I met with Paul Cataford today … he’s the President and CEO of University Technologies International (UTI).
Although sharing building space with CTI (Calgary Technologies Inc.) at the Alistair Ross Technology Centre, and having the similarities of a 3 letter acronymed name, UTI and CTI have very distinct and different missions.
While CTI is a publicly funded venture focused on economic expansion, UTI is a private organization (owned by both the University of Calgary and private investors) focused on incubating deep science technologies to turn them into viable companies: “Mission: To be recognized as the premier technology transfer, commercialization and incubation centre in Canada by bringing innovation to life.”
I spent almost an hour with Paul, and he’s the type of leader that quickly turns you into an evangelist for what he’s doing. After spending 15 years in Silicon Valley as a venture capitalist, he’s laser focused on his “deep science incubation strategy because it’s a sustainable competitive advantage.”
Especially in a place like Calgary, which, as he states “lacks the DNA required for ‘time to market’ ventures.” In other words, if companies are participating in a high-tech play where’s there’s chances that 8 or 9 other companies elsewhere are also running for the finish line, the Calgary company will probably lose (although as he mentions, there are exceptions to that rule, thankfully!). In Silicon Valley, “time to market companies became well funded quickly, and could ramp up 250 developers in 12 months.” In Calgary, funding typically can’t ramp up that quickly (or to that size), nor is the talent pool big enough to get that many developers on board in that period of time.
Having been in a successful vertical high-tech company myself in Calgary (and having immersed myself back into high-tech for that last 4 months here), I’m not sure I completely agree with his perception. Which is irrelevant, of course. Great leaders need to have the conviction of well articulated, focused strategies and the team that can execute. UTI has both.
There have been a number of success stories from UTI since it’s inception in 1989, most of which are in the biotech or oil and gas industries. They currently are incubating 12 firms, 1/2 of which are from technology from the University, the other 1/2 from outside the University.
In 2007, UTI formed their “IGNITE” division, which includes Executives In Residence that can build and scale technology based companies with project management and market / business analysts. Combined with the existing UTI resources of accounting, administration, licensing, and Intellectual Property protection, IGNITE is forming companies to develop products, strategic plans and teams around intellectual property and proprietary technology.
UTI announced today: University Technologies International celebrates IGNITE’s one-year anniversary with over $6 million in financing for two companies Profero Energy Inc. received $5M over 2.5 years … their technology is designed to recover additional energy assets from existing heavy oil wells that are no longer economically viable. The other company, Circle Cardiovascular Imaging has received $1.3M to move their cmr(42) software into beta sites. cmr(42) is image processing software that facilitates efficient quantitative evaluation of cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) studies.
And, in the announcement, you can see that UTI’s strategy is on target: combining deep science with experienced and qualified teams.
Paul rushed off to his next high-energy, intense meeting … and I, of course, paused for a cup of steaming hot joe.