Electronic Design
Innovation, Entrepreneurship Emerge As Key Themes At CES

Innovation, Entrepreneurship Emerge As Key Themes At CES

At the 2011 International CES, head honcho Gary Shapiro came on strong in his pre-keynote talks, plugging his new book The Comeback—How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His promotional efforts at the show were rewarded, as the book quickly jumped into the top 10 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Shapiro believes that to spur America’s innovative spirit, we need to: encourage the world’s best and brightest to come to America with fair, strategic immigration laws; open American products to untapped markets around the world by passing present and future free-trade agreements; invest in the development of a national broadband network to help U.S. companies compete; protect U.S. companies under threat from foreign legal challenges; and drastically cut government spending and restore sanity to America’s fiscal policy.

A HIGH-POWERED PANEL
The innovation theme continued at the Innovation Power Panel, where Shapiro moderated what he described as “a first-of-its-kind CES keynote panel that brings together three dynamic executives who are global leaders at the forefront of innovation.” Those leaders were Cisco CEO John Chambers, GE chair and CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Xerox chair and CEO Ursula Burns.

During the course of the discussion, Immelt commented on entrepreneurship. In answer to Shapiro’s question regarding some of the good things this country has to offer, Immelt responded, “Both the entrepreneurs themselves and the financial community behind them.”

In other words, not only do we have an entrepreneurial culture that fosters innovation, we also have a financial community with the will and wherewithal to back entrepreneurs with serious dollars. To listen to the complete discussion, go to www.cesweb.org/events/keynotes.asp and scroll down to “Innovation Power Panel.”

THE MIND OF THE ENTREPRENEUR
Speaking of innovation and entrepreneurship, early last year I received a call from Dr. Amnon Aliphas asking if I would like to discuss an idea he had about a partnership between Electronic Design and his new company, VentureOnLine. He wanted to combine our resources so we might attract a group of electronic engineers who might be on an entrepreneurial path or at least thinking about it.

I thought it was a good idea. I couldn’t tell him how many of our readers or visitors to our Web site would be interested in the content we could develop, but I knew a certain percentage would have an interest. After all, EEs are highly intelligent and creative, so many of them would have one or more ideas swirling in their heads.

Beyond that, I thought the recession of 2009 probably forced a small percentage of EEs into entrepreneurial lifestyles, as recessions are wont to do throughout the economy. This feeling was confirmed when I spoke with David Doherty of Digi-Key last summer at EDS, the electronic distribution show.

I asked Doherty about the large numbers of consultants in the industry and how his company dealt with them. He answered by saying that consultants are a huge aspect of the design chain today.

“Nowadays there is a large stable of third-party engineers, who either prefer an entrepreneurial environment or unfortunately had been displaced in the last few years,” Doherty said. “They are great Digi-Key customers, because they tend to buy in small quantities, so we’re a perfect match for them, and they appreciate the design assistance we can offer them.”

After much discussion with Dr. Aliphas and his colleagues at VentureOnLine, we decided to launch an e-newsletter in January called The Mind of the Entrepreneur. This is a small step in building a community of entrepreneurial engineering types who might relish talking with subject matter experts, angel investors, venture capitalists, and others in the entrepreneurial value chain.

The next step we’re planning is to bring community-based software to the MOE page on our Web site so we can facilitate discussions among the various players. We also plan to host webinar days, virtual events, and possibly in-person events.

FEEDBACK PLEASE
If you have any suggestions for future MOE articles or reports, we’d like to hear about them. If you’d like to share with us your success stories or even your failures, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. Finally, if you’d like to share your thoughts about VentureOnLine and the concept behind it, we’d like to hear those as well.

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