The Search for Money
"I can't think of a technology where a university has become as closely
associated with the product as Stanford appears to be with this," says
Marvin Guthrie, president of the Connecticut-based Association of
University Technology Managers. "They had a special technology and they
saw a way to build a relationship."
Stanford is pursuing other creative opportunities far beyond the obvious
boundaries. Last fall, the Educational Ventures Office opened its doors.
A kind of intellectual counterpart to OTL, its mission is to identify
and encourage technology of all stripes - software, hardware and
Internet-based subscriber services, for example - that could be
used in Stanford classes, then transformed into marketable products
(and, in the process, open entrepreneurial doors to more professors).
"Maybe a faculty member develops an educational technology that can be
spun off into a separate company," says John Etchemendy, senior
associate dean of humanities and sciences and chair of the commission
that created the ventures office. "One of the things about these
products is that a faculty member can't create it on his or her own.
It's unlike a textbook, where, if you have your typewriter, you can do
Sound far-fetched? Etchemendy, as measured and thoughtful as you would
expect from the philosopher that he is, has been inundated by calls from
excited colleagues who are not your normal techies. Like the history
professor who wants to develop a CD-ROM on Russian history. Or the
anthropologist working on "virtual archaeology" software that allows
students in their dorms to work with three-dimensional models of actual
digs in Peru. Or the company that proposes to market the chemistry
department's world-class standing in a joint software venture. "We would
provide expertise, quality control and the reputation of our
department," says Etchemendy. "They would provide the programming
talent, the marketing expertise and the technical support." Then there
is Etchemendy himself, who is writing a software program that could
become standard in logic courses nationwide.
Why is all this so revolutionary at a school widely regarded as the
birthplace of the high-tech industry? After all, if one is to believe
the national media, Stanford is an entrepreneur's dream campus. Didn't
Yahoo!, Sun Microsystems and dozens more spring from Stanford brains?