Stay connected. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Finding the Next Big Thing: Identifying New Technologies for Acquisition & Investment

When it comes to startups, increasingly their most likely exit is acquisition by a bigger company, rather than going public (“Acqui-Hiring: The New Normal in Talent Acquisition”). This trend has been developing for years, and includes many of the largest exits in the Philadelphia region, including LiquidHub (CapGemini), Spark Therapeutics (Roche), and iPipeline (Roper Technologies).

These acquisitions have one thing in common: they were expensive for the purchasing company. So how is the corporate environment adapting? By moving earlier and earlier to identify technologies externally that will help them stay competitive, or technologies that will enable them to solve specific, identified problems. Those acquisitions have developed: OneTwoSee (Comcast), SnipSnap (Slyce; Humai), ApprenNet (; Instructure), and HeavyWater (Black Knight).

So, if you’re a large company, how do you identify a small company that solves a big problem? At the Science Center, we are increasingly seeing two trends. The first is outsourced venture capital that blends corporate needs with industry professionals. To underline that point, Touchdown Ventures, a New Jersey-based company that has been among the fastest growing venture firms in the country in recent years, is building a repeatable way to help identify corporate blind spots for corporate behemoths, including managing new funds from Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bentley Systems, and T-Mobile.

For those looking for earlier-stage deals, the Science Center, too, has been leveraging its place in regional and national startup ecosystems by helping identify technologies with commercial promise that would otherwise be considered way-too-early. In one instance, a global pharmaceutical company engaged the Science Center to help identify therapeutic technologies out of our existing network of universities and research institutions. While that company initially wanted to identify one useable technology to partner with, they received more than 30 viable options and ultimately identified three technologies to move forward with. The result? A five-fold increase in investment for multiple new technologies. Any of those technologies could be “the next big thing” that helps drive the company forward to its next blockbuster therapeutic or revolutionary treatment.

In another instance, a federal agency wanted to get ahead of the curve when responding to health and security threats. They engaged the Science Center to identify new technologies that would help speed responses to a pandemic outbreak, and help diagnose and cure specific diseases. Those technologies, if and when selected, then have the opportunity to build and develop with non-dilutive grant money, milestone development plans, and potentially a first, very large customer.

Many of the technologies that the Science Center helped identify for these two customers were way-too-early for traditional corporate engagement – it’s not so easy to google and identify cutting edge research or prototype still in a university lab. However, identifying new technologies to build the next big thing is a trend that is increasing exponentially, and established companies are looking for viable ways to build new technologies earlier and obtain options on their future growth with meaningful relationships, more than ever.

A core mission of the Science Center is getting promising new technologies to market faster. As these two instances illustrate, corporate innovation departments will continue to seek out the next new thing. In doing so, they’ll look for assistance building teams, to achieve milestones and reduce costs by engaging outside organizations such as ours.

Want to learn more?

Email us