Innovation and Entrepreneurship Are Key Themes At CES And For The Future

Feb. 15, 2011
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At the recent 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. If you have ever heard Gary speak, you know that he has very strong opinions on immigration, free trade, broadband and other subjects. Apparently, his promotional efforts at the show were rewarded, as the book quickly jumped into the top 10 on The New York Times bestseller list.

I haven’t read the book, but the highlights give you a flavor of the contents. Gary 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; drastically cut government spending and restore sanity to America’s fiscal policy.

The innovation theme continued at the Innovation Power Panel, where Gary moderated a panel billed 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 Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Xerox Chairman and CEO Ursula Burns.

During the course of the discussion, which covered a range of topics, 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, but we have financial community that has the will and wherewithal to back those entrepreneurs with serious dollars. To listen to the complete discussion, point your browser to and scroll down to Innovation Power Panel.

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 relating to a partnership between Electronic Design and his new company, VentureOnLine. His thought was to combine our resources so that we might attract a group of electronic engineers who might be on an entrepreneurial path or at least thinking about it.

I thought the idea was a good one. 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 highly creative, so a certain percentage would have one or more ideas swirling in their heads.

Beyond that, I had the thought that the recession of 2009 probably forced a reasonable 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 him 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, either that that prefer an entrepreneurial environment or unfortunately had been displaced in the last few years,” Dougherty 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 website, so that we can facilitate discussions among the various players. We also plan to host webinar days, virtual events and possibly in-person events at some point in the future.

We’d certainly like to hear from you regarding your reaction to our first two newsletters. If you have any suggestions for future 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 email 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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