18 December 2006

Technology Valley of Death Crystallized

I posted this recently on Mercury Technology Labs' blog:

In a previous post we talked about the technology fire hose – the exponential growth of new innovations available, growing in larger array of fields that can be applied to a growing set of opportunities. In this post we also stated that a serious deficiency may have struck the economic innovation engine. With this post we would like to crystallize the problem taking examples from our experiences.

In the Mid-South innovation community, we have found that the total amount of research conducted is well over a billion dollars each year-- depending on the boundary you strike, it would be over three billion. By some measures this should equate to 100 to 200 or even 300 patent applications and based upon these patent applications there should be in upwards of 5 to 15 new business ventures started each year with these technologies. The problem is the region is not seeing the start-ups. It appears there is a deal flow problem and we don't attribute it to lack of money to support the deals. We attribute it to human capital. Who is supposed to actively bridge the gap between the raw technologies to a market application?

Q. Is it the responsibility of the researchers to create "start-up" new business ventures?
A. The vast majority of researchers lack entrepreneurial confidence, time, and experience. They don't actively seek people with expertise; instead they rely on tech transfer process of universities, government, or corporate to swing into motion.

Q. Is it the responsibility of angel investors?
A. Angel investors do not create deals and they generally do not want to be first money on the table for a seed stage venture. They are passive investors generally waiting for the deals to find them.

Q. Is it the responsibility of the venture capitalists?
A. Typical venture capital fund structure cannot support the opportunity. They are looking for preexisting deals that have generally proven they don't need the money for venture creation; the growing business concern needs VC money for scaling.

Q. Is the responsibility of technology transfer officers?
A. It is hard enough for a cash strapped technology transfer team to protect intellectual property, let alone market technologies actively. Furthermore the teams generally barely have enough time to manage IP disclosures and IP protection.

I think we can all agree that R&D Engines are generating sufficient raw technology candidates, yet these do not advance to applied business applications or new ventures in the incubation stage. This phenomena is has been termed as the "technology valley of death." This chasm is not crossed often – in the Mid-South we have only a handful of examples available over the past 10 years.

Passivity is not working well for most R&D engines. The new winners will be those who actively survey the landscape and take advantage of technology maven networks. The new winners will create the deals.

So now the question to be answered is who will fulfill the need and what will be their model for success. Please comment or provide further insights.

15 December 2006

Technology Transfer Keeping Pace?

I was recently reviewing some talking points from a talk Steve Jurvetson gave in May 2003 in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve stated more or less that we view the future as a linear continuation of the past, but we can not view technological innovation as a movement in a straight line. He further stated that technology advances exponentially, moving quicker and quicker, impacting a wider and wider array of fields. No disputing this, but how has the bridge from theory to practice kept pace?

I don't think it has. The process of taking inventions to new business applications has to rapidly change. Passive technology deal creation is not working today. This may be because what used to be a technology spicket has turned into a fire hose -- the growing volume of technologies flying out of the research labs ever faster. I would argue that while the number of technologies developed each year has vastly increased, application of these technologies to real world problems has not kept pace. This is likely due to a passivity and/or the need for a new mode of technology transfer, commercialization, and venture creation. Active innovation networks and active deal creation, I believe will be the best method moving forward.

Call it Creation Nets, Open Innovation,Venture Creation, Innovation Connection, or whatever -- it is just the way technology venture development will need to shift to keep pace with the exponential advancement of technologies.

13 December 2006

Personalization: Proof of Power to the People

I recently wrote a post on how the individuals modern day desktop and browser are proof that the people have the power. IT departments have implicitly agreed that "one size does not fit all" as Chris Anderson (Wired Editor) stated a recent Cisco conference.

Check out my post at Mercury Technology Labs.


Best Blogs for Non-Profits to Track

As I am the chairman of a non-profit I try to keep up with new methods to improve our enterprise. I recently read the Dec. 2006/Jan 2007 issue of Fast Company. On page 44, Michael A. Prospero wrote about the best blogs for non-profits to track.

If you didn't get a chance to see the recommendations for your non-profit, here is a brief break down.

Donor Power Blog: http://www.donorpowerblog.com/
Jeff Brooks writes on how smart business strategies can be applied in the realm of the non-profit world.

Blog on Non-Profit Advertising: http://blogger.xs4all.nl/marcg
Marc van Gurp collects inventive video clips and print ads for non-profits from around the world.

Philanthropy in the Year 2173: http://philanthropy.blogspot.com
Lucy Bernholz writes a round-up and analysis of emerging trends for non-profits.

For the full article on the Best Blogs for Non-Profits visit the Fast Company website(http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/111/next-best-blogs.html). Rest assured the non-profit I help, Lantana Projects (http://www.lantanaprojects.org/) will be looking at these periodically.

16 November 2006

James Clar Offer 3D Cube at Reduced Price

For those of you who were waiting for the price to drop on the 3D Display Cube made by James Clar and Associates, wait no longer. They now retail for $1799.

Visit http://www.jamesclar.com/store/3dcubewhite/index.html to place your order. There are only 15 left! The company doesn't expect to get another shipment until after the turn of the year -- too late for the holidays.

07 November 2006

Rollable Displays

At the 2006 Microsoft Business Forum in Moscow, Bill Gates focused interest on displays that can be rolled-up and stuffed in a pocket with his prediction that they are just a few years away.  These predictions are not far fetched based upon the the work done by MIT spin off E Ink and continued work by Phillips (using some of the E Ink Technology) and others to make the vision a reality.  Another related developer is Polymer Vision.

One to Watch: Eleksen

Surfing the web today looking for some new sensor technology and came across Eleksen. Eleksen created the world's first 100% fabric sensors that enable wearable computing, command and control systems, and other accessories for the technophiles.

One solid example of the application of their technology is the G-Tech Wireless Smartphone Keyboard. It is a Bluetooth-enabled full laptop-sized Qwerty keyboard made of fabric that can hence be rolled up and stuffed into a pocket. Eleksen says it is compatible with most devices offered by BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm and Microsoft making it a great alternative to tiny thumb pad Qwertys. It's waterproof, so you don't need to worry about the spills that would normally cripple your whole laptop. Check out www.eleksen.com.

26 October 2006

Documenting Eric Mathews Articles in the Memphis Business Journal

I'm catching up tracking the articles in which I have been quoted or
mentioned. This is the listing that the Memphis Business Journal has
online for me. I had a lot in 2006 but they date back as far as 2002.
It looks like 28 to date in this outlet.

FedEx Institute veterans launch venture to bring intellectual property to market, 2006.10.16 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Latest Top 40 under 40 winners represent up-and-coming young professionals, 2006.10.02 Andy Ashby, The Memphis Business Journal

Comcast on its way to smooth landing in Memphis, officials hope for easy transition, 2006.09.25 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

National Science Foundation grant boosts nanotechnology research at FedEx Institute, 2006.08.14 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Technology programs aimed at principals, high school students, 2006.07.31 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Grant to drive interest in computer science, 2006.07.24 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute makes move toward building bioinformatics program, 2006.07.10 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Two more hatched: Emerge Memphis lands new companies, new board members 2006.06.12 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute launches center: Research will focus on advanced nanosystems, 2006.05.29 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

NanoTect wows contest judges: Business plan rewarded with funds, free services, 2006.04.10 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Applicants sought for business plan contest at U of M, 2006.01.23 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute launches Technology Business Plan competition, 2006.01.16 Scott Shepard, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx invests $5 million for development of four research centers on U of M campus, 2006.01.09 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Verizon picks Memphis among first cities to introduce wireless broadband network, 2005.12.19 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Nanotechnology captures imagination, 2005.11.14 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Cash flow projects: NSF, NIH deliver nearly $2 million for FedEx Institute research, 2005.09.19 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute's robot captivates visitors to 'Wired' NextFest 2005.07.04, Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Value added: MBI adds service focus after 9/11 to keep business strong, 2005.04.04 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Private money filters down to students at Institute, 2005.03.07 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Left behind: Technology sees the music biz in the rearview mirror, 2005.01.31 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

A.I. researchers struggle with human toll of automation, 2005.01.31 John Scruggs, The Memphis Business Journal

Street Talk, 2005.01.17 Scott Shepard, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute gaining solid reputation for research acumen, 2004.12.13 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Glowing reviews: U of M's FedEx Institue of Technology surpassing expectations, 2004.11.15 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

MIT professor to direct special projects at FedEx Institute, 2004.11.15 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute testing Palm technology, 2004.04.05 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

U of M seeks $50 million NSF grant, 2004.02.02 Scott Shepard, The Memphis Business Journal

U of M starts new company for research inventions, 2004.02.02 Scott Shepard, The Memphis Business Journal

FedEx Institute lands exclusive DoD laboratory, 2003.09.15 Michael Sheffield, The Memphis Business Journal

Mercury Technology Labs Article

We recently had this article published on our launch.

"FedEx Institute veterans launch venture to bring intellectual property to market"

by Michael Sheffield

Memphis Business Journal

October 13, 2006


Update on Activities

Mercury Technology Labs continues to move forward.

We have almost finished milestone 1 with our Fortune 100 client. That means that we can get paid, which is good news. We have come across some real opportunties technologically. Technologies people will need but they just don't know it yet.

James Clar has continued engaging in dialog with potential distributers of his products and has a few YouTube posting of his NextFest 2006 Exhibit. He also exihibited at Pop!Tech 2006.

Our other two companies are progressing. This week we final settle into an agreement on roles for our bioinformatics firm setting us up to move it forward as quickly as we can. For our nano firm our hold up is technology protection and teachnology transfer. It has moved painfully slow. Going forward for the forseeable future with these two clients our only hold back will be in the legal/business agreement arena. How fast can the lawyers enable us to move things to the next level? We'll see.

In other news Mercury Technology Labs had an article published launching our company. Check out the Memphis Business Journal - October 13, 2006. Thanks to Michael Sheffield for the coverage.

Recent Quote in the Memphis Business Journal

I recently commented on meeting customer needs for media content delivery. The article in the Memphis Business Journal on September 22, 2006 "Comcast on its way to smooth landing in Memphis, officials hope for easy transition" by Michael Sheffield, stated:

Eric Mathews, former director of the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis and founder of Mercury Technology Labs, says "the growth of On Demand shows that cable providers are listening to the demands of consumers.

"What is very clear is that consumers have spoken. It's an On Demand world and who provides the content is a point of competition now," Mathews says. "Who will win in the future remains to be seen."

For more on the article visit:

22 October 2006

Incenting People to Index or Do Tasks

I recently engaged in a dialog with a friend of mine on incenting people to index or tag items for you on the web to create powerful repositories. It expanded to include incenting people to do just about anything.

So I tried out Mechanical Turk to see about the current practices. I quickly found that the incentives aren't there.

I recently got a message from Mechanical Turk documenting my 15 mins of effort and how much that netted me in value returned for my time.

What do you think? Worth it?

>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>From: Mechanical Turk <mturk-noreply@amazon.com >
>Date: 22 Oct 2006 00:03:48 -0700
>Subject: Your Weekly Worker Activity Report
>To: Eric C Mathews
>Greetings from Amazon Mechanical Turk,

>The following is a summary of activity for your Mechanical Turk account for
>the week ending Oct 21, 2006.
>Your HIT activity for this week:
>- Number of HITs accepted: 7
>- Number of HITs returned: 0
>- Number of HITs abandoned: 0
>- Number of HITs submitted: 7
>Approvals and payments that occurred this week:
>- Number of HITs approved: 1
>- Number of HITs rejected: 0
>- HIT reward earned: $0.02
>- Total Amount earned this week: $0.02
>For more information about your account status and activity, sign in to
>http://mturk.amazon.com/, then view your "Dashboard".
>Amazon Mechanical Turk
>1200 12TH AVE South, SUITE 1200
>SEATTLE, WA 98144-2734 USA

Fantastic . . . Now I have two pennies to use on Amazon. Unfortunately, I don't see these systems taking off unless the incentives change. I realize that Amazon isn't setting the incentives for all the tasks but they are not setting a high bar either.

If anyone has come across a system with better incentives, please let me know. I'd be interested in studying it.

16 October 2006

In My View: Web Business Changes

Business value delivery will continue to change as a result of the advent of Web 2.0 and within the next decade Web 3.0 Business. We are already seeing a dramatic shift in value and money to web business and even within web business we are seeing a shift in business models.

Empowering consumers/individuals (decentralizing of the power and control) is one of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 and with this shift, the business models are changing. Empowerment is already taking shape as consumers have the power to repurpose content and services in new and unique ways. Hierarchical systems of industrial business will give way to self-organizing decentralized systems that are open and extensible -- consumers are eagerly embracing collaboration this will extend to business and value creation. Users building businesses and new value on top of Web 2.0 offerings at scale will demonstrate Web 2.0 maturity (essentially businesses on top of web 2.0 businesses).

13 October 2006

Top 40 under 40 Winner

I'm being honored as one of the Top 40 Under 40 in Memphis, TN this year. Crazy.

Latest Top 40 under 40 winners represent up-and-coming young professionals

Published: October 2, 2006

For the 10th consecutive year, 40 young professionals under the age of 40 have been selected as some of the best and brightest the Bluff City has to offer.

To continue reading, go to: http://memphis.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2006/10/02/story4.html?b=1159761600^1352613&surround=etf

05 October 2006

James Clar's Store is Up and Running: 3D Cube for Sale


We are happy to announce the official launch of James Clar + Associates Online Store, making available to you a selection of our most recognized designs as well as future productions!

And, for our initial product release we present to you the award-winning 3D Display Cube !

Previously available only through galleries, each 3D Display Cube contains 1000 LEDs soldered in a patented wiring matrix configuration that allows users to display spatial typography and 3D animations. No computer is nessecary to run the 3D Cube and multiple Cubes can be linked together to create a larger 3D Display. Whether used for retail or public display, signage applications, home display, or advertising, the 3D Cube captivates viewers with it's original use of LED technology.

Available now from James Clar + Associates.


3D Cube 01

3D Cube 02

3D Cube

04 October 2006

Industrial Robotics Key Data 2005

IFR: International Federation of Robotics
For those of you interested in robotics, key facts on their increased presence are found at this web site:

Update on Fortune 100 Client

This week is our first week of work at our Fortune 500 (Global 200) Client -- we are examining R&D and technologies.  As we do this we find an amazing amount of obstacles within the organization that paralyze innovation as well as commercialization of technologies.  The technologies and ideas present in the R&D settings would leap frog the organization beyond current competitors.  Our client is literally sitting on millions/billions of dollars of revenue and profit.  We are tasked with figuring out get solid and worthy technologies out the door.
As stated in previous posts, we are seeing that social networking tools, GIS, and sensors are the way of the future.  However, our client will not be able to capitalize on the opportunities anytime soon.  That means there exists big opportunities for start-ups and that our firm, Mercury Technology Labs, has tremendous opportunities ahead. 

29 September 2006

Mercury Technology Labs Website Goes Live

Today's big acheivement was getting our website up and running.  To check it out visit http://www.mercurytechlabs.com .
Other than that it has been a pretty bland day of phone calls, follow-up, and planning for our contract with our Fortune 100 client.  Our business cards came in Wednesday.  We are off and running.

28 September 2006

Mercury Technology Labs: Fortune 5,000,000

Here are some items that I looked at today on the web -- doing some research on Web Apps and Web OS in preparation for working with our Fortune 100 Client.

Mercury Technology Labs: Fortune 5,000,000

Lantana Projects

I'm on the board of Lantana Projects (http://www.lantanaprojects.com). Things are progressing well for our art show coming up on November 11th. We have secured a great space on South Main in Memphis and the DJs are lining up. Visit this link to get more information on the submission process http://www.lantanaprojects.org/class_06/class_06_poster.pdf

BTW . . . Lantana Projects is Memphis' only non-profit international artist residency program. The goal of Lantana is to make Memphis a global leader in the contemporary arts community.

Top 40 Under 40 - Milestones

I got notification yesterday that I am one of the Top 40 Under 40 Honorees this year, as named by the Memphis Business Journal (http://memphis.bizjournal.com). Today I turn 27. Mercury Technology Labs (http://www.mercurytechlabs.com) was chartered last week. Lots of things happening. Good milestones.

26 September 2006

Social Networking

For one of my clients, I have engaged in some quick catching up on Social Networking.  For my business partner and others I have sourced some interesting summaries on the blogs.  Check these out if you are little behind the curve and want to catch up quickly:

CEO Guide to Social Networking 



This week in Social Networking 9-16-06



Chart showing among other things investment in social networking sites




More Specific Items


Social networking grounded in everyday activity http://www.judysbook.com/


www.NetVibes.com – could imagine specialized app releases to these sites  


Need to consider WebOS: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/webified_desktop_apps_vs_browser_apps.php

24 September 2006

Mercury Technology Labs

My blog will focus a lot on my efforts on starting up a venture creation company called Mercury Technology Labs (www.mercurytechlabs.com). I have placed a description of Mercuy Labs here for your information . . . a bit of context.

About Mercury Technology Labs

Mercury Technology Labs is an innovation connector and venture creation company operating from Memphis, Tennessee. Mercury Technology Labs fulfills these two critical roles in the innovation economy by embracing principles of open innovation and innovation acceleration. Mercury partners strategically with corporate research and development engines to evaluate their intellectual property and provide external commercialization support as part of a framework for open innovation. Furthermore, Mercury finds the best raw technologies and research talent from research and development labs both academic and industrial, invests management expertise and capital, and creates new technology business ventures. Mercury Technology Labs is tapping the opportunity of technological intellectual capital and providing value as an innovation engine.

Mercury inspires researchers and companies to find the most appropriate business model to commercialize a new offering -- whether that model exists within a current framework or must be sought through new external paradigms. Our methods of moving research and development externally can create significant value and make the best use of ideas generated within or outside the current business.

Mercury Technology Labs specializes in supporting innovation outside the normal channels of research and development labs in industry and academia. Rapid business prototyping is a critically important component of technological innovation; this is our core competency. Mercury Technology Labs is growing a portfolio from raw technology and research talent into rapidly growing start-up companies.

Starting up

I've decided to try to chronicle my efforts and activities using a blog primarily because my career is in transition. I'm moving into entrepreneurship -- starting-up, start-ups. I fully expect the future ahead will be interesting, worth noting, as well as worth reviewing. The question is whether blogging will serve me well. If it does, after a period this blog will become a helpful record to me of how I've changed, how my career has changed, how my efforts have paid-off or failed, who I've encounter, and the information and facts that I believe are relevant to the success of the efforts I undertake.

If you are reading this, welcome.