Q&A with Dr. Peter Anselmo of Socorro Ventures
President of General Partner
Socorro Ventures (SV) is focusing its investment activity on companies taking licenses to technologies developed at New Mexico Tech (www.nmt.edu; https://www.nmt.edu/rankings/index.php). This unique access to technologies from a highly-rated engineering school is unique to SV. Further, these technologies have not been shopped to other venture investors. Broad areas of campus expertise include high-technology industries, including bio pharmaceuticals, medical devices, wearable sensor networks, big data, materials, plating and coating technologies, filtration, oil and gas production technologies, and explosives. These target industries are areas where New Mexico Tech has extensive expertise and experience in licensing.
NMT technologies have already been the basis for 4 startup companies that are ready to present to SV. These companies are in various stages of prototyping and product development, and have been internally funded by the university. They therefore present attractive seed-stage opportunities because many of the activities that seed-stage funds often are asked to pay for have already been or are in the process of being completed.
SV is seeking total capital commitments of $6 million for this first-time fund. It is managed by a five-person General Partner Board that includes Dr. Anselmo, Mr. Stephenson and Ms. Gail Gannon, a serial entrepreneur, and seasoned investment banker and mentor with deep expertise in the MedTech industry.
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February 23, 2022 at 2:15pm-3:15pm EST
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What do you mean by “market-driven”, and what about the NMT process is compelling?
There are several aspects of the NMT technology development process that are very compelling and are a reflection of the quality of NMT faculty and students and also the fact that these endeavors are a priority for the NMT administration. They are:
• Only technologies for which a market argument can be made are considered for patent protection. Market “argument” means that:
• The inventor and NMT Office of Innovation Commercialization can show that the problem addressed by the technology is a recognized need
• Some industrial input, whether from NMT’s extensive contact networks, the inventor, or advisory people can be shown to have been included in the thought process behind development of the technology
• The technical-development team, including NMT inventor(s), NMT graduate students, industrial partners, and researchers from outside NMT is at least loosely in place
Further, we have implemented a new company development model that, where appropriate, involves a NMT subsidiary entering into a partnership agreement with firms who have access to markets and expertise in product development and scaling. In return the partner firms receive access to NMT technologies and know-how through a joint venture with the NMT subsidiary.
Finally, NMT has partnered with a top law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati (WSGR) who, as a partner in these efforts, must be convinced of market potential in order to proceed with patent filings.
What commercialization models are generating the new companies?
Right now NMT generates new companies that take options on NMT technologies via subsidiaries that are owned by the university’s Research Park Corporation and also via conventional spinoffs. Subsidiaries and associated joint ventures as well as spinoffs are investable by SV, and there are 4 that are ready to present to the Fund.
• Wholly owned by the NMT Research Park Corporation (the arm of the university that can own for-profit subsidiaries without jeopardizing non-profit status)
• License options granted by Research Park Corporation
• Joint ventures (JVs) with industrial partners – subsidiaries retain control of IP as the university would in a conventional license deal
• Subsidiaries actively involved in linking university resources with JVs and also participating in JVs via CEO board seats and close working relationships
• More conventional approach, with inventor involved in many aspects of company development – sometimes in an informational-only role
• STTR application plan requested prior to spinoff
• Students actively recruited for website maintenance, market research, and know-how as products are developed via scaling of technologies
• Connection to university maintained by efforts to scale on campus in cases where that is the best alternative
For all new companies, inventors are in CSO/CTO roles. None wish to leave the NMT campus and become CEOs, but all wish to be involved as needed. Also all spinoffs and subsidiaries can benefit from a pipeline of students who worked on the technologies and/or marketing the technologies during their academic careers and, upon graduation, become candidates for employment.
Tell me about the companies and de-risking. Specifically, what major early-stage risks have already been ameliorated?
There are 4 companies - 3 subsidiaries and 1 spinoff - currently ready to present to Socorro Ventures. All are Delaware C Corporations, and all have been de-risked to different degrees on campus as follows:
• Scaling – NMT’s water-desalination technology has gone from test-tube scale to 4’ modules ready to be used in industrial-scale units built by our partner. One will deploy to a field test site very soon. Good results good valuation
• Target marketing – NMT’s self-powering, energy-harvesting strain and sensor system has been re-imagined as the foundation for smart wearables. This has been accomplished via extensive contact with new companies in this space and also lots of input from experts in the medical-device industry
• Product development – NMT’s industrial disinfectant product has a major customer awaiting EPA registration. The formulation, developed on the NMT campus, has been tested by the prospective customer and the actual product for which EPA registration is pursued has been developed with assistance from the prospective customer
• Fintech partnership – NMT’s proprietary computational software, developed at NMT’s big-data research center with funding from federal agencies, will be licensed by a subsidiary that will serve as the research arm of a local boutique financial publishing and investment firm. The subsidiary is entering into this partnership with a customer, and also with the capability to expand in areas that are outside the partner’s domain.
Dr. Peter Anselmo of Socorro Ventures
Dr. Peter Anselmo has experience raising funds for the OIC and other aspects of NMT, such as the Pat Miller Student Investment Fund. Through his creation and management of the NMT OIC, Anselmo is very familiar with all aspects of NMT technologies that are candidates for exclusive licenses to new companies that, in turn, are candidates for SVF investment. The NMT OIC is deeply involved in all aspects of IP development on the NMT campus, and this expertise will be very important for Anselmo’s duties as a member of the Board.
Prior to the inception of the OIC, Anselmo was a faculty member in the NMT Department of Management (now Department of Business and Technology Management) for 27 years, and he served as Department Chair for 15 years. He was also a Senior Researcher at the NMT Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis (ICASA). During this time he established long-term collegial relationships with many of the senior faculty and staff who are key deal-flow creators for NMT. As these faculty and staff members mentor younger NMT researchers, the deal-flow connections are made and Anselmo’s unique and crucial relationship with the campus creators of investment opportunities will continue.
As of 31 December 2020 Dr. Anselmo assumed a new role as Director of New Ventures, which allows him to increase his focus on commercialization of New Mexico Tech intellectual property. He remains affiliated with the NMT Office of Innovation Commercialization, and he will continue to have unfettered access to NMT faculty and staff inventions and potential innovations. He will also remain the point of contact at NMT for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.
Contact Peter: firstname.lastname@example.org