Why does all this matter?

This blog post is the final instalment of a three part series in which Ian Siragher the Business Development Director of Agenda1 Analytical Services has compared the structure of two types of organisation, CAT groups & Boss Companies and tried to unravel what characteristics they display. If this is the first time you’ve visited the blog click here to read part one.

Having been involved firstly in banking (LloydsTSB), then for the last 10 years in the R&D arena, currently as a director of Agenda 1 Analytical Services, I have had the chance to observe hundreds of businesses. These observations have coalesced over time whilst reflecting on many of the successful and less successful businesses I have seen. It is my observation that the failures (defined as having failed to see their product successfully sustained in the market place) display many CaT characteristics, whereas the success stories are more likely to display Boss characteristics.

I also feel the distinction is important because CaT businesses can damage the product development market because:

They distort the market for investor funds; by being high risk the cost of capital for all R&D businesses (CaT and Boss) is similarly high.

They distort the way infrastructure is developed and used. Traditional Scientific Incubator units have been developed to support the CaT business model, and this can encourage the profligate use of resources and the garnering of equipment, staff, and resources in the face of more Boss like (virtual business) models.
They disrupt the flow of discovery and invention. Distracting great scientists and research teams by encouraging them to spin out into new companies is arguably a great disservice. Force fitting inventors into the suits of entrepreneurs, requiring them to become business people, robs academia, students and universities of key resources.

They distort how universities approach commercialization.  The technology commercialization model, sees universities who believe in it focussed on maintaining a large percentage of  ownership and seeking a lion’s share of the revenue, arguing that without the discovery there would be no business. The technology is the starting point.  Smart university IP teams will be more flexible, recognising that it is just as arguable that without the business there will be no technology. Such teams will make smarter deals, apparently accepting lower royalties, but balanced against the lower risks that come with a Boss approach.

I have proposed here a black and white world of two types of businesses, but of course the world is not that simple. My intention is to spark a debate. I offer a measure against which any interested party can assess their own, or other businesses and decide if my thoughts are of value. I have deliberately cited no examples or case studies because the devil is always in the detail and any generalized assertion that Business A is “CaT” or “Boss” is a distraction from the intention, which is to offer a hypothesis, I ask interested parties to test the ideas.

Finally, the views are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect the views of colleagues within the Agenda 1 group.