Start-ups have become all the rage among University of Utah professors, who have helped make Salt Lake City a biomedical capital. But not every inventive researcher is cut out to be an entrepreneur -- a fact that has led to yet another start-up, University Biomedical Technologies Inc. The company sets up and runs new ventures to exploit products designed by people who don't want to manage. Since last summer, president Larry Rigby has started four companies, taking equity in each.
Judy Wagner learned how not to recruit a new employee when a company that was interviewing her husband sent her on a tour of shopping malls instead of helping her find a new job. Now her firm, Access Philadelphia, keeps clients from making the same mistake. While a company woos a prospective employee, says Wagner, "I go after the spouse." After researching their interests, she introduces spouses to civic groups, job contacts, and real estate agents. Wagner plans to franchise the business.
"People are generally lazy," says Devin McRae, who intends to make a bundle exploiting Homo televisionus, a species that sits entranced before a TV half the day. Many retailers rent movies these days, but some, like McRae's Mobile Movies Inc., go one step farther: It delivers to your door. Working out of 12 offices in Ohio, Mobile Movies netted $500,000 in its first six months, says McRae. Just don't expect it to pick up a pizza on the way over.
George Boesen and Mike Mikalauskis developed tiny air conditioners to cool sensitive electronic controls. But their division lost money, and Borg-Warner Corp. wanted to discontinue the product just as sales began to take off. So the two men pledged their houses as collateral, bought the division, and renamed it Thermoelectric Cooling America Corp. The name isn't melodic, but the sound of the cash register is: The Chicago company increased sales 50% over the division's year-earlier figure, and turned a profit.
The horse business is a high roller's game of racetracks and breeding rights. Yet 80% of American horses are used for recreation, and most are bred by small farms, which pay $2,000 in shipping costs to unite a mare and a stallion. Hamilton Equine Systems Inc., of Wenham, Mass., developed a briefcase-size container that lets owners ship the semen instead of the mare. The $179 container preserves semen for 40 hours.