qutbluebox Innovation Challenge Finalist: Velvet – Q&A

velvet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velvet Wi-Fi is a Finalist in this year’s bluebox Innovation Challenge.  We spoke to Velvet Founder David Poxon to find out what makes Velvet tick, and what motivates him to get out of bed every morning to realise his entrepreneurial dream.  Read on to find out about the first of our Challenge Finalists!

 

What is Velvet?

Velvet is the Wi-Fi sharing economy.

Who are the people behind it?

I’m David Poxon and I created Velvet Wi-Fi.  More recently Florian Kalbe has joined me to help drive sales and marketing.

What is your connection with QUT?

I’m currently PhD student and Florian graduated from a Masters of Business Process Management in July 2016.

How long have you been operating as a business?

Velvet has been in operation since March 2016 and has recently launched presales of the Velvet Hotshot™.

How did you come up with the idea for Velvet?

I was working in France, and needed to get access to the internet for my PhD work.  However, I found it almost impossible to get decent access on the go, while at the same time having unused broadband capacity at my home in Brisbane.  From this frustration was born Velvet, the idea of the Wi-Fi sharing economy which allows people to share their excess Wi-Fi with people who need Wi-Fi on the go.

Do you have any experiences in startups or business?

Florian and I have some business experience, but as the Velvet team we are first time entrepreneurs.

What has been your biggest challenge with Velvet do date?

There have been a range of challenges that we’ve had to overcome.  Some of these have been technical in nature, and others have been related to the business of doing business.  Getting started was a really big challenge for me and creating a robust technical solution was another.  Making the transition from building something to selling it is one challenge currently faced by the business.

What has been your greatest success with Velvet to date?

Translating an idea into a functional product that gives life to the concept of the sharing economy has been one of the biggest successes of the business so far.

Where do you find inspiration and what entrepreneurs are you influenced by?

I find inspiration in the stories of people who have set themselves ambitious goals and followed through on them.  In terms of entrepreneurs, Bill Gates has been an influence, not just for what he has achieved with Microsoft, but for his subsequent work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

What would it mean to you and your startup to win the Innovation Challenge?

Winning the Innovation Challenge would be transformative for Velvet.  The business is on the cusp of growing strongly and the funds and profile created by the win would really help accelerate the growth of the venture.

For more information on Velvet Wi-Fi, visit https://www.velvetwifi.com/#/.

Innovation Challenge Application Tips

Thinking about entering the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge? To give you the best chance of being selected as a finalist in the Challenge, we’ve put together some tips to help make the process easier for you.

What does it take to be selected as a finalist?

Each finalist in the qutbluebox Innovation Challenge will have two things in common: an innovation with commercial potential, and an entrepreneurial mindset.

What type of innovation are the judges looking for?

The judging panel don’t have any guidelines to the type of innovation other than it must be commercially-relevant new to world. You can enter a novel product, process or service, or business model. However, your innovation must be more than just an idea. You need to spend some time assessing your idea and demonstrate that there is a reasonable market for your innovation and that you have a realistic vision for commercially developing your innovation.

What information do the judges want about my innovation?

You really need to ‘sell’ your innovation. Provide the judges with enough information so that they understand what your innovation is as well as its value. When explaining your innovation, keep your description free of jargon and if possible technical terms.

Why do you want to know what problem/solution the innovation is addressing?

The commercial value of your innovation is largely dependent on the issue/problem/gap in the market your innovation will address. So clearly explain why it is significant and why it should be taken to market.

How much information do you need about the market?

At a minimum, you need to explain who will benefit and therefore potentially “buy” your innovation. These are the end-users or customers.
Once you understand your customer-base you can start profiling the potential market size and value. Consider also the geographical location of your market. If possible, put some figures and values to your market estimates. If relevant, include demographic information about your customers.

What else is already in the marketplace addressing this issue? Who are your potential competitors? It may help to explain the current market for your competitors.

Money, resources & development

The three questions about money, resources and development are to help the judges understand what needs to be done to develop your innovation to the point where it is a viable product. Consider time frames, resources (financial, physical and human), and barriers to entry. Explain where your innovation is at in this development process and the impact winning the Challenge would have in progressing it to the next stage.

When addressing the resources questions, it’s important to ‘sell’ yourself and your team / company if you have one. No one invests in an innovation unless the individual or team behind it has the skill, zeal and determination required to take the innovation to market. The quality of your application form should reflect your own qualities.

Applications close on Friday 15 August so enter now before you miss out!

qutbluebox’s 2013 Year in Review

As we are now well into the first quarter of 2014, I thought I would take a few moments to recap some of the highlights and success stories of 2013 at qutbluebox.

1

The year was off to a flying start as researchers Dr Anthony Shield and David Opar developing a portable, lightweight and easy to use device to measure and identify imbalances in hamstring strength. The device was trialed at a large number of AFL, Rugby Union and AFL teams across the country and is currently seeking licenses.

T

In April, bluebox signed a licence deal with Eduss Asia Pacific to commercialise the immersive interaction system technology. The technology developed by QUT Researchers and led by Dr Peta Wyeth, is a fully portable 2 x 3 m interactive floor-based game that targets physical, social and educational experiences for 3-8 year old children. The technology has also been designed to cater for children with special needs and is currently being used in a number of facilities around the state.

3

Also in April, The Women’s Wellness Program, developed by QUT researcher Professor Debra Anderson launched the new online delivery system. The evidence-based program provides women with tools to manage their own health and well-being through a supportive 12-week lifestyle program, aiming to decrease menopausal symptoms and reduce chronic disease risk factors.

 

4

qutbluebox’s Ideas Competition held in May was a resounding success with a series of high quality pitches in the hotly contested finals. Individuals and teams from across the breadth of QUT’s research interests provided a snapshot of their innovations throughout the afternoon. Congratulations to everyone who entered and the prize winners; Prof Graham Kerr, Dr Eloise Dray, Mr Sam James, Mr Josh Smith, Mr David Opar and Mr Simon Smith.

DCIM100GOPRO

In September, qutbluebox signed a licence deal with Blucore, an Australian based start-up company founded by QUT student and National level swimmer Mr Sam James, to commercialise a swim training device.The unique technology aims to improve swimmers’ core strength and body position in the water by providing tactile feedback as they swim. Sam has since sold the device to a large number of swimmers both domestically and internationally.

6

In late October, qutbluebox took 30 enthusiastic students and early career researchers to Novotel Twin Waters on the Sunshine coast for an intensive two day Commercialisation workshop. A series of interactive lectures from bluebox staff, QUT researchers and industry experts equipped the engaged cohort with new skills and knowledge to assist them in transferring their innovations to the real world.

 

7

In November, qutbluebox held a series of innovation and knowledge transfer seminars at Kelvin Grove and Gardens Point campuses. The seminars targeted at University staff and researchers provided a brief introduction to innovation and knowledge transfer in addition to presentations from QUT researchers outlining their take and experiences on commercial engagement.

Looking forward to working with some exciting innovations from QUT in 2014, and check back in here for more blogs soon!

Creating your Value Proposition / Elevator Pitch

Last week, I attended a great presentation from Damien Edmond at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) on “Developing Your Research Proposition”. Inspired by the talk, I thought I would share some further tips on how to effectively communicate the value of your research/ new innovation to your intended audience.

business presentation

Being able to effectively communicate the value proposition of your research/new idea is extremely important, especially when you are seeking investment. However, developing a value proposition can take time and is an iterative process; so here are some tips to help you get started:

1.First consider, who is your audience and what does your audience want/need?

– This is a really important first step and ensures that you remain relevant and engaged with your audience.

2. Who are you, and why should they listen to you (expertise)

– People invest in people. It is important to introduce yourself and communicate your expertise.

3. What is your idea/technology?

– What is it that you have come up with? Explain in simple terms and don’t assume your audience has your depth of knowledge in the area.

4. How could your idea be the basis for a product/service?

– Great, you’ve got an idea. How could this be translated into the community? What does it look like and how will it be used by the end user?

5. Who is your idea helping (end-user)?

– Who is the end-user? Are there multiple end-users?

6. What is the problem that you are going to fix?

– Define the problem you are addressing. Showing focus is important here, even if the idea could potentially solve a number of issues. Choose the problem with the biggest market and/or easiest market entry, and put the other problems that you may be able to solve in the pipeline.

7. How does your idea fix that problem?

– How does your idea or research fix that problem, and how does it special from what others are doing?

Once you are able to clearly answer each of these questions, the trick is trying to communicate it all as succinctly as possible- 30 seconds or less and practice.

Good luck!

Kate Taylor – Commercial Associate

Shhhh….Keeping your New Idea Quiet

There is nothing quite like the thrill of coming up with the “next best thing” (or so I am told); however there can be quite severe consequences if you start shouting your new idea from the rooftops straight away!

At bluebox, we encourage all Public DisclosureQUT staff members and students to contact us as soon as they think they have a great new idea that they would like to pursue further. This is because the bluebox team has experience in dealing with new innovations and can assist in developing strategies to protect and transfer QUT intellectual property to the real world. One of the questions we often ask when developing a strategy is:

“What is the best way to protect this idea or intellectual property (IP)?”

There are a number of ways to protect your idea, including:

  • Trade secrets (keeping confidential)
  • Patents
  • Registered Designs, and
  • Copyright

As well as other forms of IP protection such as trademarks, domain names, plant breeders rights etc. However, some of these options can be quickly ruled out if the idea has already been “publicly disclosed”.

Example- Patents

At bluebox, we commonly seek patent protection which gives the owner legally enforceable rights to exploit their invention for the life of the patent (generally 20 years from filing date of your complete application).  However, in order to be granted a patent, there are a number of criteria that need to be satisfied. These criteria include:

  1. That your new idea is patentable subject matter
  2. That your new idea is novel
  3. That your new idea is non-obvious, and
  4. That your new idea is useful.

Note: In order to obtain rights, all four criteria need to be satisfied.

The criteria that comes into hot water when your idea has been publicly disclosed is number 2- novelty. In order for your new idea to be considered “novel” or “new”, it is compared to what is considered the “state of the art”. Whilst various jurisdictions have different definitions, essentially state of the art means anything made available to the public by means of a written or oral description, by use, or in any other way, before the date of filing a patent application. And by this definition, can even include your own disclosures!

In order for your disclosure to be considered made “available to the public however, the disclosure:

  1. Must have been made available to at least one member the public (ie. not disclosed under conditions of secrecy or similar),
  2. Has to teach the information to be used in the evaluation of patentability (could one skilled in the art take your disclosure and reproduce your product without undue burden?) and
  3. Technical teaching of the prior art must be enabled.

As you can see, it can be quite easy to disclose your idea to the public (especially when you are excited), however if you do this it can potentially limit your ability to protect your idea in the future! Fortunately, some jurisdictions allow for what is called a grace period, which allows for you to file a patent application within 12 months of the first public disclosure. However, not all countries allow this and in fact some of the major markets do not.  Hence, by disclosing before protecting, you can limit the commercial potential of your invention.

Moral of the story

Before telling the world about your “next best thing”, please first consider what the best IP strategy for your idea is. Having a chat to bluebox before you submit your manuscript, or present a poster at a conference and publicly disclose can make a world of difference in the long run, and can be the difference between a product and a good idea.

Written by Kate Taylor – Commercial Associate

The Hidden Pitfalls of Jointly Owned IP

Joint IPNowadays, scrolling through most collaboration agreements to the Intellectual Property (IP) section you will often find a clause similar to the following:

The Parties agree that:

(i)            Project IP that is solely invented or created by a party shall be owned by that Party;

(ii)           Project IP that is jointly invented or created by two or more Parties shall be jointly owned by those Parties

Often drafted to appear fair and reflect the collaborative nature of the agreement, these clauses can be extremely problematic if there are no further sub-clauses on how the jointly owned IP is to be managed and exploited going forward.

This is because in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, jointly owned IP is treated differently in each country and is often subject to different rules depending on the type of IP developed.  As such, the issues surrounding IP can become extremely complex in the absence of an agreement and relying on the default positions in each country may prove problematic if you are not aware of the legal ramifications.

As an example, if a United States patent was jointly owned by a pharmaceutical company and a university, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, both parties would have the right to exploit the patent without the consent of the other party and without a requirement to share in those profits. Additionally, both parties would also have the ability to assign or licence those rights to a third party without the other party’s consent. From a university’s perspective, this arrangement would commonly be disadvantageous, as the pharmaceutical company would likely be in a better position to exploit the technology and sell the product and would have no obligation to share any of those revenues with the university, despite the university contributing to the product’s development.

However as mentioned earlier, the same rules do not apply to all jurisdictions. Unlike the United States, in Australia and the UK for instance, consent is required from all joint owners of a patent in order to assign or licence those rights to a third party. China however, is different again and similar to the States allows for either party to non-exclusively licence the patent right’s without the consent of the other joint owners, but on the condition that any profits generated must be shared.

Furthermore, the general rules for patents do not necessarily hold true for other types of IP, even in the same jurisdictions. In the United States for example, despite not being required to share profits from the exploitation of a jointly owned patent, there is an obligation to share profits from copyright material!

As most collaborations anticipate that various types of IP will be created and exploited worldwide, being silent on how jointly owned IP is to be managed and exploited can create real problems.

So what is the solution?

Where possible, agree that one party will own the IP developed from the collaboration and grant a licence to the other collaborators, if required.  If sole ownership cannot be negotiated, it is important to clearly outline upfront how the jointly owned IP is to be protected, prosecuted, paid for, exploited, enforced and any potential commercialisation revenue split between the parties.

Conclusion

Whilst it may seem like the easier option to negotiate at the time, agreeing to jointly own all IP created from a collaboration without stipulating the obligations for each party can turn out to be a huge nightmare. So where possible, include in collaborative agreements how jointly owned IP will be dealt with upfront, rather than waiting until sales are being made, when often the negotiations become much harder.

Kate Martinac – Commercial Associate

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

I was recently asked how bluebox judges the ideas/disclosures that come through our door, along with that question was you don’t have experts in all fields, how do you know what your backing is sound science?

arrow through maze

Well this is typical question that comes along, especially in a University scene. However I have learnt along the years being involved in the Innovation and Knowledge Transfer field that you can have a great 100% sound idea – however if the relationship management with the key people is not 100% then the project will fall down at the end of the day.

You may find as you continue to read any of my blog posts that I believe successful Innovation Transfer is all about the people. You may have the best idea, but if you’re not out there talking to the industry/market to know if what you have may meet their needs, or really driven to get your idea out there – it’s going to be tough to be successful in this space. As some of you may know it can take a long time to get a creation transferred to the real world, sometime a decade or more depending on the space. Without passion and drive for successful commercial utilisation that benefits everyone, interest can be lost and new ideas are moved onto – this does happen.

The second aspect to the above question that I want to address is “no experts in all fields”. I will tell you now – you do not have to be an expert in the science/technology to be passionate about it or understand the market and know the commercial potential of an idea. It is good to have technical knowledge, as everyone in bluebox does. However I will again point to “idea 100% sound science” does not mean it will have great commercial potential. Of course the technical side needs to be sound, however we always come across really early stage stuff with often no or very preliminary data or information that seems exciting – if there is clear commercial potential we are interested in seeing further data that proves the “science” and would support a patent application (if that has been determined as the best way to protect the intellectual property). And in some cases it makes sense to back the project development through our bluebox proof-of-concept investment fund.

I think in the ideal world you would walk up the steps to successful commercial deal, however in the real world those “steps” are more like a maze – you will come across road blocks and you may have to retrace your steps and try another path to get to that successful commercial deal (which may happen repeatedly). Another aspect to that maze is getting so close to the exit that you can see it, however you may still need to climb over the wall to get to it.

It is not an easy road, it is tough, it takes time, you may get close and then circumstances can change in an instant. Keep the faith, drive, motivation – as a creator if you stay involved and keep that faith you will eventually see a successful commercial deal come to fruition.

If you want to have a talk about the commercial potential of your innovative idea or research please do not hesitate to contact us 

Lisa van den Berg – Commercial Manager

Where’s the Motivation?

Innovation and Knowledge TransferI recently came across the 2012 final report on Collaborations between the Public and Private Sectors: The Role of Intellectual Property, by the Australian Government Advisory Council on Intellectual Property. What a revealing read, indicating that the motivating factors for universities and university researchers lead to less than ideal rates of collaboration.

Well at least that is the key message that I took from it.

Where’s the Motivation? Performance metrics for Universities do not take into account engagement with industry (“impact”). Number of journals published and securing grant funding has the greatest influence on career advancement. The word impact can mean many things – I believe that it should mean the overall uptake of your “knowledge” in industry through innovation transfer as well as engagement with industry through consulting. To be able to show that an innovation developed at a University is actually being used in a product, process or service.

Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) announced that “impact” will be introduced into the next round in 2015. This poses the question, what will “impact” mean for the ERA when it’s added as a factor?

In the innovation and knowledge transfer world licensing and formation of start-up companies are the main avenues for creating “impact” (bluebox FAQ). To enable such activity it is often the case that a clear commercial advantage and propriety intellectual property position are required. Giving any potential industry partner or licensee the competitive advantage in the marketplace. Licensing innovations is the bread and butter of innovation and knowledge transfer.

More often than not, Intellectual Property (IP) ownership clauses are held responsible for delays in collaboration and licensing agreement negotiations. There is a misnomer out there that you must own the IP to be able to use it commercially, this is incorrect. A license to commercial rights allows one to exploit the IP commercially for a stated business purpose. I have been involved in projects where companies are adamant that they need to own the IP, however once explained they are quite happy for the IP to be owned by the research institution, as long as the company has rights to use and exploit the IP for their particular business purpose.

Some innovations are applicable to more than one market, and therefore to maximise the use you can license to multiple parties for different business purposes (field of use). Additionally some companies are only active in one state or country and therefore to maximise the impact of the innovation you may be able to restrict the license to a territory. Thus allowing one to licence to a company in a different country for the same purpose.

At Universities the innovations that we often come across would not even be considered by companies or investors – as they are very early stage and considered too risky! So another main aspect at bluebox that we must consider is risk management. De-risking early stage IP was also mentioned in this report, one way that we do approach this at bluebox is through the bluebox Proof-of-Concept fund…. which is a good topic for a future blog – keep an eye out!

If you are interested in learning more, please do not hesitate to contact me at l.vandenberg@qutbluebox.com.au

Welcome to the QUT BlueBoxBlog!

Innovation Transfer Box

bluebox – Innovation for the Real World

Through this blog we aim to supply you with blog topics on all facets of the innovation ecosystem.   

Contributed by a Brisbane based team of experienced innovation transfer professionals with industry-relevant technical backgrounds and a broad range of skills in science, management, legal, patent and financing areas.

Our blog posts aim to be informative, and may start to get you thinking about all that goes on within the “blackbox” that is the innovation transfer world.

Founded in 2006 bluebox is a wholly owned subsidiary of QUT, co-located with the Division of Research and Commercialisation at the QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus. bluebox is dedicated to teaming up with QUT researchers in identifying, evaluating, protecting and transferring QUT innovations to the real world.

We aim to enable the successful uptake and impact of QUT’s research and ingenuity for the benefit of QUT, its staff, students and the community.