An economic downturn for Dow Chemical Co. 15 years ago turned out to be a blessing for one of its engineers, Chris Edwards, who had been working on a composites technology the company was no longer interested in commercializing.
At a meeting in 2002, Edwards recalls then-Dow CEO William Stavropoulos announced: "If it's not profitable today, and it's not profitable tomorrow, it's going to be gone Wednesday."
Maybe I can buy my patents back, Edwards thought. His work on a lightweight thermoplastic polyurethane composite that could mimic drywall had generated about a dozen patents, and he hated the idea of all of that just hitting a dead end.
"It was kind of a weird product. It was never going to be that $10 billion a year product the company wanted," he said.
So he broached the idea to his bosses of buying the patents from the company.
Reluctant at first, Dow told him he'd have to get third-party validation of commercial potential in the form of a venture-capital investment, Edwards said. Enter Lindsay Aspegren, a partner in North Coast Technology Investors LP, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based venture capital firm with an office in Midland, Mich., and deep ties to Dow.