Innovation Spotlight

Guiding Tech Growth

From the January 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

You’re a technology entrepreneur who’s just developed the next great software idea.

Now comes the hard part: How do you commercialize your innovation? How do you attract investors to fund it? How do you protect your intellectual property? How do you successfully license and market it?

The devil, of course, is in the details. And tending to those details may mean the difference between your technology innovation flourishing or flopping.

That’s the genesis of Tech2Market—a not-for-profit, web-based service that’s designed to provide legal and business assistance to emerging technology ventures, entrepreneurs, inventors and investors. They answer questions that entrepreneurs might not even realize they should be asking.

“We’re kind of a chamber of commerce-feeling organization, basically providing support and mentoring” for technology start-ups and entrepreneurs, says founder David Jackson, who specializes in business law, including technology transactions, intellectual property and licensing as well as trademark and copyright law at Carlile Patchen &Murphy in Columbus.

“My partner, Mike Smith, and I looked at the client base of the firm. A lot of our clients are technology companies of one kind or another. And they all kind of started out, you know, Joe Schmoe working in his garage and becoming a success story.”

Entrepreneurial and technological skills and talents, Jackson notes, don’t always translate into the necessary business and legal knowledge required to grow a business and protect its work product. It’s something he noticed while mentoring technology entrepreneurs.

They were more likely to seek advice from marketing or accounting mentors than to delve into learning about the necessity of legal contracts, Jackson says. “Nobody asks for the nerdy lawyer guy.”Yet, “what people need are good contracts,” he says.

Tech2Market aims to help meet all of those needs. At Tech2Market.org—up and running since mid-October with no subscription or user name required—users can watch videos and learn from blog postings on the site, featuring experts in areas such as technology law, intellectual property protection, securities law, finance, accounting, marketing and employer/employee relations. The use of how-to videos sprung from frequent requests Jackson received to have lunch with a budding entrepreneur or meet with emerging tech companies about those business and legal details necessary to help them succeed.

“I was having that talk over and over,” he says. “So I thought, ‘Why don’t I make a video of this talk?’ Many technology folks are visual learners. They don’t want to see a bunch of words on a paper.”

Tech2Market organizers think the service meets a significant need as Central Ohio enjoys a growing reputation as a technology hub.

“We noticed that Columbus and Central Ohio, and even as far north as Cleveland and as far south as Cincinnati, the area we serve as a firm, is really emerging as what we call a technology ecosystem,” Jackson notes.

Ohio State University’s role as a major research institution here attracts innovation, he says. “Lots of people come to OSU and develop great ideas and either latch on with a large company or keep researching and innovating with colleagues and partners.”

And the State of Ohio has promoted the idea of creating jobs through technology startups and ventures. Incubators and accelerators such as TechColumbus provide pre-seed funding as well.

“We do have area colleges and universities starting to realize the value of putting research dollars into innovation start-ups to commercialize those and put them into the marketplace, whereas before all the funding was in scholarship,” Jackson says.

Hugh Cathey, principal of Columbus-Partners, has lengthy experience investing in and consulting with technology companies to help them figure out how to successfully run a business.

“It’s hands down the area that most entrepreneurs struggle with,” Cathey says. “So having a resource like Tech2Market.org brings together helpful resources that have great reputations for delivering the kind of information necessary to make sense of knowing how to do business.”

Debbie Briner is a freelance writer.