Archive for September, 2009

Yes, I’m just an engineer!

September 28, 2009

Several weeks ago, a local VC pronounced to me: “Sorry, not interested – you’re just an engineer… We want a Ph. D.”

What? I was asking for a few hundred thousand to churn out a proof of concept for a software product idea of mine. My reception was somewhat icy cold, and the partners assembled apologized for their sour demeanor and explained that the economy had dealt them one failure after another lately. Following my upbeat “pitch”, the overwhelming criticism of my proposal, business plan and idea in general was that it was not being delivered by a scientist – a lofty Ph. D. – rather, by “just an engineer…”. I replied, “How many of you took the elevator up from the lobby this morning? You all “risked life and limb” to use the product of engineers, not scientists.” “How many of you use a cell phone? Order from” All the inventions of engineers…”

I went just a little further to explain that, “Scientists discover the underpinnings of something that is new. Engineers build it, and more importantly, make it work!” This sadly went over their heads. My opportunity would not be forthcoming from this group this morning. I might return later, but for now they were not receptive – sometime, you have to take your lumps and move on.

I was going to take my lumps and move on without a second thought until this morning when I listened to an IEEE Spectrum podcast featuring an interview with Judith Estrin who I know from her brief stint at Cisco Systems ten years or so ago.

Closing the Innovation Gap

Her message: we are not focussed on innovation today – we are focused on “flipping” which is ultimately just transferring ownership and is not productive or sustainable in the long term. This podcast is worthwhile to listen to. It resonates so closely with my parting message to these VC’s…

Yes, I’m just an engineer – a good one – and I focus on innovation. Want to make money in a few years with less risk? Invest in innovation – not just discovery. While investing in discovery, invest too in building and creating – invest too in small starts – make the best use of your engineers! Engineers will build your future and make it work!

Pdrrrrp Pdrrrrp… (drumming fingers)

September 23, 2009

Whew – taxes are done – oh, I had extensions for corporate taxes for my consulting company and personal taxes for myself and for my parents, too – everything done, and done on time! I have even completed all the quarterly filings a week early. My parents deducted more than $30K in out of pocket medical expenses in 2008 – the healthcare system is surely broken, and I’ll be the first to stand up and say so. With all the hubbub and shouting, I’ll have to admit that I don’t know where it makes the best sense to begin the repairs, but we have to start somewhere and fast. In the case of healthcare, reform anywhere will be better than reform nowhere – my opinion. I don’t want to give the healthcare industry every penny in my piggy bank before I die.

The HOA is happy – new landscaping at the entrances, and the community property is spruced up with some fall color. My HOA budgets are in good shape and my BOD is feeling good about things. My testimony in front of the City Council regarding train noise in the neighborhood is done, and the “realistic demonstrations” are done, too. ┬áSo, on to politicking for a guarded crossing so that the trains can pass without blowing their horns (at 98 dBA in the back yard, and that’s really quite loud)! Crime the past six months in the neighborhood was almost zero, and a lot of homeowners are happy for that. Several families are being greeted by fathers and husbands coming home from Iraq this week – each in one piece, what a blessing that is, and we have their yards looking nice for their returns.

Speaking of trains, the economy has certainly taken a turn to the recovery side. “What?” you say? Train traffic before the economic collapse was several to four a night every night passing by our neighborhood. In April this year, the train traffic past our neighborhood dropped precipitously to several a week every other week. Beginning about October 8, we suddenly have nightly train traffic – one or two most nights, and that is surely a positive economic sign. Somebody is buying stuff!

My insurance bills have most all been cut in half this week – IN HALF. Thanks to AARP. The quotes are in, the new forms signed, and the old companies advised to “take a hike”.

There are about 150 Kg of periodicals waiting for the recycler, so I have regained some valuable floor space in my office!

My website has received a face lift – looking good except for the front page, dagnabit. I’m no artist – I need something simple and just a little bit dynamic with very few words to read and just three choices to dive into the website. Thinkin’, thinkin’, thinkin… I have an idea for a simple Flash animation!

I am beginning my review of a number of proposals this week for several billion dollars from the TARP funds as a “citizen-expert reviewer” after being tapped personally by someone in the White House. This will be interesting. I’ll donate a workweek to insure that some of the TARP funds are wisely spent.

So why am I drumming my fingers? Well, it was watching the UN speeches today that brought movement to the fingers. Gaddaffi rambled on for quite a while in the old style of Castro. Ahmadinejad, greeted by Canadian protesters (I was unaware that Canadians ever protested in the streets), pronounced flowery rhetoric and disruptive talk for a while but said nothing at all really to the UN Assembly (to those few who stayed to listen). These fellows seem to have nothing productive to do. So, as I look around at what I have accomplished in my own small world lately, and look at how little these two are accomplishing in their own small worlds, I am mindful that I could have done much more. And should.

I am drumming my fingers contemplating my “next great thing”. Stay tuned…