Tech trends and business ideas

All things that motivate entrepreneurs

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Simplicity sells; only when packaged right

Even in fields such as the computer industry that celebrates innovation, systemic change can be glacial. New chips are an easy sell. The idea of reinventing the computer case from the ground up is a harder one. Hyperlink was invented in 1960 and the mouse in 1964, but to get enterprises to mass produce, it took almost three decades more. The lesson - for early adoption, give customers change in the mode they understand.

I was reading this NYT piece about Jay Harman, an Australian naturalist who relies on fluid dynamics to improve the design of everything from simple fans and pumps to hydroelectric dams and aircraft.
Mr. Harman is a practitioner of *biomimicry*, a growing movement of the industrial-design field. Eleven years ago, he established Pax Scientific to commercialize his ideas, thinking that it would take only a couple of years to convince companies that they could increase efficiency, lower noise or create entirely new categories of products by following his approach. But customers aren’t cutting checks yet. In March, the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla made a significant investment in Pax Streamline, founded to pursue a new generation of wind turbines and air-conditioning systems. Enterprises that build out huge data centers, take note (they spend more on utility bills to keep their servers cool than for data storage/processing). It’s far better than setting up data centers in Siberia where you expect to keep it cool by throwing open a few windows.

Innovation has always faced adoption hurdles. Harman didn’t have to look farther than his own advisors to realize that. Paul Saffo, one of his advisers and a Silicon Valley technology analyst often strums up this simple dictum: “Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.”

Need I say more about customers that pay?

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