Amazing Technology Is Not Enough; You Also Need An Amazing CEO

I snapped this picture of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in January 2011 at the North American International Auto Show.

I have an article today in MEMS Investor Journal about Ardesta, the venture capital company launched 12 years ago by Rick Snyder, who went on to become Michigan’s current Republican governor. Ardesta invested in nanotechnology and other “small tech” companies, including MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). They’re not quite nanotech, but amazing all the same. It’s the technology that makes your car airbag go off at precisely the right moment and is responsible for the amazing tiny gyroscopes and accelerometers responsible for your smart phone and gaming systems reacting to your own body movements.

Here’s a passage from my article that I think can be applied to nanotech companies, and any new technology as it moves from lab to marketplace.

It’s not enough to have great technology. If you don’t choose the right application in the right market, it will fail. Right after 9/11, it was thought that the defense and homeland security markets were going to be bigger than they actually turned out to be, so Handylab wasted a few years seeking out defense customers. “It was a bad move,” Rizik says.

When CEO Jeff Williams was hired in 2005, he forced the company to go back to the drawing board and develop the product for instant diagnostics. “When Jeff made that decision, we doubled down our investment,” Rizik says. This key decision by Ardesta, hiring the right CEO, paid off. “The wrong CEO could kill a good company and the right CEO can make even an OK company a success,” he says.

That is the way it is with any new technology. Even the most-brilliant scientists with the greatest of inventions may not be able to sell it successfully without the right entrepreneur to shepherd it into the marketplace. More here

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is responsible for my initial interest in nanotech when he hired me for the magazine he launched back in 2001 that covered small tech. If you’re interested in more background on how that happened, I wrote a story on that for Xconomy back in 2010, when Snyder got the GOP nomination. More here

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