"The only way that someone can come and license [technology or intellectual property] is if they know that it's there," says Darren Cox, founder and chief evangelist of
Commerce and Search for Technology Transfer (CaSTT)
CaSTT is an online licensing tool that Cox developed to solve that problem for the University of Minnesota's Office for Technology Commercialization
. It's working; In the past 12 months, Cox reports, the university executed more licenses online for a single item than all the other Big Ten schools did for all of their technologies combined during the year 2008.
"We built it just for our own office; we never intended any one else to use it," says Cox.
Seeing an opportunity, he spun CaSTT out of the university and hired a development team to write a new version of the software, which will debut later this month.
Cox and the U of M finalized a licensing agreement last week for the CaSTT trademark, says Cox. The U of M will receive a free license and will continue to use the upgraded software service, he said.
The commercial version facilitates licensing similarly to the original version--fully online, in some cases--but goes further into marketing, primarily through search engine optimization of technology descriptions.
Research-level communication, for example, is often very technical, "and they don't actually ever say what the thing does, and what you get when you license it," says Cox. "Part of our process is training people on how to figure out what it is people are actually searching for, and then our software takes that information and mechanically optimizes it in such a way that it is very, very easy for search engines to index that information and drive it to the top of search results."
Cox hopes the tool will expand tech transfer beyond its traditional arena to "the other seven-and-a-half billion people in the world.
"There are literally millions of pieces of intellectual property sitting on shelves at universities, national labs, research hospitals, and corporations all over the world that no one knows are available," says Cox.
A subscription to the software-as-a-service platform is $500 per month.
Cox was not able to divulge his list of potential clients, but CaSTT was close to signing a major local corporation in early April, and he said other companies and 150 universities are waiting for the debut of the new software.
Cox expects to close an equity round in June, at which time CaSTT will have been backed by $700,000 in post-university investment, for which Cox credits his connections and colleagues at tech accelerator Project Skyway
Virteva CEO and Project Skyway mentor Tom Keiffer was CaSTT's first investor and now chairs its board. Virteva has provided development, hosting, and other infrastructure to the project, says Cox. Joy Lindsay, president and co-founder of StarTec Investments, is also an investor.
Source: Darren Cox, CaSTT
Writer: Jeremy Stratton