Our Partners

If you are an academic inventor and entrepreneur, you are doing something different from most of your peers. You are taking extra risk and effort to impact society through a startup, which is probably not something you have been trained to do. Through this work, you want to make the world a better place and you need self-sustaining economics to achieve this goal.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) works with faculty who are not at Berkeley, Stanford or MIT. We’ve done the analysis, and we know that faculty outside of the Bay Area and Boston are producing equally innovative research as those nearest these startup clusters. We work with approximately 1% of a university’s PIs who are, or have the potential to be, serial entrepreneurs, and who are doing great science or building great technologies. These are faculty who, if they were in a tech hub, would probably have investors and executives camped out in their offices, hallways, and lab bays.

What we do is help you think about the startup potential of your research agenda. That might mean turning your innovation into a scaling startup or taking your current startup to the next level. As part of this work, we invest heavily in you and your students. We are betting on you, not on your “deal.” A core operating principle of RBP is that the PI matters more than the IP.

Our support of PIs includes the following:

  • Assessing the pragmatic, commercial potential of your science. Brainstorming the “what-ifs” of business models and bringing vetted experts into your lab on a strictly non-disclosure basis. This is also an educational opportunity for your grad students and post docs.
  • Facilitating the process of startup creation. Developing commercial hypotheses, getting opinions from industry-knowledgeable advisors, licensing IP from the university, and looking for business talent who know your prospective customers and investors.
  • Finding the right funding and the right team. Identifying the financial and human capital to drive your innovation into the market. We have our own checkbook and relationships, and we have access to others’. The important thing is to find people to partner with you, who are as good at business as you are at science.

None of the support we provide competes with your TLO or other university resources. Moreover, we work with you and your university to ensure that appropriate conflict of interest, IP, and other compliance architecture is in place.

RBP is a not-for-profit. We sit on your side of the table, according to our charter and mission. Our investment fund has explicit limits on financial return, so that even when we invest, we minimize conflict. We understand that many PIs are world class at what they do, but some aren’t experts in entrepreneurship, and therefore may be unaware of the various ways they can get screwed – either by someone unscrupulous or by a self-inflicted foot fault in the thousand-step journey to market. We have the pattern recognition to support you, here. Being on your side of the table doesn’t always mean being on your side of the argument, of course. But you need a bridge you can trust to take your science to market.

We understand that driving the impactful commercialization of university research enables you to attract, retain, and resource outstanding faculty. Like you, we want to get your best faculty’s best startups ready to compete successfully for national-quality talent and national-scale capital. We do this by bridging you with the people, along with their networks and resources, who are as good at business as your best faculty are at science.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) works with you to identify the faculty – usually about 1% of a university’s PIs – who “look like” prospective serial academic entrepreneurs. We do so using our proprietary data model and your in-house knowledge. If these academic entrepreneurs were at Berkeley, Stanford or MIT, they would be benefitting from all kinds of commercialization support. Only the university wouldn’t be paying for it, and it wouldn’t be called “commercialization support.”

It would be called “standing on the sidelines at their kids’ soccer games and talking to the parents who are in venture capital,” or “during classroom changeover, running into their senior colleague who had a successful startup,” or “having coffee with the former CEO of a tech company who happens to live nearby, because she is looking for her next gig and emailed them after reading their paper.” It would be leveraging the density and velocity and scale of the Bay Area’s commercialization apparatus, and it would just happen on its own.

We can’t replicate that-nobody can-but we can help you and your faculty with essential parts of it:

  • Accessing great business talent. Not just people who just happen to be in “the network” or who just happen to be nearby, but the right people with the right experience to help triage opportunities and sculpt research programs with an eye to application.
  • Setting commercial goals appropriate to the scientific opportunity. We help stakeholders look at opportunities through a value creation and value capture lens: How could this spin-out maximize value, and what startup organization would need to be in place to capture that value
  • Preparing deals that can compete on the national stage. Mid-continent startups receive about 33% of the capital, on about 60% of the valuation, of Boston startups. This is because the Midwest science might be as good as the Boston science, but the mid-continent deal usually isn’t as good as the Boston deal. The reason is that there is a lot of work that goes on in Boston to prepare the deal before it goes out for funding, which makes the funding process more effective. We work with PIs and other university stakeholders to perform the necessary prep work in building deals that are as good as the science behind them.

So, you have a track record of creating value by scaling technology startups. You have options and are compensated commensurate with your position on the supply/demand curve for talent. You are not afraid of the extra degree of difficulty associated with this level of speculative impact and reward. You know that building a great company out of university science is hard, no two ways about it. Here is what you have to believe to want to work with Research Bridge Partners (RBP):

  • We can find the breakthrough innovators throughout the mid-continent. We have invested millions of dollars in an analytic platform to identify the ~1% of commonly overlooked faculty who, if they were at Stanford or Harvard, you would already be talking with. Then we refine that search with personal interviews and assessments.
  • We will keep you from spinning your wheels on transactions. Our relationships with the scientific co-founders and their universities are long-term. We are repeat players, and we make investments in these relationships that constitute a competitive advantage. We also invest to make sure that the transactions are well-formed.
  • We position the opportunities on the risk/reward curve so that they’re competitive from an impact and prosperity creation perspective. We invest to build the business side of the startup, with you and sometimes even before you show up. We recognize that many of these deals are early and risky, and the startups that we work with or help found know that they may need to adjust equity compensation appropriately.

You are integral to our success. People talk about the “problem of heartland university commercialization” as a problem of capital. It’s not; capital finds good deals. People talk about it as a problem of geography. It’s not; deals are mobile. Nobody talks about it as a problem of talent. But it is. The innovation from heartland universities is not getting driven into society the way it should, because too often the best leadership talent isn’t part of those startups.

Finally, you know how a portion of every pitch is, “this is a chance to change the world”? We love dating apps and payment systems and development tools as much as the next guy, but that’s not exactly it, right? Changing the world requires real science and real technology. America has that, in spades, and she has more of it at her mid-continent universities than anywhere else. She just needs your help to get that science and technology in position to, well, change the world.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) solves two problems for philanthropists in our space: information, and sustainability.

It is hard to get good information to inform philanthropic investment. This is especially true when the philanthropy is high-dollar and specific: Charity rating services do not have much to say to inform a lab- or program-level investment. Yes, there are third-party intermediaries who make a living supporting philanthropic decisions, and many of them do a good job. Still, rigorous information discovery and dissemination are far less commonplace in the not-for-profit economy than the for-profit economy.

As a result, a lot of philanthropic asset allocation gets done, rationally, based on brand. You can be pretty sure that whoever Harvard has working on a problem is pretty good, and it’s hard to figure out who else out of the 100,000 lab leaders in America would be better, so Harvard is a safe place to put your philanthropic money. The rich get richer.

RBP is the first “buy-side analyst” for the academic philanthropic market. We spent several million dollars building data tools that allow us to do the same kind of analytics on university lab leaders that Wall Street does on financial assets. We find the labs that are most likely to translate great science into human impact.

If you are interested in solving a particular problem, we can work with you to find the labs that are best oriented to do so. If you are passionate about supporting a particular school, we can partner with them to drive support to their most entrepreneurial faculty and highest impact research. If you want to make an investment in a geographic region, we can help target the university portion of that investment for maximum prospective impact.

Which brings us to sustainability. We depend on philanthropic support for our work. RBP is unique in that we fortify that philanthropic investment with profit-driven venture capital. Your philanthropy has the potential to leverage billions of dollars of for-profit VC to enable an innovation to be self-sustaining in the market. As part of this strategy, we manage our own, uniquely designed VC fund, which accepts only program-related investment (PRI) from our limited partners. In other words, our VC fund is run by a charity in support of charitable purposes and accepts limited partner investments only from other charities.

The goal of the fund is to support our not-for-profit mission by launching companies that will advance science in the public interest. RBP’s fund is driven by charitable investments, but our focus is on creating mid-continent opportunities that can compete globally for capital. This approach enables America to innovate at scale by mobilizing mission-focused resources to bridge heartland innovation to capabilities and capital nationally.

If you are an academic inventor and entrepreneur, you are doing something different from most of your peers. You are taking extra risk and effort to impact society through a startup, which is probably not something you have been trained to do. Through this work, you want to make the world a better place and you need self-sustaining economics to achieve this goal.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) works with faculty who are not at Berkeley, Stanford or MIT. We’ve done the analysis, and we know that faculty outside of the Bay Area and Boston are producing equally innovative research as those nearest these startup clusters. We work with approximately 1% of a university’s PIs who are, or have the potential to be, serial entrepreneurs, and who are doing great science or building great technologies. These are faculty who, if they were in a tech hub, would probably have investors and executives camped out in their offices, hallways, and lab bays.

What we do is help you think about the startup potential of your research agenda. That might mean turning your innovation into a scaling startup or taking your current startup to the next level. As part of this work, we invest heavily in you and your students. We are betting on you, not on your “deal.” A core operating principle of RBP is that the PI matters more than the IP.

Our support of PIs includes the following:

  • Assessing the pragmatic, commercial potential of your science. Brainstorming the “what-ifs” of business models and bringing vetted experts into your lab on a strictly non-disclosure basis. This is also an educational opportunity for your grad students and post docs.
  • Facilitating the process of startup creation. Developing commercial hypotheses, getting opinions from industry-knowledgeable advisors, licensing IP from the university, and looking for business talent who know your prospective customers and investors.
  • Finding the right funding and the right team. Identifying the financial and human capital to drive your innovation into the market. We have our own checkbook and relationships, and we have access to others’. The important thing is to find people to partner with you, who are as good at business as you are at science.

None of the support we provide competes with your TLO or other university resources. Moreover, we work with you and your university to ensure that appropriate conflict of interest, IP, and other compliance architecture is in place.

RBP is a not-for-profit. We sit on your side of the table, according to our charter and mission. Our investment fund has explicit limits on financial return, so that even when we invest, we minimize conflict. We understand that many PIs are world class at what they do, but some aren’t experts in entrepreneurship, and therefore may be unaware of the various ways they can get screwed – either by someone unscrupulous or by a self-inflicted foot fault in the thousand-step journey to market. We have the pattern recognition to support you, here. Being on your side of the table doesn’t always mean being on your side of the argument, of course. But you need a bridge you can trust to take your science to market.

We understand that driving the impactful commercialization of university research enables you to attract, retain, and resource outstanding faculty. Like you, we want to get your best faculty’s best startups ready to compete successfully for national-quality talent and national-scale capital. We do this by bridging you with the people, along with their networks and resources, who are as good at business as your best faculty are at science.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) works with you to identify the faculty – usually about 1% of a university’s PIs – who “look like” prospective serial academic entrepreneurs. We do so using our proprietary data model and your in-house knowledge. If these academic entrepreneurs were at Berkeley, Stanford or MIT, they would be benefitting from all kinds of commercialization support. Only the university wouldn’t be paying for it, and it wouldn’t be called “commercialization support.”

It would be called “standing on the sidelines at their kids’ soccer games and talking to the parents who are in venture capital,” or “during classroom changeover, running into their senior colleague who had a successful startup,” or “having coffee with the former CEO of a tech company who happens to live nearby, because she is looking for her next gig and emailed them after reading their paper.” It would be leveraging the density and velocity and scale of the Bay Area’s commercialization apparatus, and it would just happen on its own.

We can’t replicate that-nobody can-but we can help you and your faculty with essential parts of it:

  • Accessing great business talent. Not just people who just happen to be in “the network” or who just happen to be nearby, but the right people with the right experience to help triage opportunities and sculpt research programs with an eye to application.
  • Setting commercial goals appropriate to the scientific opportunity. We help stakeholders look at opportunities through a value creation and value capture lens: How could this spin-out maximize value, and what startup organization would need to be in place to capture that value
  • Preparing deals that can compete on the national stage. Mid-continent startups receive about 33% of the capital, on about 60% of the valuation, of Boston startups. This is because the Midwest science might be as good as the Boston science, but the mid-continent deal usually isn’t as good as the Boston deal. The reason is that there is a lot of work that goes on in Boston to prepare the deal before it goes out for funding, which makes the funding process more effective. We work with PIs and other university stakeholders to perform the necessary prep work in building deals that are as good as the science behind them.

So, you have a track record of creating value by scaling technology startups. You have options and are compensated commensurate with your position on the supply/demand curve for talent. You are not afraid of the extra degree of difficulty associated with this level of speculative impact and reward. You know that building a great company out of university science is hard, no two ways about it. Here is what you have to believe to want to work with Research Bridge Partners (RBP):

  • We can find the breakthrough innovators throughout the mid-continent. We have invested millions of dollars in an analytic platform to identify the ~1% of commonly overlooked faculty who, if they were at Stanford or Harvard, you would already be talking with. Then we refine that search with personal interviews and assessments.
  • We will keep you from spinning your wheels on transactions. Our relationships with the scientific co-founders and their universities are long-term. We are repeat players, and we make investments in these relationships that constitute a competitive advantage. We also invest to make sure that the transactions are well-formed.
  • We position the opportunities on the risk/reward curve so that they’re competitive from an impact and prosperity creation perspective. We invest to build the business side of the startup, with you and sometimes even before you show up. We recognize that many of these deals are early and risky, and the startups that we work with or help found know that they may need to adjust equity compensation appropriately.

You are integral to our success. People talk about the “problem of heartland university commercialization” as a problem of capital. It’s not; capital finds good deals. People talk about it as a problem of geography. It’s not; deals are mobile. Nobody talks about it as a problem of talent. But it is. The innovation from heartland universities is not getting driven into society the way it should, because too often the best leadership talent isn’t part of those startups.

Finally, you know how a portion of every pitch is, “this is a chance to change the world”? We love dating apps and payment systems and development tools as much as the next guy, but that’s not exactly it, right? Changing the world requires real science and real technology. America has that, in spades, and she has more of it at her mid-continent universities than anywhere else. She just needs your help to get that science and technology in position to, well, change the world.

Research Bridge Partners (RBP) solves two problems for philanthropists in our space: information, and sustainability.

It is hard to get good information to inform philanthropic investment. This is especially true when the philanthropy is high-dollar and specific: Charity rating services do not have much to say to inform a lab- or program-level investment. Yes, there are third-party intermediaries who make a living supporting philanthropic decisions, and many of them do a good job. Still, rigorous information discovery and dissemination are far less commonplace in the not-for-profit economy than the for-profit economy.

As a result, a lot of philanthropic asset allocation gets done, rationally, based on brand. You can be pretty sure that whoever Harvard has working on a problem is pretty good, and it’s hard to figure out who else out of the 100,000 lab leaders in America would be better, so Harvard is a safe place to put your philanthropic money. The rich get richer.

RBP is the first “buy-side analyst” for the academic philanthropic market. We spent several million dollars building data tools that allow us to do the same kind of analytics on university lab leaders that Wall Street does on financial assets. We find the labs that are most likely to translate great science into human impact.

If you are interested in solving a particular problem, we can work with you to find the labs that are best oriented to do so. If you are passionate about supporting a particular school, we can partner with them to drive support to their most entrepreneurial faculty and highest impact research. If you want to make an investment in a geographic region, we can help target the university portion of that investment for maximum prospective impact.

Which brings us to sustainability. We depend on philanthropic support for our work. RBP is unique in that we fortify that philanthropic investment with profit-driven venture capital. Your philanthropy has the potential to leverage billions of dollars of for-profit VC to enable an innovation to be self-sustaining in the market. As part of this strategy, we manage our own, uniquely designed VC fund, which accepts only program-related investment (PRI) from our limited partners. In other words, our VC fund is run by a charity in support of charitable purposes and accepts limited partner investments only from other charities.

The goal of the fund is to support our not-for-profit mission by launching companies that will advance science in the public interest. RBP’s fund is driven by charitable investments, but our focus is on creating mid-continent opportunities that can compete globally for capital. This approach enables America to innovate at scale by mobilizing mission-focused resources to bridge heartland innovation to capabilities and capital nationally.