SL #8: Innovating in an Emerging Industry

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Welcome to SL #8! In this show, we are joined by Stephen Fleming of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab. Join us for a great chat about Georgia Tech’s VentureLab and how it works. We also pick Stephen’s brain on the current early-stage/venture landscape here in Atlanta, as well as get into a deep dive into XCOR Aerospace (one of his portfolio companies) and the emerging commercial space flight industry.

As a bonus, Scott throws the service provider community “Under the Bus.” Also, you won’t want to miss the announcement of the first Capital Connections event!

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This was a fabulous chat that provided a lot of insights into VentureLab and the commercialization process at Georgia Tech. If you are interested in the commercialization of technology in a university setting, you will definitely want to tune in and give this show a listen. Likewise, if you are interested in the emerging commercial space flight industry, this is a must-hear podcast. Stephen shares his insights on what it is like to innovate in an environment where infrastructure isn’t readily available.


One out of eight technologies assisted by VentureLab has enough potential to become an actual company. The rest are commercialized/licensed to other companies.

Georgia Tech is averaging close to 400 inventions per year (over one per calendar day, close to two per business day.)

VentureLab is “Georgia Tech only”, although the ATDC is not. VentureLab fits a lot earlier in the process than ATDC. If ATDC is the incubator, we are pre-natal care. Our exit criteria looks a lot like the ATDC’s entrance criteria.

14 companies have gone through the VentureLab process (including Jacket Micro Devices.)

Georgia Tech graduates 10 percent of the radio frequency (RF) engineers in the world. 10 percent of the published wireless papers come out of Georgia Tech.

Less than 20 percent of the 400 inventions per year come out of wireless/RF. About 20 percent come out of the College of Computing. About 20 percent of those inventions are now coming out of biotech.

The first tourists in space are going there because they are rich people and want a new experience. The people after are going to be industrialists who want to become incredibly, incredibly, filthy rich. And I believe they will be.

We managed to turn R&D into a revenue-generating activity.

Essentially, we called up the FAA and said “We’ve got this rocket-powered vehicle we’re flying over inhabited areas over southern California, is there some paperwork we should be filling out?”

When the weight of the paperwork is equal to the weight of the launch vehicle, you’re ready to fly.

The advice that I give as an XCOR board member is really the same as I would give to any other startup. You really concentrate on the basics. You concentrate on delighting your customers. You concentrate on making sure the cash-in is greater than the cash-out every month. You concentrate on staying a step ahead of the competition, in whatever it is you are building. And something good will happen.

Of course, there is much more content contained within the show itself. Enjoy! To play it, use the tools at the top of this post – you can play it via the embedded Flash player by pressing the big play button at the top, or download it to play on your computer or MP3 player.

Links referenced within this episode:

Podsafe music used within this episode:

  • Sundial by Bill Derome
  • Wilford Brimley Hates Your Diabetes by Smart Bomb Radio
  • All the Money in the World by Hutch

Tune in and find out!

Our format is a little out of the norm as far as podcasts go. We treat our efforts as a true “show” rather than a super-concise (limited) vehicle for delivery of information. Therefore, the podcasts can run a bit long. While we try to have very substantive discussions, we also try to have a lot of fun along the way (and that tends to elongate the programming a wee bit.) :) Our theory is that if we are having fun during the show, hopefully, you will be having a little fun listening as well.

Here is the breakdown for the show, in case you want to hop around.

Intro 00:00 to 01:14
Smalltalk and introductions: 01:14 to 04:58
Under the Bus 03:58 to 8:10
Announcements/Mailbag: 8:10 to 16:50
Commercial/Comedy Break: 16:51 to 18:51
Main Discussion Topic 18:52 to 66:17
Commercial/Comedy Break: 66:17 to 66:54
Analysis/Wrap-up: 66:54 to 73:14
Photo: Stephen Fleming, VentureLab

A special thanks to Stephen for coming in and hanging out with us!

We’ll be back soon with Joey Silver and Doug Spear with DLA Piper. In addition to chatting about what they see in the Atlanta early-stage market, we’ll be discussing some legal basics for startups.

We welcome your continued feedback as well! If you have an interest in appearing on the show, becoming a show sponsor (hint, hint), have some suggestions for topics, have feedback, or would just like to email us and tell us to “shove off”, we invite you to contact us.

And don’t forget – the message forums are up and running. If you need help with any aspect of your venture, we welcome you to jump in and get the help you need!



3 Comments so far »

  1. GeeMaxine said

    on April 1 2007 @ 2:13 pm

    The shows just keep getting better!


  2. emmett childress said

    on April 2 2007 @ 1:50 pm

    Edutainment at its finest! The so-called “service providers” that you threw under the bus would be in dire straits if some folks would start telling them that they will be compensated based on performance. There is no way I could imagine paying some clown 10’s of thousands of dollars for literally nothing in return. I like my providers hungry!!! Mr. Fleming is right on the money when he says it’s all about the basics.

  3. Big Thinkr » Blog Archive » Seed and Angel Capital Strategies for Atlanta said

    on May 28 2007 @ 12:39 pm

    [...] I define a “capital broker” as simply “a person who charges you a fee to find capital.” There are a ton of these folks out there. I am not a fan of this model, for reasons I’ve written about in the past (and ranted on in our podcast.) Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to pay to find capital. Period. This is a sign of an unhealthy market for early-stage capital. [...]

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