7 2011 ANNUAL REPORT / TECHNOLOGY VENTURE DEVELOPMENT
THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH’S IMPACT
The Startup Effect R
ecent reports make it clear how University of Utah startups are driv- ing economic growth. But you must look beyond the statistics to see
the most important impact: how startups benefit thousands of individuals. These people range from lab technicians, engineers and maintenance workers at some of the most successful startup companies to graduate students who work on the business plans for early stage companies. Their stories demon- strate the importance of university startup activities for Utah’s future.
To shed light on these people’s lives, we interviewed a wide variety of startup employ- ees to see what they do, why they do it and how it has impacted their lives. What follows are some highlights from those interviews. As you will see, the impact of startup activity goes well beyond national rankings, employ- ment statistics and tax revenues. The U’s startup companies provide fulfilling careers, comfortable incomes, valuable experiences for ambitious students and professionals, and a way to contribute to Utah’s growing economy.
Heather Dahn Wintch is one of the many people employed by a U startup. She has a biology degree from the U and has worked as an engineer for SentryX Animal Care since March 2010. The company was established in 2006, currently has six employees and pro- duces a product that is applied to an animal’s wounds for quicker healing.
The job is important to Wintch because it allows her to live where she wants while developing professional skills that will help her for the rest of her career.
“Working for SentrX is very pivotal for me in order to gain industry experience,” she said. “Where would I be if I did not have this posi- tion? I shudder at the thought. Working as an engineer at SentrX is extremely hands-on, which is a good thing; I thrive in this type of environment.”
Arlo McGinn is another U student who is reaping the benefits of the school’s substan- tial startup activity. McGinn is a Ph.D. student in pharmacology and toxicology, and he has
been working with Veritract since its earliest days. The company is developing an optically guided feeding tube.
McGinn started working with Veritract by helping write the business plan as a student project in the Lassonde New Venture Devel- opment program. He is now the company’s director of business and clinical develop- ment. So far, he isn’t getting rich, but he is gaining invaluable experience.
“I know that when I finish my degree, my ex- perience with Veritract will help set me apart from other job candidates,” McGinn said. “With the state of the job market as it is now, just graduating with a degree is not enough to be competitive for the best jobs. My experience with Veritract will demonstrate to other employers that I have applicable real- world experience and know how to apply my education to real problems. It will also indicate that I can hit the ground running and immediately contribute to any company I work with.”
While McGinn is using his experience at a startup company to hone his skills, plenty of others have landed long-term jobs with older and more developed startup companies. Ver- itract is still in early stages of development, so many of the employees work other jobs to pay their bills. But many of the U’s more mature startups employ dozens, hundreds or thousands of people (ARUP, for example, employs 3,000 people), and these companies provide some of the best jobs in the state.
Myriad Genetics is a good example of the most successful companies that have spun off from research at the U. The company develops genetic tests to help diagnose and
U startups provide meaningful jobs
treat illnesses. It was founded in 1991 and employs about 900 people at its headquar- ters in Research Park at the University of Utah.
Among those 900 people is Thaddeus Jud- kins, a supervisor who designs tests to help patients determine their cancer risks. Judkins has worked for Myriad since 2002, shortly after graduating from the U with degrees in anthropology and biology. He appreciates this opportunity and believes startups are a vital part of Utah’s economy.
“They give people who want to stay the opportunity without having to make huge life compromises,” he said. “It is critical to keep this kind of talent around, otherwise the drain becomes self-sustaining as people leave to find better jobs and thereby make it even less likely for the kind of jobs they’re looking for to be created locally.”
Andrew Gotshalk is another employee at one of the more mature U startup companies. He’s the CEO of Blackrock Microsystems, which employs 45. It manufactures and sells neuroscience research equipment. The company was founded in 2008, and its two major products are microelectrode arrays (known as the “Utah array”) and sophisticated data-acquisition systems.
“Early stage jobs are generally very technical and high-level, which helps bring new talent to the area,” Gotshalk said. “Once companies begin to have success, the range of jobs increases dramatically, and this starts to have a real impact on employment.”
Talk to other employees at the U’s many start- up companies – people like B. Brian Kuhlman at Credibility Assessment Technologies, Mike Peoples at INOTEC, Kongnara Papangkorn at Aciont, Richard Lasher at Catheter Connec- tions, Jesse Ford at Zars Pharma, and many more – and they say the same things: Startup companies, like those created at the Univer- sity of Utah, are crucial for their livelihood and personal fulfillment.
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