator, visit isfincubator.com.