Vortechs is the leading search firm for organizations seeking Technical, Technology Transfer, and Intellectual Property candidates and staff.  

Glen Gardner shares key differentiators that include: 

  • A niche focus on the technology transfer field 
  • Only focused on the university and national labs side of the business 
  • Placed the CEO of the AUTM (Association of University Technology Managers) which led to great inroads in niche 

Read more about the importance of defining your niche.


The Transcript

Brad Wolff (00:00):

Welcome to the, it is about you podcast today. I’m honored to have as my guest, Glen Gardner, the president of Vortechs Group. Glen, welcome to the show.

Glen Gardner (00:13):

Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

Brad Wolff (00:15):

Absolutely. So if you would tell, tell a little bit about yourself and Vortechs group please.

Glen Gardner (00:24):

Well, I’m, I’m an executive recruiter. I’ve been in this business for 21 years. I started as an information technology recruiter and in about 2003, after the.com bust one of my clients, Patel introduced me to ask me to recruit in the technology transfer technology commercialization arena. And for the past 16, 17 years, I’ve solely focused on that. And to the best of my knowledge, I think I’m the only firm in the world that focuses exclusively on recruiting, technology transfer and commercialization professionals.

Brad Wolff (01:04):

And if you would summarize what that means when you say technology transfer.

Glen Gardner (01:10):

Yeah, it’s kind of a, an obscure term. So when I recruit for is the people that buy, sell and license intellectual property, mainly out of universities and research institutes. So, for example some guy named Larry and Sergei, they were they were professors or they were postdoc students at Stanford university. They invented this really neat search algorithm and Stanford owned the rights to that. And when they wanted to start a company, they went to the technology transfer office at Stanford university and said, Hey, we’ll pay for those patents and and we’ll give you a 3% royalty on everything we make. Well, when, when Google went public, Stanford made $235 million. Those are the people they do those transactions. That’s what I recruit for.

Brad Wolff (02:05):

Wow. That’s, that is a, that that helps put it into very simple terms of what it is. Cause we know there’s an existence. It just, we didn’t have a term for it that this is a specific function where someone actually is in charge. So tell me a little bit about your journey that’s brought you to where you are today in the tech transfer field. Well, you shared that you were an it recruiter.

Glen Gardner (02:30):

Yes, yes. So I started off my, my it career focusing very, very narrow. It seemed like the first, maybe four or five years in business, I placed Microsoft visual C plus plus with MFC. Very, very narrow. Didn’t place Java, people didn’t place PHP. Seemed like all my clients wanted a very specific thing and I figured I wanted to be a the narrowest but deepest person in that field. And it’s carried me on for the past, you know, 21 years being narrow and very deep in, in one specific field. I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to be the best in the world of one thing and one thing only.

Brad Wolff (03:17):

That’s, that’s a good point. And certainly you pick something that not many folks are gonna focus on, so you have the ability to make that, make that happen. The other thing too is I, I have a big head start on everybody. I have a tech transfer person, especially for universities and national laboratories. Yeah. So it’s, it’s not hard when someone says, who do we call? It’s not hard to come up with the name a Vortechs. Exactly. Okay.

Brad Wolff (03:49):

That that makes it, that makes it a quite a

Brad Wolff (03:52):

An attractive niche for you. So what excites you the most about your organization and what you do? [inaudible].

Glen Gardner (04:00):

That’s a good question because when you look at recruiting as a whole, it would seem like a very boring thing. You reach out to people, you call people, you ask them if they are interested in new jobs. But I really embrace the science in, in the tech tech transfer industry. You know, I’ve enjoyed learning about the new cures for cancer, the new algorithms for search the CRISPR technology. So I, I’m a scientist myself by, by training. I’m a nuclear engineer and I’m, I really enjoyed being on the total bleeding edge of science and all the people that are inventing these new inventions are the people that, that commercialize the science. So I think the science keeps me involved and the intersection between science, business and, and, and that’s what I enjoy the most. The people I deal with are just genuinely nice, bright people. The majority of the people I place may have a PhD, an MBA, and a JD. So I’m always the dumbest person in the room, but, but these people as opposed to being extremely bright, they’re also extremely business minded and very, very open and sharing too.

Brad Wolff (05:19):

Right. And they see the value that you bring for them in their career because that’s not their focus. So you add some real value to them when they’re, I’m interested in hearing about something new. That’s a great career move. So, Glenn, what are the things we talked about technology transfer. That’s one of the things that makes you unique and I think it’s fair to say that that does make you very unique and niche. What else is there within the technology transfer field that you do that you feel gives you a real niche and an edge?

Glen Gardner (05:55):

You know, I don’t think this is necessarily with technology transfer. I think it’s what drove me to get into the executive search visit in the first place. A long time ago, I was in the sales training business and I was dealing with some headhunters trying to get into sales positions and realize that these headhunters wouldn’t return a phone call. This was before emails were around, but you just wouldn’t return a phone call wouldn’t meet with me unless I was exactly what they looked for. They wouldn’t think outside the box. So when I started my firm 21 years ago, and when I carry on today, I only place 15 people a year. It’s a very niche industry. So what, what I, I talked to many people, even if they’re not a fit. I’m just this morning I, I talked to a gentleman that I talked to four years ago he interviewed at Clemson university, didn’t get the position another person did, but called me out of the blue. Say, Hey, I remember you’re the tech transfer guy. I’m looking to move on. And where we’re, we’re looking at a totally new business venture that he’s doing. So who knows what, whatever happened. But I find that being an executive recruiter, you really need to, to give people the time of day, even if it’s just short, even if it’s just a quick email, just always follow up and tell people where they stand. Good, bad or indifferent,

Brad Wolff (07:17):

Called respect and consideration. And that’s always valuable. So,

Glen Gardner (07:22):

But, but, but not prominent in our industry, which is a shame,

Brad Wolff (07:25):

Right? Well, you don’t look at people as a commodity. You look at them as people you want on a relationship with a trusted relationship. That’s a big distinction. So share a little bit, I believe you said that you’re specifically focused on the university side of the business. Would you share a little bit of what that what that brings to the table for your clients?

Glen Gardner (07:45):

Yeah. I’m on the technology transfer. On the licensing side, there’s two parties there. There’s the inventor side, which is mainly, that’s what universities are about, doing basic research and, and maybe coming up with new novel inventions. And there’s the industry side. So the industry side may be Samsung and maybe Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, maybe some big pharma. And there’s an intersection between the two. What I found is the universities, most of my clients are universities and national labs and so they really value what I do. And I have such a good, represent a reputation amongst all the universities across the nation. Morally or around the world too. I’m talking to universities in the U K here ready to kick off a search in Australia. We did a search in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia.

Brad Wolff (08:40):

Wow. What internationally you’re the tech transfer guy, not just the mastic, it’s just tech transfer is

Brad Wolff (08:47):

Tech, tech, tech, tech transfer. You know,

Brad Wolff (08:50):

Obviously you need to be able to speak English with them so that the tech transfer internationally that can actually you speak English with

Glen Gardner (08:55):

Well and, and, and once again, when I did that, the three searches in, in the middle East you know, if you spoke Arabic, that was good. But, but over there, most of the people do speak English. And so it was a, it was a challenging three challenging searches in Abu Dhabi Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Brad Wolff (09:15):

Wow. How do you say tech transfer in Arabic?

Glen Gardner (09:17):

You know, I, I don’t really know that, but I was looking at what commercialization was in Latin cause I was looking at, at, at a new website name and but, but that, that name commercialization and Latin was already the.com was already taken. So, but Arabic is poor.

Brad Wolff (09:38):

Okay. You know what, that’s not going to be one of your niche strengths that we’re going to talk about today. No. So maybe the next time we’ll talk about how you’ve added Arabic to your niche. So tech transfer an Arabic, there’s no one else in the world that can touch you. So, so tell me if there is, is there any really key placements that you’ve made that’s been pivotal to your success?

Glen Gardner (10:03):

Yes. well there was a chain of events when I was doing a lot of big dis, big universities. I think you know, we [inaudible] when Duke university when, when we kicked off the search to find the executive director of technology transferred Duke university, that that was a nice and ice climbing. Although we’ve worked with many, many universities all over, all over the world. And then about that same time or after that the association of tech transfer professional, it’s called autumn AUTM autumn.net, the association of university technology managers, they had known me for a long time. I’m a staple at their conferences. They called me to actually find their CEO of their professional organization. That was a, that’s a real pivotable pivotable pivotal search for me because everybody wanted their point heard. So I could call the executive director at Stanford.

Glen Gardner (11:10):

I’d call the executive director at Yale called the executive director at MIT, even though they weren’t clients, they all wanted to know who they wanted it to be, the next CEO of autumn. So what the association paid me was one thing, but, but what I got out of it from a recruiter was worth three times what they paid for me. So it kind of solidified my, my name of my firm as the GoTo recruiting firm in tech transfer. And then about this the same time a tech transfer company out of the UK called Ted capital. They acquired their publicly traded company on the London A I M exchange under the, the the S the ticker T E K a. They acquired my firm for a cash in stock a cash and stock purchase. And that, that, that was a, that was a, a big vote of confidence for my firm to wow.

Brad Wolff (12:08):

Wow. So that is a great success story. That’s, that’s had a real impact on on your success in the tech transfer field. I’m a big believer that quite frankly, failures and obstacles are key to, to strengthening our character and pro catapulting us to success. Do you have a particular failure obstacle you’ve overcome that’s been pivotal to your success?

Glen Gardner (12:31):

Why? I’ve tried to block the failure from me, but, but yes, I do. I got into recruiting in 1998 and went right into the.com boom and just did really well right off the bat. Made a ton of money. And in the 2000 the.com bust the 2001, 2002 timeframe. I probably should’ve claimed bankruptcy. I mean, I’m kind of embarrassed about it, but I second mortgage the house, I ran up all the credit cards and all the things that crazy entrepreneur did and, and somehow I made it through and paid it all off.

Glen Gardner (13:06):

But when the recession of 2008 hit, I was very, very, very, very conservative. And that was my, my, my painful learning lesson in the dotcom era carried me over to 2008 and today I’m still very, very conservative about how I operate my business and how I spend my money.

Brad Wolff (13:27):

Yeah, you definitely sounds like a painful lesson was learned.

Glen Gardner (13:30):

It was.

Brad Wolff (13:31):

So, Glenn, is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t discussed?

Glen Gardner (13:38):

No, just the, the, the one thing that I’m trying to learn more from other recruiters. The big thing, the big thing that I’m seeing with my clients right now are diversity and inclusion. And I’m trying to personally learn more myself about that to be a better diversity and inclusion recruiter. It’s been a very big issue with myself, my clients and I guess the fact that it’s myself and, and three very, very bright females on my team.

Glen Gardner (14:09):

So I think we have a diverse team over here, but I’m just trying to become more aware of diversity recruiting. That’s my mission for 2020 and just to continue on with, with learning more and, and, and kind of learning more about organization structures within universities to add more value to the tech transfer offices amongst universities.

Brad Wolff (14:34):

That’s a great point. Can I make one little suggestion to you?

Glen Gardner (14:36):


Brad Wolff (14:37):

Okay. So given what you said about diversity, inclusion and inclusion from now on, maybe call yourself a tech transfer person.

Glen Gardner (14:45):

person. There you go.

Brad Wolff (14:47):

So especially on diversity and inclusion, that’s artist.

Glen Gardner (14:54):

or person recruiter headhunter. I’m okay with all the terms,

Brad Wolff (14:59):

but not the, not the tech transfer guy anymore. You’ll correct people when they say the tech transfer guy personally know that,

Glen Gardner (15:05):

that that’s, that’s, that’s a good tip. Thank you very much.

Brad Wolff (15:08):

Hey, you know what? I’m here to help. So what is your website to share with your audience?

Glen Gardner (15:14):

Www.Vortechsgroup.Com and that’s Vortechs spelled a little bit different. V, O R, T E C H, S as in Sam group, like Vortechs, like a swirling mass, which sucks things into the metal. I thought that was a kitschy when I started my company 21 years ago.

Brad Wolff (15:34):

I think so, especially with your audience. Absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing your time, your knowledge, and your personality with the audience. And it’s been an honor to be able to share this time with you. Thank you.

Glen Gardner (15:47):

Thank you Brad. Best wishes to all people out there. Thank you.