For our 10th anniversary, we interviewed Marie Wesselhoft, president of ZelosDx, Inc. Marie served as a TLA mentor-in-residence, coaching startups in the healthcare space from 2018 to 2020. As a leader in the UArizona entrepreneurial community, she also led the UA Center for Innovation for 3 years.
"We want to support to build a strong community, but ultimately the markets that these products are going to be used is global. So that challenge of local and global is what I think we need to step up to in the future. Our ecosystem isn't just the state anymore. Our ecosystem is the world." –Marie Wesselhoft
I had an opportunity to be a mentor in residence for devices and diagnostics for a little over two years. I actually had an opportunity to work with this fine team. You know the ecosystem was so nascent 15 years ago. Coming into that, I think we had 2 companies at the incubator, maybe three, and maybe one of them came from the University of Arizona. So there was a lot that was needed to build an ecosystem broadly. There was a need for tech transfer to be an integral part, because the incubator can't capture them that early. It needs to be Tech Launch. I call it education and inspiration, that's what I used to coin what TLA did. They educated so people would know how to do this, what are the resources, but there was also inspiration so that they could learn from other people's success stories.
Another key learning for Tech Launch that I had was that what you measure, you get. So Tech Launch was all about the numerics; every week, every month. And it wasn't just invention disclosures. It was how many potential licensing deals. It was how many patents were getting filed. It was revenue being generated by these companies. So it was a well-balanced scorecard.
I think that the activities that Tech Launch focused on all supported the numerics, so things lined up. People were hired to do it. We're measuring the right metrics. We're doing the right activities. And this result of that when we look back at what's going on over the last ten years, there's really a lot to be proud of.
Having been an entrepreneur myself and founding my own company, these companies are like 2 and 3 people. OK? So that's as large as your team is. When I came to Tech Launch it was like, wow, I'm a part of a large team. On average I probably had an opportunity to work with 10 to 25 companies in my couple of years, some more than others. But to watch the evolution of what went on with these inventors! You know they start out and they don't even know why they should be doing an invention disclosure.
When you look at a graph of where our companies are – there's X number of bio, there's X number of optical sciences – what can we do so that Tech Launch really is embedded in some of those markets? So that when we have companies we already have some of the connections to help make? And I think that's where it's happening because the markets that we serve aren't necessarily in Arizona. We want to support to build a strong community, but ultimately the markets that these products are going to be used is global. So that challenge of local and global is what I think we need to step up to in the future.
Our ecosystem isn't just the state anymore. Our ecosystem is the world.
Asset development dollars that are used to invest in some of our high-potential companies or licenses really was pretty unique when we launched it. As the company progresses, quite often the next resource they need is big capital, right? They're going to be presenting to an investor group are going to be presenting to the Desert Angels, and the resources and bringing people together to help them refine their pitch. I'm also a commercialization partner and so every Monday we get together and we listen to these different pitches. How fabulous is that for an inventor?