Intellectual Ventures has been in business since 2000, led by former Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold, with a bunch of different lab spaces filled with scientists working on all sorts of crazy high-tech projects — fueled in part by brainstorming sessions with the likes of Bill Gates.
This morning, Intellectual Ventures announced the latest fruit of that research, a spinoff company called Kymeta that will produce high-tech antennas based on metamaterials, making it easier for planes and other moving vehicles to receive broadband Internet connections from satellites.
And yet it’s only the second company that Intellectual Ventures has spun off in its 12 years in business. For a company that specializes in “invention capital,” that seems like a meager tally — potentially providing more fodder to critics of the company and its massive patent holdings.
So why haven’t there been more Intellectual Ventures spinoffs? Here’s how Casey Tegreene, Intellectual Ventures’ executive vice president and chief patent officer, answered our question:
“Spin-outs are just one way we monetize our portfolio. Among the others are licensing to companies interested in developing products based on our technologies and broad licensing to industry generally, which we’ve been extremely active with the last few years. Another approach we take to commercialization is to collaborate with companies to develop inventions that solve their current or future problems.
“Another factor in our timing is that we can take a longer-range view on technology than most companies. We often deliberately invent around emerging technology that’s several years out – both from a technology development perspective and in terms of market opportunities. We started inventing in 2003, so some of our early work is reaching the point where we have the IP, market conditions and mature technology to support spin-out companies and product development. We already have a few others in the works around other metamaterials inventions and other technologies.”
The other Intellectual Ventures spinoff was TerraPower, a company working an alternative nuclear reactor. Gates is an investor in both TerraPower and Kymeta.
Based in Redmond, Kymeta is led by Vern Fotheringham, a well-known Seattle-area entrepreneur who founded Advanced Radio Telecom. State corporations records list two Intellectual Ventures executives, Todd McIntyre and Eben Frankenberg, as directors of Kymeta along with Fotheringham. (Update: McIntyre and Frankenberg were part of the team that set Kymeta up to be spun off, but IV says they don’t have roles in the startup now that it’s on its own.)
Kymeta has big growth plans — already employing 15 people and aiming to add 75 more over the next year, primarily engineers, according to a spokesman.
For more on Intellectual Ventures, CNet News has an extensive behind-the-scenes look at the company today. Also see our recent interview with Myhrvold.
Note: IV’s date of founding corrected since original post.