Sometimes an invention is best commercialized via the creation of a startup: a technology-based company formed to commercialize one or more related inventions made at MIT and protected via intellectual property rights (i.e. patent or copyright) owned by MIT. Inventors may participate in these startup companies in a variety of ways, and TLO Licensing Officers are available to discuss all aspects of company formation with you.
An MIT Inventor’s Guide to Startups is intended as quick reference tool for MIT faculty, students and staff inventors interested in starting a company based on their inventions. This guide summarizes the many resources available to MIT inventors and the institutional policies that are most relevant to startups.
While every MIT startup follows its own unique path, these are the major steps to getting the business off the ground:
Talk to the TLO
We encourage you to contact the Technology Licensing Office early in the process to discuss your invention, how to protect the intellectual property, and your thoughts about a startup company.
Protect Intellectual Property
In a startup, a major source of value, and thus a major tool for attracting investment, is intellectual property (usually one or more patents or substantial software code). Engage with the patent attorney contracted by the TLO to get a patent application filed on your invention before you make any public disclosure or communication of it, since early disclosure may limit your ability to get a patent, particularly outside the U.S.
Seek Input and Network
MIT provides a wealth of resources for inventors looking for help starting a company. The MIT Entrepreneurial Ecosystem can shepherd MIT inventors through all facets of the startup process – from writing a business plan, to meeting like-minded entrepreneurs and investors, to attracting board members, to securing funding to demonstrate an invention's commercial viability.
Plan the Business
A formal business plan may or may not be part of this phase, but you'll need to develop an understanding of market potential, competition, funding needs, and how you plan to develop the product and attain the revenues sufficient to sustain and grow the company.
Negotiate the License or Option Agreement
The TLO will negotiate with a representative of the company to grant a license to the startup. In some cases, a short-term option agreement may precede a license so your company can demonstrate to potential funders that it has secured the rights to negotiate for a license to the technology.
Commercializing technology is typically a capital-intensive process. You'll need to present your opportunity to people with the funds to help you make it happen: venture capitalists, angel investors and perhaps in the initial stages, friends and family. Participation in the MIT Entrepreneurial Ecosystem is one way to start the personal introduction process that can help you get the attention of angel and venture capital investors.