Contact: Sasha Steinberg
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University is among Southeastern Conference institutions participating in the launch of the Southeast Executives on Roster (XOR) program to help match experienced entrepreneurs and university startups.
MSU and its 13 fellow SEC universities have jointly created the Southeast XOR platform to broaden access to experienced entrepreneurial talent and to match that talent to university-affiliated startups in need of executive management.
“Mississippi State has researchers working on some of the world’s toughest challenges,” said Kathy Gelston, MSU’s associate vice president for corporate engagement and economic development. “In order to get that derived technology into the market place, we need to partner our scientists with equal-caliber business talent who are ready to dive in and build a company. We see the Southeast XOR platform as one way to build those partnerships.”
Eric Hill, director of MSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, said finding the right entrepreneurs ready for that challenge is not always easy. However, the XOR project helps MSU cast a wide net with its sister SEC universities who may have an opportunity right for alumni and affiliates and vice versa.
“In tandem with the E-Center’s Mentor Network, the XOR network of entrepreneurial talent and startup opportunities shared across the SEC increases all of our chances at building successful spin-out companies,” Hill said.
The XOR project started with a discussion at the annual meeting of the SEC Technology Transfer Directors in July 2017 and was completed after a year-long collaborative development process with technology transfer offices at all 14 SEC universities. The process included choosing a software platform development partner; creating the platform’s core principles; designing the platform’s specifications; drafting a “Guidebook” to govern the platform’s use and operations; and recruiting and qualifying entrepreneurs and startups to populate the system for its pilot launch.
The software platform was developed by Wellspring, a technology-commercialization software development company, and it works by matching university startup companies with entrepreneur and capital networks outside each university’s immediate area.
Jeremy Clay, director of MSU’s Office of Technology Management, said combining the entrepreneur talent networks of all participating universities gives MSU’s startup companies access to a larger talent pool in which members are vetted by other SEC schools.
“We expect this system will improve the likelihood that startups will find experienced executive management and ultimate success,” Clay said.
Similarly, Southeast XOR entrepreneurs looking for their next opportunity will have a larger pipeline of opportunities available in a central, user-friendly portal only accessible to those entrepreneurs who are members.
Initially, more than 50 select entrepreneurs will be given access to the platform to begin searching through the profiles of more than 35 initial university startups in the system. Additional interested entrepreneurs may access the platform through an application and qualification process.
Clay said MSU’s Office of Technology Management and Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach have partnered together and already have helped faculty researchers submit their companies to the XOR platform.
Examples include Azulux LLC, a company started by MSU Associate Professor of Chemistry Keith Hollis, that will build and optimize a stable blue emitter for organic light-emitting diodes; and NP Sway LLC, a company started by MSU Physics and Astronomy Head and Professor Mark A. Novotny, that has a focus on producing quantum dragon nanodevices with enhanced electron transmission enabling electronic devices to operate more efficiently.
Clay and Hill said their offices will continue working together to recruit entrepreneurs and companies for the XOR platform, along with assisting MSU-affiliated entrepreneurs in building a pitch deck or other materials and collecting data for developing a company profile page in the platform.
In addition to affiliation with or recommendation for inclusion by a participating university, those interested in becoming an XOR entrepreneur should have experience raising capital for a startup company and/or worked at least 15 years as an executive in a specific industry. Willingness and availability to play an executive management role for a startup also is among criteria for consideration.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.