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The ‘American Pickers’ of Aerospace Technology

Catalyze Dallas commercializes intellectual property from some of the country's leading defense contractors and industrial companies.
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Catalyze Dallas Tricia and Joe D'Cruz

In the television show, American Pickers hosts Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe sift through warehouses, barns, and storage sheds looking for lost or valuable antiques. The owners may not know the value of their possessions, or perhaps they aren’t inclined to do the legwork needed to sell the item. 

Joe and Tricia D’Cruz are the American Pickers of the intellectual property world, working with defense contractors and industrial companies to bring proprietary technology to market. With extensive experience in start-ups and early-stage businesses as well as leading divisions of multi-national corporations, they have built an advisory board that helps them identify needs in the marketplace with their company Catalyze Dallas. 

Finding these products, identifying their use, and then staffing new companies to market the products are multi-year engagements that require industry expertise and strong relationships with the C-suite in these companies.

Catalyze Dallas identifies leadership for the new company, raises funding to purchase the technology, and manages the client companies’ relationship. In meetings with corporate leaders, Joe says they address a few issues. “Here’s what the product is, here’s what problem we’re going to address with within your organization or industry, and how that solution set is going to solve that problem.”

In meetings with clients like Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, they analyze companies’ technology, identifying products that could be useful in other industries or products.

Many defense contractors and industrial companies create materials and technology for niche use within their business, but the products get abandoned after implementation. Catalyze Dallas brings these products to market, obtaining rights to the technology, and creating companies that market the product to other industries.

“Some of the coolest intellectual property that was very far along with development in use in the military sector happened to fit squarely into the commercial market,” Tricia says. 

In Lockheed’s development of the F-35 jet, they spent $50 million developing material for the wing tip that was lighter, stronger. It could better withstand temperature fluctuation than the current material, improving efficiency along the way. Catalyze Dallas launched Alpine Advanced Materials to market the material, beginning at an airline interior exposition in Germany in 2019. 

“They’re very niche-focused, and they’re very siloed,” Joe says. “You can have a great invention that was developed for a niche application. But other divisions don’t know about it. What we are able to do is identify those niche opportunities because we had a broader aperture into commercial markets than a typical defense contractor.”

Catalyze Dallas has identified aerospace products that have been successfully marketed to gun and scope manufacturers, oil and gas companies, and other aviation companies. Many of these materials are lightweight, impervious to temperature or chemicals, and strong enough to be used in various industries. 

Catalyze’s model is comprehensive, and they are looking to grow. “When we take those assets out, we bootstrap new companies from the ground up. We provide them with all the shared services that they might need to get going. We hire the team; we provide the seed finding ourselves. And we often have a very prestigious advisory board that surrounds that early team with good advice. And then we do it again. That is the model.”

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