Q&A With Linden Rhoads: UW TechTransfer Leader Brings VC Revolution to Campus (Part 2)

2/11/09Follow @xconomy

Yesterday, we shared the first part of a conversation with Linden Rhoads, the University of Washington’s tech transfer boss. She talked about how she’s making the office hustle a lot more, in particular by brokering meetings between faculty and venture capitalists to brainstorm about the best research ideas with commercial potential.

Today, in Part Two, Rhoads talks more about how this is supposed to work in practice, and a little bit about what life is like at a huge institution after spending her career in startups. Here are edited excerpts.

Xconomy: How will you measure success in your first year?

Linden Rhoads: We are still measuring success, by all the typical metrics. But we’re also looking at the number of resumes that our venture capitalists send to department chairs. We’re looking at the number of faculty candidates that we helped recruit, or for whom we arranged meetings. We’re looking at the number of VCs and industry executives that we introduced to UW researchers, even outside of a licensing agreement. We’re tracking all of that.

X: When you first started, you said you were having a lot of meetings with Bay Area VC’s and the local VCs. What came out of those meetings?

LR: For one thing, in March, we’re going to have our first half-day retreat advisory board meeting since I joined. We’re going to have an entirely reconstituted advisory board that has very significant venture capital representation. This office will be looked on, given our new mandate for ourselves, as a vehicle for increasing the relevance of the university to the region. The members of the advisory board will see themselves as personally responsible for helping to see that an increasing number of researchers at the university are focused on translational research. The breakout topics at that meeting will be all about how to help us do that.

We’re seeing many more venture capitalists on campus now than I’ve ever seen before. It’s as staggering, in the case of some departments, as a 10-to-1 difference in terms of numbers of visits.

You’re obviously familiar with Janis (Machala). I think it would be fair to say before I recruited Janis, this university has never had anything like the Rolodex that I brought, or that she brought, or that the two of us collectively have brought. Or her capability. She’s just a very high-bandwidth individual who has tremendous capacity for coaching, and mentoring would-be entrepreneurs. She has a track record that engenders tremendous good will, and the university is benefitting from that work.

X: What kind of reception are you getting culturally? I know there are some people who say the university has a pure-research mentality that says business is full of a bunch of bad guys.

LR: I think there are still a few holdouts who wish we could put the genie back in the bottle. They wish, ‘Why won’t researchers just go back to being pure of heart?’ You know what? That really amounts to very few people anymore. Most people here … Next Page »

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