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Following months of preparation, Parhami found himself making such a pitch
to the Tech Coast Angels (TCA), a group of some 220 businesspeople in Los Angeles,
Orange and San Diego counties. Through OIPA, TCA holds bimonthly investor forums
on campus to which faculty researchers like Parhami are invited to make presentations.
If the Angels like what they hear, they could potentially invest $250,000 to
$2 million in seed and early-stage projects.
“We have had a major interest in university-based technology transfer
because we see great opportunities,” says Gary S. Lazar, a lead member
of the TCA and managing director of California Technology Ventures, Inc.
TCA also provides business mentoring because, Lazar notes, as brilliant as
a faculty member’s research may be, many “have not considered any
aspect of the hard business parameters. They are focused on their research,
not on the market or who their customer is. We’re willing to meet with
faculty and give them a road map.”
Another resource is a new, pre-seed investment fund spearheaded
by OIPA Director Neighbour and David Lundberg, director of strategic alliances
for both OIPA and UCLA’s Department of Development. The fund, in which
California venture-capital firms invest, will provide $25,000-$30,000 pre-seed
money to researchers to move forward in developing prototypes or hiring a graduate
student to conduct additional research. These funds are primarily intended for
researchers whose federal funding prohibits them from pursuing commercial aspects
of their work with those same monies. The new fund is poised to announce its
initial investments this fall.
While he pursues funding, Parhami has meanwhile had OIPA’s assistance
and support in obtaining two provisional U.S. patents for his discovery. OIPA
makes decisions to pursue a patent — which can take up to five years and
cost up to $40,000 for U.S. rights alone — on a case-by-case basis, as
not all inventions are patentable or commercially viable, says Goodman.