Natasha Rawlings, Investment Manager at Uniseed helps our academics create businesses from research opportunities.
In the university world, Natasha Rawlings, Uniseed Investment Manager, stands out as a welcome interloper, bridging the chasm of research with commerce and industry.
Natasha understands both researchers and investors which is why she can successfully straddle the worlds of academia and industry, to support emerging early-stage start-ups. Uniseed, a seed fund developed by universities and CSIRO, creates businesses from Australian research opportunities.
Natasha does not portray the usual image of an investor. As a tech start-up CEO, it was unusual to see a woman pitching for money. Now, as an investor, she sees that things are changing in the start-up world and university space. “It is great to see more female researchers pitching their inventions to Uniseed, and generally more women start-up CEOs and leaders emerging.”
The biggest obstacle facing a successful commercialisation of a product that has been through the rigours of research, is when researchers and investors speak two separate languages. Researchers are focussed on their grants and research outcomes. Investors are looking for a commercial pitch, a business proposition, and how the research will solve a customer pain point.
Investors usually need to tap into the commercial opportunities within the research proposition, which researchers often do not explore. Since there is a high business and technical risk for early-stage research, investors like Uniseed look for 10 times their return on investments. “Most researchers don’t understand,” says Natasha “that developing the commercial opportunity will take more time and money to be successful than the original invention.”
Deciphering these opportunities are Uniseed’s forte. “We are well versed in this process and have completed 57 deals over the last 20 years,” she says. “We are experienced in dealing with researchers who do not speak a business language. Our job is to really understand if there is a customer problem to solve, that people will be happy to pay for.”
“What we look for in researchers that we invest in, is that they are passionate about their area of expertise and the problem they are solving. They also need to be deeply knowledgeable about the customer they are serving with their proposed solution.”
Natasha’s role is to help researchers navigate an alien landscape and act as a conduit between academia and commercialisation. She helps academics right from the initial consultation all the way through to receiving seed funding from Uniseed. This includes creating network opportunities, helping strategy development, provide mentoring and help identify commercial partners.