Startup tips from a serial entrepreneur


Phil Soran knows a thing or two about starting companies. Soran founded two technology startups from the proverbial basement, and later sold them for $360 million and $1 billion. Today, he’s pursuing several pet projects and helping young companies get started.

Read Soran’s startup tips for the research community, and register today for an upcoming seminar where he’ll offer further insights…

Count on Minnesota

In the 1990s, Minnesota was an ideal place to raise money for a company. But after the 2000 bust, many venture capitalists moved to the coasts, investment banks closed, and much of the angel investment community moved away. However, Soran is more optimistic today than he was a few years ago. He’s seen a recent resurgence of the angel community and he’s confident Minnesota can bounce back.

Tap into the U’s potential

Where corporations can be bureaucratic, and startups can be swift, the U of M sits somewhere in between: it’s an environment that can connect powerful minds with the resources they need, but it’s flexible enough to let innovation grow. Add the energetic nature of young students and it adds up to immense potential.

Address the risks

  • Financing: How will you raise money to get the startup off the ground?
  • Technology: Could this technology support a company?
  • Distribution: How will you get the product to the customer?

Soran says researchers tend to focus on the technology, and sometimes neglect questions of financing and distribution.

Capitalize on the cloud

Gone are the days of struggling to communicate with remote colleagues. Cloud services like those of Google now deliver all the tools an entrepreneur needs to get up and running — email, videoconferencing, file sharing and more — for little to no cost. Soran adds that social media is creating ample opportunities for low-cost marketing, once the startup is ready to make sales.

Employ faculty expertise

The researcher behind the idea can play a central role in making the startup successful. Researchers bring several vital resources to the table, including industry connections, access to funds and labs, and subject matter expertise. It’s the researcher’s passion and knowledge that can make or break a startup.

Follow several paths of funding

When your startup begins raising money, pursue three parallel sources of funds at once, and hope that one pans out. Potential funding sources include angel investors, other companies, nonrecoverable engineering fees, investment banking funds, and venture capital.


Register today for a startup seminar

Meet Soran in person and hear from U of M faculty members who have successfully navigated the startup path at a free seminar hosted by the Office for Technology Commercialization. The event is designed to answer key questions researchers have about the creation of new companies.

All U of M researchers are invited to attend, including faculty, graduate students and postdocs. RSVP online by Oct. 1.

Startup seminar, featuring a keynote by Phil Soran
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012
5 – 7:30 p.m.
Campus Club, Minneapolis

Register today!

Read a related story: Starting a startup: What you should know

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