Tom Still: Common ingredients for university based startups

An overused word to describe the connections between technology, startups and angel or venture capital investments is “ecosystem,” which implies that startups and the people who help support them are akin to a naturally occurring rain forest.

If only it was that simple. Mother Nature can’t spawn what it takes to build a healthy structure for researchers, innovators, company builders, service experts and investors to take ideas from the lab bench to the marketplace. It takes people who bring a combination of expertise, passion and a high tolerance for risk to a social network that values those talents and connections.

For many people, the Silicon Valley is the exemplar of that structure. Home to many of the world’s most successful tech companies, it was born in the area between San Jose and San Francisco in the 1940s and ‘50s because a Stanford University engineering dean had the wild notion that faculty with good ideas should start their own companies.

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