Start-Up Process

Spinning a company out of a University involves can be an intense experience. The VCU Ventures is here to help. Below we’ve listed a checklist that includes the major steps for starting a company. We have also developed a more in-depth guidebook (coming soon) for those who want to know more.

Schedule a meeting with the VCU Ventures today if you have general questions or want to get started.



Disclose your invention / Protect your technology

Disclose your invention to the Innovation Gateway team. This is step one, regardless of the route to commercialization. Remember - if you are faculty or research staff, VCU owns the technology and you’ll need to license it from VCU to start your company. Make sure you work with the Innovation Gateway to file a patent application on the invention before you publish, as once your technology is in the public domain, it cannot be protected. In most cases, start-up companies cannot attract funding if their core technology doesn’t have strong patent protection.
Resource: Fill out invention disclosure form here. Review our Intellectual Property resource guide and contact the Innovation Gateway team to schedule a meeting.

Schedule your initial start-up meeting

After filling out your business model, schedule a meeting with our office and we will review the basics of VCU’s “spin out” process. We will then assign you to one of our start-up guides, who will help you evaluate your business model one-on-one.
Resource: Schedule a meeting with VCU Ventures. Also check out our listing of programs available to faculty entrepreneurs.

Create your business model

If you would like to commercialize your technology through a start-up company, you should first evaluate its potential viability. Start-ups are an exciting but risky business, so taking the time to outline your company’s business model is an important first step. This process will help you to de-risk your business from the start, and help increase your chances of success.
Resource: Review our guides for creating your business model canvas (coming soon) or Business Model Canvas for Medical Devices Guide Book [PDF]. Also, check out this udacity course that takes you through building a business model.

Test your business model – then create a prototype/MVP and test again

Your business model has helped you to outline how your start-up can succeed. Now it’s time to pressure test that model by talking to potential partners, end-users and others that will be involved with your success. Based on the information you get from potential end users, update your business model and outline your initial prototype or Minimal Viable Product. Bring this “product” back to your partners and end-users for more feedback. These steps will help you validate the viability of your business and create early product iterations that will save you significant time and money down the line. Don’t worry - your Start-up guide is here to help you through this process.
Resource: Schedule a follow-up meeting with your start-up guide here. Also check out our listing of programs available to faculty entrepreneurs.

Meet with the Conflict of Interest in Research Team

If you are faculty or research staff, the start-up you’re considering is likely related to the research you’re working on at VCU. Make sure you understand conflict of interest (COI) issues. A COI is not inherently bad, but it needs to be identified and managed.
Resource:Review the COI resource guide for start-ups. Review the COI in Research webpage. Schedule a meeting with the team by emailing

Meet with your Chair to review the OPA policy and to get approvals

Your start-up is going to require some of your time – so you need to get approval from a few people. Meet with your department to review the Outside Professional Activity (OPA) policy, and get approval for your time commitment.

Form your Company

Creating a new company is a fairly simple process, but there are things to consider. Your start-up guide can help you identify advisors and resources that can help you.
Resource: Review our “Company Considerations” resource guide. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your start-up guide here.

Negotiate the License or Option Agreement

Work with VCU Innovation Gateway to obtain a license or option agreement to demonstrate to potential investors that the company has secured the rights to the technology.
Resource: Contact the Innovation Gateway team.

Complete Financial Interest Disclosure Form with AIRS

VCU utilizes the Activity and Interest Reporting System (AIRS) for reporting financial interests of investigators who have responsibility and independence in the design, conduct and reporting of research.
Resource: Click here to connect to AIRS.

Schedule quarterly meetings with your start-up guide

The exciting things about start-ups is they change and evolve everyday. We want to help you succeed wherever we can – we also want to keep up to date on new activities with your company so we can help you identify and manage any new conflict of interest issues. Again, we’re here to help keep things simple, keep you safe and make sure you’re successful.

Surround Yourself with Expertise

Get out and network. Identify other potential mentors, advisors and like-minded entrepreneurs. Learn from your advisors and outline what/who you need to succeed.
Resource: Look through our website. We highlight upcoming events and resources both within VCU and in the greater Richmond region.

Pursue Funding

To advance your company and technology, you will typically need capital to start your business.
Resource: Review our “About Funding Options” resource guide to learn more about what type of funding you want to pursue. You should also review our “Presenting to Investors” resource guide to prepare your pitch to potential investors.