For our 10th anniversary, we interviewed Bruce Burgess, director of venture development at Tech Launch Arizona. In this video, Bruce talks about what it takes to build a successful startup and how the ecosystem has grown to become very supportive of startups and entrepreneurs. Within that ecosystem, he discusses how TLA supports new UArizona startups and teams, as well as the larger opportunities that lie ahead.
University research is obviously focused on the fundamentals of getting their (investigators') work published. But taking that next step, protecting that work, and finding avenues to make it commercially available is a key component to any ecosystem at the university. – Bruce Burgess
Since we are a new organization still, we've got a lot of new plans, a lot of new things we want to do to really grow the ecosystem here in Tucson, to involve a lot more of the community and our neighboring communities, to really be a part of this overall process that we've been developing here for just the past ten years.
There are several key parts to being a successful spin-out. You obviously need good technology, but (also) you need good people, and you need capital. Going forward, our programs are continuing to refine and build upon that so that we have all the elements necessary for a healthy and successful ecosystem.
When we first started there was very little capital in the local Tucson area. And I'm glad to say that over the past ten years, we've had a number of new funds spring up, many of them focused on university technology specifically, which has been extremely helpful to us. We've been able to collaborate with a lot of neighboring communities, neighboring organizations – whether it be Phoenix, whether it be on the West Coast, whether it be the Mountain States – and really building this collaborative team to build a larger ecosystem for investors to realize what is happening down here in southern Arizona, and also expose our work up and down the coast, and in the Bay, all the way to Boston.
I think one of the biggest impacts that Tech Launch has had at the university is really helping faculty understand the benefit of working with a tech transfer organization and helping get their research out into the public sector. University research is obviously focused on the fundamentals of getting their work published. But taking that next step, protecting that work, and finding avenues to make it commercially available is a key component to any ecosystem at the university.
I think one of the big opportunities that still lie ahead for Tech Launch Arizona is, as the university continues to grow both in terms of the research dollars coming into the university and in terms of new faculty. We're seeing new faculty come into the university every day, and many of them have not had experience with commercial endeavors with working with the tech transfer office. And helping them understand that this is not only beneficial to society, beneficial to the public but also could be very beneficial in their research.
We help take as much of that burden off their shoulders as we possibly can so that they can focus on their research because that's obviously what they do best. But also to help them understand and point out how government funding is becoming more and more focused on the commercial benefits that can come out of university research, how this can impact them and the work that they do, and the grants that they write and propose. So it's not only beneficial to society it's beneficial to their career as a researcher.