Spring 2021

The Startup Seminar is designed to provide a window into and some experience with the challenges faced by the founders and funders of new ventures. The seminars are open to current PhD Candidates and Post Docs as well graduate students from programs across the University of Virginia (e.g., Darden, Law, Leadership & Public Policy, Education, Engineering, etc.).

During the Spring term, we dive more directly into the commercialization of science as the efforts plays out through the creation of new companies launched to bring novel and perhaps even life-changing products or services to market. Topics covered during the semester will include: intellectual property, incorporation, funding for science, fundraising and investors terms, teams and founding agreements, and more.

  • Dates: Most Mondays, starting JAN 25

  • Time: 4:30PM until 5:30PM EST

  • Location: Online, over Zoom

If you would like to join the seminar, simply sign up here.

JAN 25 - Anatomy of a Startup

Our objective for today is to discuss the moving parts of a compelling startup by way of the “buttons” that often get pushed during a startup pitch. Importantly, while a great pitch does not equal a great startup, a great startup has often been able to hit each of these buttons in a compelling way.



Chen, J. A warm embrace that saves lives. (video)

Blank, S. (2013). What is a Startup?


Touve, D. The startup pitch.


Using the M’s from the article as an organizing frame, consider the Pitch being made by Jane Chen in her TED presentation. And, from the perspective of someone who might provide financial support of some kind (e.g., investment or a grant) to Embrace, please be prepared to discuss the following:

Which “M” do you feel Ms. Chen communicated/explained best? Why? 

Which “M” do you wish she had communicated/explained better? Why? 

Which “M” do you wish she had communicated/explained, but failed to do so? Why?


Do you agree with or disagree with Mr. Blank’s definition of a Startup? How might this approach apply or not apply to commercialization efforts?

What “matters” about the various “M’s” discussed in the reading? For example, what makes a great Mission, or for great Mortals on a team?

How was data/evidence used in the Pitch? And how might data/evidence matter to the Venture?

FEB 01 - Intellectual Property Primer

Today we will discuss the distinctions among Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents alongside a deeper dive into what can (and likely cannot) be patented. Our guest will be Michael Straightiff, Executive Directors of the UVA Licensing and Ventures Group.


United States Copyright Office (2012). What is a Copyright? Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

United States Patent and Trademark Office (2014). What Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights?

FEB 08 - Patent Process

So you wanna patent something, do ya! Michael Straightiff, Executive Directors of the UVA Licensing and Ventures Group will join us to provide background on the patent process: from searches for prior art to interactions with patent examiners, and even international filings.


United States Patent and Trademark Office (2020). Patent Process Overview

FEB 15 - Incorporation

C Corporation, LLC, Sole Proprietor, Non Profit versus For Profit — how are these types of incorporation different, and why form a company in the first place? During today's session, we will outline and discuss the different types of incorporation, while our guest attorneys will answer your questions along the way.


Choose a Business Structure, U.S. Small Business Association

FEB 22 - Time Out

We won't meet this week.

MAR 01 - Funding Landscape

How might the funding landscape for the commercialization of science be different from that for other startup companies? What are the differences among angel investors, seed funds, venture capitalists? Not to mention, what different types of capital can these individuals and organizations provide? Joining us today to help answer these questions will be Bob Creeden, Managing Director of the UVA LVG Seed Fund and New Ventures.

MAR 08 - Teams and Founders Agreements

Our job for today is to gain some insight into the challenges that can emerge among founding teams as they attempt to agree upon key issues at the birth of a company: (1) roles & responsibilities given team members experience and backgrounds, (2) respective ownership interests in the company, (3) and decision-making when the times get tough.


Touve, D. Founders agreements. http://strtp.com/notes/founding/founder-agreements/


Linfield, J. (2015). Founder Basics: Founder’s Stock, Vesting and Founder Departures. CooleyGO, Cooley LLP. https://www.cooleygo.com/founder-basics-founders-stock/

Gallagher, B. (2013). Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy say alleged Snapchat co-founder never had equity. TechCrunch, July 31, 2013. http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/31/spiegel-murphy-say-alleged- snapchat-co-founder-never-had-equity/

Cooley LLP, START articles https://www.cooleygo.com/topic/start/

Frank Reginald Brown v. Snapchat (lawsuit filed in LA Superior Court).

Orrick, LLP. Examples of Startup Legal documents.
http://www.orrick.com/Practices/Emerging-Companies/Startup-Forms/ Pages/Forms-Founders.aspx

De La Merced, M. J. (2014). Lawsuit questions Square's startup story. New York Times, January 30, 2014.
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/lawsuit-questions- squares-start-up-story/

MAR 15 - Staging Risk and CapITALIZATION

How do investors “tease out” the risk/uncertainties when funding early-stage companies? And, what might be the consequences for founders and early investors as the company transitions through as series of funding rounds in order to grow? A case providing the early history of the relationship between Genentech and VC Kleiner Perkins will provide the story supporting our discussion.


Feld, B. (2004). Venture capital deal algebra. Feld Thoughts, July 7, 2004.

MAR 22 - VC Method & Terms

The "derisking" of early stage fundraising also involves are wide variety of opportunities and protections found in the term sheets agreed upon between founders and investors. Joining us to decipher these terms and their implications for the startup will be Bob Creeden, Managing Director of the UVA LVG Seed Fund and New Venture.


National Venture Capital Association (2020). Model Legal Documents: Term Sheet.


Touve, D. (2017). Investor Term Sheets. STRTP Teaching Note.

Mulcahy, D. (2013). Six myths about venture capitalists. Harvard Business Review, 91(5), 80-83.

Hoffman, H., & Blakely, J. (1987). You can negotiate with venture capitalists. Harvard Business Review, 65(2), 16-24.

Wasserman, N. (2008). The founder's dilemma. Harvard business review, 86(2), 102-109.

APR 05 - Business Models

Steve Blank has described a startup as simply an organization in search of a scalable, repeatable business model. But what's a business mode? We will use the story of Square as told in the company's IPO roadshow alongside a framework—the business model canvas—to distinguish these various various moving parts and how they fit together.


Square IPO Roadshow video
-link will be provided-


Osterwalder, Pigneur, et al. (2009) Business Model Generation - Preview.

Strategyzer (2011). Business Model Canvas Explained.