Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stanford inventions

It's no secret that Stanford is an innovation hub, especially in the technology sphere. A quick search through the USPTO database reveals that Stanford holds at least 2,640 patents - and that's not including the patents that have expired. From last year alone, Stanford received over $76.7 million in gross royalty revenue with five of these inventions earning $1 million. Cumulatively, since 1970, Stanford has gained over $1.4 billion in royalty income.

A recent study estimates that companies formed by Stanford entrepreneurs generate revenues of $2.7 trillion annually and have created 39,900 companies and 5.4 million jobs since the 1930s. If gathered collectively into a hypothetical independent nation, these companies would constitute the world's 10th largest economy. In addition to the businesses, Stanford alumni and faculty have also founded over 30,000 non-profit organizations.

Google is perhaps the most well-known invention that has come out of Stanford, generating a record $337 million in royalities for the university. In 1995, 21-year-old Stanford student Sergey Brin met 22-year-old Larry Page when he was asked to show Larry around the campus. Larry was a U Michigan grad and considering Stanford's computer science Ph D program. By the following year, Sergey and Larry were both Ph D students working on the Stanford Digital Libraries Technologies Project and began on a search engine called BackRub. BackRub was run on Stanford's servers until it takes up too much bandwidth. BackRub is renamed Google (a play on "googol") and Sergey and Larry receive a $100,000 cheque from Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim to start their fledgling company. David Cheriton, a Canadian-born computer science professor at Stanford, and Bechtolsheim's friend and business partner, matched his $100,000 contribution. From then on, Google grew from humble beginnings in a garage to a massive campus in Mountain View, Googleplex.

Many other companies have the Stanford touch but were not university creations per se. Sometimes, students create on their own time and out of their own pocket in which case the university does not have any rights to the invention. An example of this would be Yahoo!. And of course, alumni often found companies after departing from the university.

Notable examples:
For a full list, click here.

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