General Electric Catches Entrepreneurs' Pitches

FAIRFIELD, Conn. ( TheStreet) -- General Electric ( GE) adopted the slogan "Imagination at Work" seven years ago, stressing the company's focus on innovation.

GE filed for more than 2,500 patents in 2007 alone, and the company's global research unit sports more than 2,800 employees, more than a third of whom have doctorate degrees. Though the majority of the imagination happens within the company, General Electric offers opportunities, and capital, to entrepreneurs who have ideas to pitch.

"While GE has some of the world's best in-house research capabilities, it's important to stay connected with great technology all over the globe," says Todd Alhart, a spokesman for General Electric Global Research. "We always welcome new ideas from inventors and entrepreneurs."

Outsiders can reach out to GE through the company's venture group or what's called the Submitted Ideas Operation.

Venture Capital: General Electric has two in-house VC units, focused on energy and health care, and competition is fierce.

The energy group, part of GE Energy Financial Services, reviews about 1,000 business plans a year, according to Alhart, and invested in only 22 companies over the past four years. But those investments are significant. For example, between 2006 and 2008, the company put $30 million in battery-technology maker A123 Systems ( AONE), which went public last fall.

The latest venture effort is the Healthymagination Fund, which sports a silly name but deep pockets. Launched last fall, the $250 million equity fund focuses on entrepreneurial efforts in broad-based diagnostics, health-care information technology and life sciences. The Healthymagination fund is overseen by the senior officials in the company's Global Research, Healthcare and Capital divisions.

"We keep a very close eye on emerging technologies and try to connect with companies where there is a mutual benefit for technology development and growth of our respective businesses," Alhart says.

Entrepreneurs seeking funding should submit a proposal with a revenue model, historical and projected financials, expected use of funds and management background as well as, importantly, a description of how their startup fits in with a specific product or service from GE Healthcare. Initial inquiries should be sent to

Submitted Ideas Operation: In publishing houses, unsolicited manuscripts start out, and often end up, on what's known as "the slush pile." The Submitted Ideas Operation is GE's version of the slush pile. Located at the company's headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., the segment handles unsolicited ideas.

The submission process is less formal, and less potentially lucrative, than that of the equity fund. GE is careful to explain on the Web site that the terms of submission aren't ideal for an entrepreneur looking for significant financial compensation or intellectual-property protection. The company says it has no obligation to keep the submitter's idea a secret and that, except for claims of patent infringement, GE has the unrestricted right to use and disclose any submitted ideas and materials.

GE will award an honorarium to any submitter whose ideas are incorporated by the company, but not a big one.

"The amount of the honorarium will be established according to the company's reasonable judgment, but it will not in any event exceed $5,000," according to the terms of submission.

Entrepreneurs who still wish to send ideas to the Submitted Ideas Operation can do so via two online forms, one marked "if no payment is desired" and the other "if compensation is expected."

Those who for whatever reason do not desire payment should know that the first form includes this disclaimer: "By completing and submitting this form, you confirm to us that your submission is freely offered and we will be able to go forward with consideration of your idea, even if you have a patent covering your idea."

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

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