There are two areas where America leads the world by so much that she has no global competitor. We bridge them.
America perfected and democratized the research university, the best tool ever created for building innovation. There are lots of good universities in other countries. But the world’s best students and researchers line up to come to ours.
America also invented the technology startup cluster, the best tool ever created for driving innovation into society. As with universities, there are lots of places where entrepreneurs do great work. But Silicon Valley in tech and Boston in bio are the big leagues – successful, at-scale, startup clusters with global pull.
74% of university research
77% of early stage funding
So this is the flywheel of our economy, right? Innovation from our universities gets pumped through Silicon Valley and Boston startups and creates wealth and jobs and cures for diseases?
Kind of. The web browser that you are reading this on? The entire biotech sector? Those are examples of research universities feeding innovation into startup clusters for the benefit of the nation and the world.
But there is a problem. Most university innovation happens far away from the startup clusters. America’s $68 billion university research budget is spread across the country, but nearly 80% of the startup commercialization happens in the three “cluster” states (CA, MA, NY) that only perform about a quarter of the research.
America has two, world-leading, innovation resources: a geographically dispersed network of research universities, and a geographically concentrated set of capabilities to scale technology startups. We bridge the research universities in America’s heartland – where almost 75% of our research happens – and the people, capital and other resources needed to commercialize that research for society’s benefit.
We have worked in university commercialization and high-growth entrepreneurship for a long time. Here is what we learned: Great university spin-outs are not about money or about patents; they are about people. But the heartland is a big place, and scientific- and business-co-founders have a harder time finding each other there than in Silicon Valley. So, we built scaling tools to help bridge this distance. These include proprietary data models and algorithms and a uniquely postured venture fund.
Research Bridge Partners serves universities and their faculty. We take the breakthrough principal investigator, who also has a strong interest in achieving real-world impact through science, as our core unit of analysis and activity. Our goal is to advance science in the public interest by helping these PIs and their universities spin out scalable startups based on their research. We depend on philanthropic support to achieve this mission, and we have developed capabilities that make us unique partners for some philanthropists and their projects. In order to effectively drive research into society, we also work with those rare business leaders who can create sustaining economics from innovation. These four groups – principal investigators, university leadership, philanthropists, and scaling business talent – are our collaborators.
The Research Bridge Partners team is well positioned to help America innovate at scale. Our founders – Isaac Barchas (CEO) and Reid Hoffman (Chairman) – have deep roots in mid-continent university commercialization and Silicon Valley scaling entrepreneurship, respectively.
America is a big country with abundant, broadly dispersed resources. It is one of our greatest strengths, but it also poses a steadfast challenge: How do we connect our resources and people for the greater good?
The Bridge at Rock Island is a prime example of how we’ve overcome this challenge, Completed in 1856, it was the first railroad bridge to cross the Mississippi River. By connecting Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, it tied the American West to the national economy. Because the bridge traveled north rather than south, it also aligned the west against slavery. Abraham Lincoln took a case defending the bridge company (against rival economic and political interests) all the way to the Supreme Court.
By 1866, a mere decade later, rail traffic had grown to the point where the bridge could no longer accommodate demand. The original bridge was torn down and replaced, and then that replacement was replaced … and then that replacement was replaced. All the while, our economy continued to grow – and the quality of life for Americans dramatically improved – due in no small measure to the Bridge at Rock Island and other truss bridges that eventually dotted the heartland.
A silhouette of the Bridge at Rock Island Bridge serves as the basis of our logo. It reflects America’s recurring need to connect resources and people in producing important economic and social gains. It places technology and innovation at center of the American story. And it’s a really attractive silhouette.