Friday, June 20, 2008

Vietnam: International Roundtable

Last night was a late night, we had a heck of a time getting home after the international Roundtable event at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business Gleacher Center.  The event itself was excellent.  Tristan De La Rosa gave a talk on doing business in Vietnam.  He lived there in the 1990 and has returned on business since then.  It is a fascinating place to do business and looks to be a future economic hotspot and a place of opportunity. But it can be tricky to understand the local customs and the local business practices.  With his years of success in Vietnam, Tristan is the expert. Tristan's contact info is below if anyone is interested in doing business in Vietnam.




Executive Coaching & Development

512 North McClurg Court #1511, Chicago, IL 60611


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

MIT Enterprise Forum 2008 Whiteboard Challenge

Last night I attended the MIT Enterprise Forum 2008 Whiteboard Challenge. 13 finalists selected from a field of 67 applicants, presented for 5 minutes in front of a whiteboard. The first prize ($3,000) went to Dan Masterson for his product guardian angel. It is an electrical outlet which senses when your hand gets near to it using a capacitive sensing device, the same technology used in the eye phone. You can't see a demonstration of this at

Igor Stamenkovic won the $1500 second prize for his company’s Mag Drive. This technology utilizes computer analysis of magnetic fields to determine the optimum efficiency between fixed magnets and copper coils. The model of their motor/generator configures the fixed magnets inside a spinning core. In talking to Igor after his presentation he indicated that in the case of small windmill generators the Mag Drive motor can deliver up to 50% greater efficiency.

Third prize went to Russ Felker of RevStor. Their product uses the existing computer infrastructure within a company to create a secure computing cloud that provides security, data back-up and management for its information.

Other interesting presentations included Rich Gorski who presented a greatly miniaturized electron beam devise useful in making photo masks of circuitry to be burned into silicone. William Thompson had an idea to rejuvenate capped oil Wells to tap their remaining natural gas with a device that converts the gas to liquid, which can be transported by truck.

Jim Eiden had the idea to grow switch grass along roadsides, which can be harvested to make ethanol. Matthew Norris presented technology that unscrambles and analyzes the sounds coming from medical devices such as a wireless stethoscope to produce medical information.

The event was very well organized by the MIT enterprise forum of Chicago sponsored by Bell, Boyd, and Lloyd LLP of a Chicago, RPX group, Lextech, and Northwestern University.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Boeing’s Approach to Innovation

In building the 787, Boeing divided up more than just the assembly of the new jet. They farmed out the design and major component construction. Companies other than Boeing are doing the work needed to design and engineer solutions to unexpected problems in the design. These companies are also engineering solutions to the practical complexities of manufacturing with new material and new methods. Followers of the Toyota strategy see this as a big mistake. Toyota’s strategy suggests that when you outsource innovation you become nothing more than a distributor. While Boeing still retains vast amounts of intellectual capital through its central role in the 787 developments, it is foregoing a tremendous amount of intellectual property in the form of know-how. This know-how is available to other airline companies who can contract with Boeing’s suppliers too, or, where that is not an option, hire the people who carry the knowledge in their brains.
Boeing has already said that it would do things differently in the future. But if that still includes outsourcing design, then a prudent investor might start looking at taking long-term positions in Bombardier Aerospace, or Embraer, or even India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (if such an investment is even possible in India).

Friday, June 6, 2008

Open social innovation

The notion that innovation is beneficial to social welfare, and that users freely reveal the details of their innovations is often true, but clearly not new. Professor Joseph Henry generously revealed to Samuel Morse how his system of telegraph worked across the Princeton campus. Henry believed that people are better off if they share their new knowledge. Morse had his own best interests in mind when he secured the patent for what Henry had shown him. (See Electric Universe by David Bodanis, p. 22) Professor Eric von Hippel is right when he says that if the ‘new’ user driven innovation model is going to work, “the workings of the intellectual property system are of special concern”.