I guess most people on this forum don't like this side, but this is as essential for bringing the new technologies to life as research itself, and the startup model allows fast-tracking things, being largely responsible for the Cambrian explosion of technologies since 20 years or so.
The trouble is, most loudly trumpeted startups over the last 5 years are about new business models and distribution channels, and, sadly, "greater fool" investment (stupid cr@p like photosharing or daily deals). When, for example, a flashy app in Silicon Valley can get $40 million in funding, something that solves real-world problems and requires years to develop in a university will hardly get half a million.
Unfortunately, even the large respected VCs are playing this game now - it is not the same as 1990s. This is why it is great that you are looking specifically for real innovation (which, admittedly, do not bring home much bacon, unless they are heavily promoted), and that the social bubble is finally bursting.
How do you plan investing, acapp0813? If as an angel, it probably makes sense to become a part of an angel group, as due diligence requires both subject matter knowledge and rudimentary corporate governance skills. The general rule is, as these are "high risk / high growth" opportunities, under no circumstances put more than 5% (or 10%, if you're feeling generous and lucky) of your assets in it.
The sad truth is, however, that the angels often get royally screwed.
Your list has three companies. One is not a startup at all (Toyota), it is traded publicly in New York and London, and therefore everyone who wanted to buy its stock already did. Will it go up or down, who knows, that's a question for a gazillion market experts. One thing is sure, it is not a "high risk / high growth" opportunity, and it depends more on the market conditions than on innovations. If I were to guess I'd say it'll go up a bit if it releases a new really working self-driving car (and given that they brought the first mainstream hybrid car, I have trust in them).
Tesla is located in Silicon Valley, heavily promoted, and while released their products, has not yet gone mainstream. I would say it's the least attractive investment target: it is already overhyped and likely overpriced as a company, but still may crash and burn. To make it even worse, the VCs already joined, which means you'll be in a company with tyrannosauruses.
I do not know much about UniQure. It appears to be an early-stage company. Normally, pharma companies take years to go into production mode due to long trial periods, therefore your investment will be speculative for many years to come. According to their website, they got an approval for one product. Great. Still, however, when I visit their website, I see several things which look a bit fishy. I know from personal experience that European startups are normally a lot more wasteful and overpriced than those in the US (Silicon Valley aside), but this one seems to be less prudent than average. 7 (!) directors in the board of directors (one guy is from Leuven - not cool). Audit Commitee. Remuneration Committee. WTF, is this a bank? "We are experiencing seriously increasing interest in gene therapies and related capabilities. Our business model is predicated on partnerships and licensing as a key source of funding. As a consequence we are actively pursuing various business opportunities – both out- and in-licensing." OK, maybe none of these directors ever handled marketing, but this sounds like someone is using words they don't understand - normally not the case with the Dutch. The company has been incorporated barely half a year ago.
This is one of the high-risk / high-yield opportunities, but I would put a lot of effort into due diligence.
In general, don't invest based on the prospective market, but more based on the people involved and the execution.
Edited by Practical Mind, 06 January 2013 - 07:22 AM.