From the Bench to CEO: How to Turn an Invention into a Product with Commercial Value
May 5, 2021
While the numbers are steadily increasing, women remain underrepresented in the technology innovation sector. In an effort to encourage female Cornellians to pursue their own ventures in technology innovation, the Center for Technology and Licensing (CTL) is hosting a series of webinars to allow women at Cornell to learn from one another through their Women Innovators Initiative (WI2).
The third webinar of the series was titled ‘Running a Startup: Perspective of Two Women Founders & CEOs from Cornell’, and featured Drs. Rachel Dorin (Ph.D. ‘13) of Terapore Technologies and Siyu Huang (Ph.D. ‘12, MBA ‘14) of Lionano(1) as panelists. Audience members ranged from Cornell students, alumni, and faculty members.
In the webinar, Dorin and Huang spoke of their journeys from bench scientists to becoming CEOs of their own companies while answering audience questions regarding the ins and outs of launching and growing a start-up from a women’s perspective. Throughout the seminar, Dorin and Huang continuously circled back to three common themes:
Importance of Cornell’s resources and broad network
Both touched on the notion that Cornell’s network and resources are not only limited to potential investors but the true power of the network lies within recruiting “potential talent and forming relationships” which can be critical for the infrastructure and success of the company. Additionally, at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, Dorin and Huang utilized the various services provided by Cornell, among others, working with CTL on protecting their invention or identifying relevant intellectual property (IP) to build their venture around.
Communication is the key for generating interest for growth
To effectively pitch a product into a discernible product, Dorin and Huang emphasized the importance of focusing on “Who is my audience?” and tailoring every presentation appropriately. Understanding how to effectively communicate a technology to investors or pitch a product to potential customers is crucial in the early stages of a start-up company and it will open up opportunities for future conversations.
“Find the meaning of your life”
The burden of finding a work-life balance is an enduring and common hardship for women in all sectors. A participant asked about how to overcome adversity that inherently comes with being a woman in a male-dominated sector. Dorin recalled receiving an unexpected phone call from a high-profile investor and being concerned that the investor would not want to invest in her because she was pregnant, then posed the question “if an investor [doesn’t] want to invest in your business because you’re pregnant, do you want that investor involved in your business?” Ultimately, Huang emphasized that “finding the meaning of your life” was the most important goal and Dorin highlighted that “there are a lot of allies…” and as women, we need to “harness your power…and use your strength to make yourself a better CEO”.
The full webinar can be watched on CTL’s YouTube channel
If you are interested in learning more about the WI2 program or participating in future women-led and focused innovation-based webinars, please visit the website at https://ctl.cornell.edu/inventors/women-innovators-initiative/ for more information.
(1) Note: Lionano has been recently renamed Factorial Energy.
Article written by Cybelle Tabilas.
Cybelle is a Ph.D. candidate in Microbiology and Immunology at Cornell University and a Practicant at the Center for Technology Licensing.