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Recipe for an entrepreneur

Seminar analyzes strategies for the success of high technology businesses

The success of a technology-based company depends on the entrepreneurial capacity of its organizers and on the formation of the team, which should have a charismatic leader and people with different kinds of links to the university – from full time professors to assistants -, besides professionals connected with the business world. This is the recipe for successful entrepreneurism advocated by Tina Seelig, the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and of the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network. Tina took part in the round table that debated the theme Formation in Entrepreneurship for Scientists and Engineers in Latin America, sponsored by the Minerva Entrepreneurism Center, of the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo, in December. The event had already been held in Europe and in India.

As far as the strategic aspects of entrepreneurism are concerned, Valério Veloso, the executive director of Porto Digital, pointed out the importance of bringing together companies of different sizes in business parks. And Cesar Simões Salim, who has been coordinating the first Brazilian center for entrepreneurism, installed in the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) since 1995, stressed the need for creating databases of Brazilian case studies that reflect the national reality. He also commented that, different from what happens in the United States, pupils in Brazil tend give little value to the brand of the university where they graduated. “At PUC, we created the Gavea Angels at the end of 2002, to encourage investments from private individuals in the creation of innovative companies”, Salim said. “Unfortunately, the results are not worthy of commemoration.”

Legal obstacles
In Brazil, the concept of entrepreneurism is still little known. Fernando Reinach, the executive director of Votorantim Ventures, which sponsored the seminar, and the president of Allelyx, a biotechnology company, pointed out one difficulty for prospecting for enterprises with a high technological load and a good potential for venture capital: “A company that finances a research project will not have priority in the right to use the results, because the intellectual property of any technology developed inside the university belongs to the university itself, and its transfer, at least in theory, is conditioned to bidding processes, which makes the agreements juridically fragile”, he said.

If, for example, a pharmaceutical company invests in research carried out in the university that results in the cure for cancer and develops products based on it, it may perhaps have to face up to the lawyers of the major international laboratories. The new version of the Law on Innovation that is being processed in the Congress, specifically approaches this issue and could eliminate this difficulty pointed out by Fernando Reinach.

He also commented the fact that the scientists connected with universities and institutes do not have intellectual property rights over their inventions and discoveries. “That is why, instead of taking ideas from the universities, we have to take people from the universities, which creates a certain tension in the relationship”, says Reinach. Votorantim Ventures has a venture investment model that is compatible with the terms of return and the low activity on the stock market in Brazil.In spite of all these problems, the indication that the sector has a good potential for growth is FAPESP’s investments in technological innovation programs.