Friday, February 21, 2014
8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
The Ohio State Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal (OSEBLJ) is nationally renowned for its intersection of business and the law.
Created and managed by students, this semi-annual journal explores the legal issues facing entrepreneurs, small business owners, and venture capitalists. OSEBLJ publishes scholarly articles, book reviews, and student-authored notes discussing provocative, timely legal issues in entrepreneurial and corporate law.
Additionally, the journal hosts an annual symposium where professors and practitioners from around the world gather to discuss topical issues and emerging trends in entrepreneurial business law.
OSEBLJ IN THE NEWS:
Our very own Michalea Delaveris was recently featured in Generation E Ohio, with an insightful article including an overview of many topics covered at this years Symposium. See the full text below or click here to view the article:
In recent years, our economy has felt a bit like a Chinese Finger Trap. The tighter we pull, the tighter the trap gets. The more austere we become, the more austere we have to be.
Today, despite record highs at the closing bell, we still see hesitant lenders, and a molasses-slow crawl back to investor confidence. So how will our economy recover when the next great idea can’t find a dime?
In March, the Ohio State Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal explored one possible solution to the capital conundrum during their annual symposium entitled Incubators: Function and Future.
Business incubators have been around since Joe Mancuso inadvertently developed the first of its kind in 1959. A grassroots effort to build small businesses locally, the model took off. Now, there are more than 7,000 business incubators across the globe. In our country’s most fertile start-up cultures– from San Francisco and San Jose to Boston to Chicago and New York – entrepreneurs look for incubators to help them ford the river, if you will; to float their business from an idea, through prototypes, proof of concept, and seed funding, to a revenue-generating reality.
Incubators come in many forms, and wear many hats. The most successful serve as an engine in an entrepreneurial culture – cycling new businesses in and out of their doors, and in front of their most friendly connections in the Angel and Venture Capital (VC) funding worlds. They serve as mentors, match-makers, guardians, support groups, sponsors, accountability partners, advisors, long-range planners…
Serving so many important functions, it’s understandable that “INCUBATOR” may seem a nebulous concept. One popular idea of an incubator is that of a generous landlord. While many incubators do provide physical workspace for the start-ups under their watch, that is often just the tip of the iceberg of incubator services. Tenants, as they’re called, may also be matched with industry mentors, introduced to potential investors and customers, or given tools to track and measure their progress.
But, as Chris Anderson, Director of Venture Acceleration at TechColumbus and symposium panelist, pointed out: “It takes a lot more than below-market rent to make a company succeed.”
The model intends to grow business, create wealth, and generate jobs. In Tracy Kitts’ keynote speech, theNational Business Incubation Association COO noted that once businesses get off the ground, they tend to stay in the communities in which they started. Incubators, in his words, create “more jobs, better jobs, [and] jobs that stay in the community.” According to Anderson, TechColumbus start-ups were responsible for creating 1,600 jobs with an average annual pay of over $57,000 between 2007 and 2012.
Results like these come from hard work and careful planning. The men and women behind a business incubator are many things… meta-entrepreneurial, Jacks and Janes of all trades, seed capitalization experts, nimble, social-minded. Incubator founders and managers are crucial to the successes of an incubator – and, subsequently, its tenants – but often operate behind the scenes.
The speakers at Incubators: Function and Future shed some light on the decisions and considerations that help incubator management get across the river themselves.
1. Incubator funding
The incubator is a business itself. It needs money to get off the ground, just like tenants do. Determining the incubator’s financing structure – both initial capital and future cash flows – will inform the best choice of entity structure and strategic model. For example…
At the OSEBLJ symposium, Kitts emphasized that the incubator model is adaptive. Depending on the business environment and management’s goals, funding and structure can – and should – vary widely from incubator to incubator.
2. Incubator focus
In complement to their adaptive quality, business incubators have the ability to set, achieve, and pursue a mission. The mission, or focus, of an incubator may dictate the optimal organizational structure, marketing techniques, and strategic goals. For example…
Though examples of how an incubator’s mission may drive its unique characteristics, the foci above are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. TechColumbus, for instance, draws from both. They offer both physical and intangible support to their tenants, who are varied but draw generally from the high sciences. TechColumbus is a not-for-profit entity with major ties to the Ohio Third Frontier, a state-backed economic development initiative focused on driving growth in Ohio’s technology industry.
3. Tenants’ needs
Most importantly, an incubator manager should have foresight into the needs of the operation’s tenants. In the words of Tracy Kitts, a good incubator provides “any damn thing that [tenant] business needs.” Forming the structure of the incubator with future tenants’ material, intellectual, and capital needs in mind will optimize the relationship in terms of efficiency and value-add.
The OSEBLJ symposium focused in part on the intersection of legal services with the incubator model. Patricia Campbell, director of the Maryland Intellectual Property Legal Resource Center and Incubators: Function and Future panelist, noted the incredible disparity between need for and access to legal services for start-up businesses. These are entities with great intellectual assets that need protection, and almost no tangible assets to pay for it. Ms. Campbell’s fellow panelist, Eric Williams of Wayne State University Law School advised that incubator managers can fill this need by sourcing free or low-fee legal services from area law schools, or private practitioners.