Do You Need a Plan? A Business Plan, That Is


Entrepreneurship is one of the ways that we will get our economy back on the right track – lots of small companies being started based on  great technologies.  While each of these companies will only hire a few people, the sheer numbers of them will employ many.  Additionally, as a new idea takes off, the company grows, eventually hiring many people and/or becoming part of a larger company.  Every company that exists today is there because someone had an idea, believed in it, then worked hard to sell that idea to others.

ACS is starting to actively encourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Dr. Joseph Francisco’s Presidential Task Force on Innovation and Job Creation reported (www.acs.org/CreatingJobs) on the changing nature of innovation, and recommends increasing awareness of career pathways and educational opportunities that involve entrepreneurship among chemical professionals.  A recent Chemical and Engineering News cover story described what life is like for instrument entrepreneurs.

While chemical professionals are great at coming up with new ideas, it’s the business operations that we are typically not so good at.  Scientists are educated to think differently from business people; and marketing, finance and exit strategies are often not part of our vocabulary. In the same way that it takes research and planning to conduct an experiment, you need to research the technology, study the market, and create a plan – a business plan – before starting a business venture.

To help chemical entrepreneurs with their planning, the ACS Committee on Science has organized a business plan competition for US based start-ups or existing small businesses. In order to compete, the proposed start-up company must be scalable and have the potential to attract debt or equity financing.

The competition will take place in two rounds. The first round requires an abridged Business Plan (no more than five pages, due December 1, 2011) describing the opportunity and including:

  • Executive Summary
  • Business Description: Description of the product, service, business model, IP protection strategy
  • Market Analysis: Market size, market potential, customer profile, and market positioning
  • Marketing Plan: Pricing, promotion, and distribution channels, how will the business achieve sales and significant profits
  • Financial Analysis: Revenue model, cash flow, income statement, balance sheet
  • Management Team: Experience, qualifications of key people
  • Projected number of jobs that will be created

Upon evaluation of the abridged Business Plan, a small number of applicants will be invited to submit comprehensive business plans (no more than 25 pages) and orally present their plans to a panel of angel investors and venture capital firms at the spring 2012 ACS meeting in San Diego. The comprehensive business plan must include the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Description of the product, service, or business model
  • Intellectual property protection strategy
  • Market Analysis
  • Operational Plan
  • Opportunities, risks and contingency plans
  • Implementation Plans
  • Financial Analysis: Income statement, balance sheet and cash flow
  • Supplemental attachments including support data and resumes of the members of the management and technical teams

Invited applicants will be mentored and guided to facilitate their success at this meeting.

To help entrepreneurs prepare, there will be an afternoon session at the ACS National Meeting in Denver CO devoted to educating entrepreneurs on IP protection, Business Plan development and funding options.  “Financing your Intellectual Property for Commercialization” will take place on Monday, August 29, 2011 from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. in the Capital 4 room of the Hyatt Regency Denver Convention Center.

This session will educate potential entrepreneurs about the critical steps for technology commercialization, including understanding of intellectual property protection options, how to develop a business plan and of course financing options. The speakers will focus on IP protection, business plan development, financing sources, and provide examples of technology commercialization and/or business start-ups based on university research.

Dr Sadiq Shah, Associate VP, Research, California State University Channel Islands , will begin the session by talking about “Business Start-up Considerations: IP Protection and Business Plan Development”.  He will be followed by a talk on “Financing your Business: Financing Options and Strategies” by Judith Giordan, Managing Director of Venture Well.  To help entrepreneurs know what NOT to do, Kenneth Polk, CEO for Innovation and Legal Affairs, American Chemical Society will talk about “Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Financing a Startup”, and the final talk will discuss “Technology Transfer and Commercialization”, and will be presented by Rick Silva, Director of Technology Transfer at the University of Colorado, Denver.
An open discussion session at the end will ensure that all your questions get answered.

The session in Denver is open to any interested parties.  Even if you’re not ready to start a business right now, learning about how companies get started, and what things founders need to consider will make you not only better prepared, but also a better employee.

To indicate your interest in participating in the competition, contact Dr. Mukund Chorghade at chorghade@gmail.com or Dr. Sadiq Shah at sadiq.shah@csuci.edu.

This article was written by Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants LLC. Lisa is a technical writer/editor and author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press.

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