Wolfang, I work with a company that is doing almost exactly what you are talking about. It's not easy, but can be done. It's not a typical investment scenario, especially for VC. In our case, the founder was able to find a couple of super-angels that believed in the vision and team, to provide some funding at the holding company level. One was a high net worth person who had just finished a successful career in the relevant industry segment and got excited by the potential for the new technology. Another was the owner of a successful, established mid-size business with substantial discretionary cash flow and interest in alternative investments.
The holding company operates extremely leanly. All key players' comp is significantly equity- or success-fee-based. We use a lot of contractors, so we can carefully apply cash when and where needed. The general strategy is to develop high-quality prototypes, as inexpensively as possible, while simultaneously building patent portfolios. We then evaluate multiple monetization strategies, and select one based on the nature of the technology and potential use cases. Sometimes we spend time on research to identify companies who we know would benefit from the innovation, develop a presentation on the technology, work to find the right people at each company, and offer a partnership or acquisition, where we are providing patents, development work and know-how, and potentially post-transaction engineering support. This process is not unlike what a business broker might do marketing a business to strategic buyers. In some circumstances, we might instead spin out a startup and try to drum up investor interest, not unlike any other startup. And in some circumstances, we evaluate opportunities for pure patent licensing or patent sale, which is a whole other marketplace. Each strategy has different tradeoffs in terms of necessary time investment, necessary financial investment and potential return.