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Key Idea: Find The Right Idea

Entrepreneurs Brian Kissel and Venkat Krishnamurthy took us to the Stanford Engineering Venture Fund Laboratories to see their invention.

Key Question:


Find the right idea!  Sounds simple but it is nearly impossible.  We only say this because about 3 million American try to start a business every year.  The number of companies has remained steady over the last decade so we know that every idea just doesn't make it.  And, many ideas make it small but only a tiny fraction make it big.

Q:  How did Brian and Venkat gain confidence to start Paraform?

A:  Venkat is the engineer and he kept working on the technical problems while Brian, who has an MBA, worked on the business plan.  He tried to figure out who the customers would be, how big the market could be, how much it would cost to serve the customers and what kind of investment they needed.  This exercise took six months.

Think about it

What do you already know a lot about?  In that field, where are the service or product gaps?  Are you near a university that may be coming up with great ideas that need to be exploited?

Clip from: The Enterprise Network

Santa Clara and San Jose, California: Silicon Valley is famous for technology startups and its goal is to never lose the distinction of being "the place" for innovation. The Enterprise Network (TEN) houses over a dozen start-ups working to bring new technologies to the marketplace. At TEN they find low-cost office space and mentors who guide them. You will meet the men who run the incubator and a number of the entrepreneurs who depend upon the leadership and camaraderie offered here.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, there are about 5,000 incubators worldwide with about 1,100 in the US. 

We chose this incubator because it became famous during the dot-com boom and it is situated  close to Stanford University. 

Stanford was early to the idea of technology licensing.  Technology licensing has assisted faculty and students in the process of launching companies which in turn have created thousands of jobs and brought millions of dollars into Stanford University.  Stanford enjoys the "success breeds success" principal so things are popping there.   In this program we go to the campus to see how one PhD student is working to commercialize his discoveries.

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The Enterprise Network (TEN)

Mark Godwin, President & CEO

Access Growth LLC
2953 Bunker Hill Lane Suite 400
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Visit our web site:

Office: 408-893-4500
Toll Free: 877-256-4500

Business Classification:
Business Incubator - NGO

Year Founded: 1993

Find The Right Idea

BRIAN KISSEL (CEO, Paraform): We make software for converting physical objects to digital models to be used in industrial design and animation applications.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Brian Kissel and his partner, Venkat Krishnamurthy, started at The Enterprise Network and will soon be ready to leave the nest. Brian and Venkat are licensing their technology from nearby Stanford University, where we went to the Computer Graphics Lab.

VENKAT KRISHNAMURTHY: So, Hattie, here's an example of the kind of object we can scan into the computer, which would be really difficult to model if you didn't have technology like ours. You shoot a stripe of laser light on it, and then you image that laser light onto a couple of CCD cameras, which gives you a silhouette of depth.

BRIAN: What we can do here is show you how the scanner works to capture the data and then what our software does to post-process the scanning.

VENKAT: I'm going to show you one single scan on the screen. As the object translates in front of that sheet of laser light, successive silhouettes of depth are captured. So that, if you will, is one 3-D photograph from one direction. So what our software does is allows you to take multiple photographs, put it all together to make a nice, complete object.

BRIAN: And that's where our software comes in is the ability to merge together these multiple images into one very high-resolution, complete model. And then the second step of what we do is to take that one model and parameterize it so that it's more usable in a dynamic way.

HATTIE: You can use that image that--the one you put together and modify it.

BRIAN: Right. Exactly.

VENKAT: Actually, it's all mathematical calculations.

BRIAN: That's the big breakthrough.

HATTIE: So the 3-D software helps us see what the Energizer Bunny looks like all the way around.

BRIAN: Exactly. The technology has been in development for quite some time, several years. But the notion of creating a business around the technology is relatively new. I had really wanted to start my own company and actually wanted to try to license something out of Stanford University.

HATTIE : All right. How do you do that? I mean,
how do you create a business around technology?

BRIAN: Well, for us, it was trying to figure out how big the market opportunity was, and really whether this technology could be the basis for a business. So that required, you know, doing market research, determining what the technology could do, who the potential customers were, what they'd pay for it, how big the market was, how much it was going to cost us to develop the capabilities to serve those customers, what kind of investment we would need, what kind of return it would provide for the investors.

So there's a fair amount of research, a good six months of work, that we did--going to trade shows, doing literature searches, talking to professionals in the industry, talking to potential customers to try to really understand what the opportunity was and how the technology that we had and the competencies that we've had could be relevant for those opportunities.

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