New SEC Program to Match Entrepreneurs, University Startups

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.  — The University of Alabama, along with the rest of the Southeastern Conference, is launching the Southeast Executives-on-Roster, or XOR, platform.

Southeast XOR is a collaboration between SEC universities, which jointly created the XOR Platform to broaden access to experienced entrepreneurial talent and to match that talent to university-affiliated startups in need of executive management.

“This collaboration opens up opportunities for our students and faculty to expand the reach of their leading-edge technology while also helping local entrepreneurs to find partnerships across the Southeast,” said Dr. John C. Higginbotham, UA interim vice president for research and economic development. “This truly is a win-win.”

Cities in the South, oftentimes, have relatively fewer experienced entrepreneurs with specific industry talent and expertise with knowledge-based startups. To help address this need, universities in the Southeastern Conference are attacking this challenge cooperatively by participating in an “exchange” that will match qualified entrepreneurs with university affiliated opportunities, said Dr. Rick Swatloski, director of UA’s Office for Technology Transfer.

“The goal is to leverage the networks of all SEC universities in an effort to match talent with startups who are commercializing the intellectual property developed at UA,” he said.

This project started with a discussion at the annual meeting of the SEC Technology Transfer Directors in July 2017. After the discussion, the University of Kentucky’s Office of Technology Commercialization led a year-long collaborative development process with technology transfer offices at all 14 SEC universities.

This process included choosing a software platform development partner, creating the core principles for the platform, designing the specifications for the platform, drafting a guidebook to govern the platforms use and operations and recruiting and qualifying entrepreneurs and startups to populate the system for its pilot launch.

The software platform was developed by Wellspring, a technology commercialization software development company.

Each SEC university’s research scope is broader and more diverse than the immediately accessible entrepreneur and capital networks. There exists a need to better match university startup companies with both. By combining the entrepreneur talent networks of all participating universities, startup companies will have access to a larger talent pool whose members have been vetted by other SEC schools.

Southeast XOR should improve the likelihood startups will find fundable executive management and, ultimately, success. Similarly, Southeast XOR entrepreneurs looking for the next opportunity will have a larger pipeline of opportunities available in a portal only accessible to member entrepreneurs.

This announcement marks the first day that more than 50 select entrepreneurs will be given access to the platform to begin searching through the profiles of more than 35 initial university startups in the system. Additional interested entrepreneurs may access the platform through an application and qualification process.

After discussing the merits of the platform with each of the respective inventors, UA’s Office for Technology Transfer has helped its inventors to submit four startups in need of management support to the platform, Swatloski said.

An example includes LiteWater, a UA startup based on ultra-violet disinfection of drinking water invented by Drs. Patrick Kung and Mark Elliot in the UA College of Engineering. In addition, the office has prequalified four experienced entrepreneurs, including UA alumni and members of the Tuscaloosa community, to access the system and continues to seek additional interested individuals.

Along with UA, members of the SEC include Auburn University, Louisiana State University, Mississippi State University, Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, University of Mississippi, University of Missouri, University of South Carolina, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University.

For more information about the Southeast XOR, please contact the UA Office of Tech Transfer or visit the program’s website at ott.ua.edu/southeast-xor/.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.