I wanted to update this post. We obtained an advisory opinion from the Texas State Securities Board. It is ok to identify and vet scientifically promising technologies for the purpose of investing. So long as you are not involved in the sale of securities whether it be private or public shares of a company. The law is complicated and varies depending on what state you live in. Often one runs afoul of the dealer broker regulations when an outside and independent individual (of the a given company; w/o a series 7 license), not a majority owner of the target company or an employee of a financial institution, tries act to raise money, acquire, or sell a company for his own benefit or the benefit of the employees of that company. Of note, VCs, angel investors, private equity and business brokers routinely engage in these financial activities and they are NOT licensed dealer brokers by FINRA. The requirements vary from state to state; in most states, one should register as a "finder" when acting as a technical advisor for a financial institution and in states like CA, one needs a real estate license and "a finder's" registration to be a business broker. In WA, one needs just a typical real estate license to a business broker. However, a typical technology advisor for a financial institution (VC, angel investor, private equity, or business broker) doesn't need a dealer broker license (unless they sell securities). Even if you wanted to get a dealer broker license, these financial institutions don't have a mechanism to sponsor one for a license; which means to get a dealer broker license, one would have to work as a stock broker at major bank (e.g. JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, etc.) to get a sponsor for the Series 7 exam. Even then, your license would expire after a year of not working at a registered dealer broker (i.e. stock brokerage firm or a major investment bank). VCs, angel investors, private equity, or business brokers are not registered dealer brokers by FINRA.
PS: To get a definitive legal opinion, given the complexity and esoteric nature of the question, it would cost roughly 10-15K. Most securities attorneys don't understand the law in this area. Plus, most business professionals (MBA, equity analysts, and JDs) who work in these areas, actively want to discourage others, especially those with a technical background to work in this field. So, they give misleading information.