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Technology transfer lets you shop for existing technology and commercialize it yourself, but such programs can be risky

If you just can't come up with a great idea for your next venture, you can shop for one. So-called technology transfer lets you license existing technology from a university or federal laboratory and then use your own resources to commercialize it. These sorts of programs can be great options, but they're very risky. And it can take years before a product derived from the technology starts to bring in cash.

But the biggest question is whether you personally are a good fit for tech transfer. David Allen, associate vice-president for technology transfer at the University of Colorado, says the ideal candidate is an experienced entrepreneur with a solid understanding of the technology they'll be bringing to market. That's not to say newcomers can't make a go of it—if they can find a way to fill that knowledge gap. Kris Appel was with the National Security Agency for 17 years, but she always wanted to be an entrepreneur. In 2005 she saw a flyer for a program at the University of Maryland that helps women entrepreneurs exploit technology-related opportunities. "I never would have tried this without the program," Appel says.

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