Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cornell Entrepreneur in Residence 2009-10: Sean Neville

Sean Neville is the new Entrepreneur in Residence for The Johnson School at Cornell for the 2009-2010 academic year. Sean was most recently the founder and CEO of Simply Audiobooks. He is also a classmate of mine from the MBA class of 2002, and a close friend.

Sean (on right) at his other Ithaca office, The Regent Lounge

Sean and I recently co-taught a class at Syracuse's Whitman School. It was interesting how we had such different answers to the same questions. Where I tend to come at things with a perspective of "use great technology to create a global product that we sell by the millions" , he approaches entrepreneurship from a perspective of "let's find a problem that consumers have and solve it for a profit".

Since most of the startups coming out of Cornell are driven by the $650M annual technology research budget, there is a lot of similar thinking around Ithaca about how to grow a company. So much so that some of it has become conventional wisdom within our community. Therefore, with Sean's role as the new Cornell EIR, it will be helpful for both students and entrepreneurial alumni to hear a different perspective. Breakthroughs typically occur when someone challenges the conventional wisdom.

If you are interested in meeting with or talking to Sean, I encourage you to not procrastinate. His calendar began filling up before he even stepped foot on campus. You can see Sean's full bio here, and you can email him at SMN25 at

Welcome back Sean!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A bunny suit means I'm helping

This is the flyer for the 2010 Creative Core $200K Business plan competition
(click on image for larger view)
Standing Out of Place

Mezmeriz is on this flyer because we won the event in 2008. What's funny about the flyer is the picture. First off, I've only been into the clean room twice. This picture was one of two times, and it was just so they could take a picture of me in the clean room. Equally amusing is that I don't ever get to touch the wafers or mirrors or anything fragile. I tend to break fragile things. However in this picture, it looks like I am Shahyaan's able and indispensable assistant. Shahyaan, You're Welcome!

Anyways, you should enter this event. It's a great focal point for any startup. If you want to hear about how to win a business plan competition, check out these videos.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sometimes entrepreneurs get married too

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my longtime friend Andy Lufburrow. I could tell you all about what a great entrepreneur he is and all that sort of stuff I tend to write about, but really it was about seeing a good friend take a major step in his life.

The start of a new venture

Some of you may remember Andy as a regular feature on this blog and most famously as SightSpeed member #4, others have more colorful recollections that I'll not post here. Nonetheless, he's a great guy and a great entrepreneur who I count as one of my closest friends.

Not the first time I have leaned on Andy

In closing, I'll quote Andy's brother John quoting Scottish sages:

"To make a marriage a success, you should never lie, cheat,or drink.

However, if you must lie, lie in Heather's arms.

If you must cheat, cheat death.

If you must drink, drink with us!"


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

List of New York Companies that Presented at the Department of Defense Tech Forum

I recently attended the Defense Tech Showcase in Syracuse. It was a forum for companies who are seeking, or have been awarded, SBIR grants - especially as they relate to the military. It was interesting to see all these unique companies that are doing some really high tech stuff all in one place. These are small companies that you'd never come across unless you were looking for some very specific technology.

The neat thing about these companies is that many of them have the potential to be huge companies, and the SBIR / Department of Defense launch pad could just be the start for them. At this event, they let a few of the companies stand up and give a venture-capital style elevator pitch. It was fascinating to hear about each company. Here's a list of those who presented:

Applied Visions
Binghamton Simulator
D&R Technical Solutions
Diamond Visionics
Red Tail Hawk

It was great to see such a vibrant, high-tech crowd at this sold-out event. It certainly lends credibility to the notion that entrepreneurship is alive and well in the region - it's just under the radar.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Homer Simpson Would Work Here Just for the Little Café

Mezmeriz and whole bunch of startup tech companies are based near the Ithaca airport in the Cornell Business and Technology Park. As much as we like to stay fueled on coffee and more coffee, we also need sugar. That's where the Little Café in the Park comes in. It's a short and healthy stroll past Kionix to get frosted goodness.

Great with coffee and friends!

The nice thing about having our own little cafe is that we can meet for a coffee and commiserate. Sure, we've got MEMS envy (Kionix again), but we figure we'll get there. And those guys help us out in their own way.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy my cinnamon swirl.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

That Informal Support

I have written before about our little informal entrepreneurship club here in Ithaca. I wanted to share a few pictures of one of our sessions from the Spring. Greg Hubbell of Sound Reading was working on his venture capital presentation, and the group was there to provide support, insight, and opinion.

Have beer, will opine

The audience included CEO's and Founders from Simply Audiobooks, Novomer, Instinctiv, Orthogonal, Mezmeriz, plus a few aspiring entrepreneurs and Cornell business school students, including future members of BR Ventures.

One more time with passion

This last picture was taken slightly after Midnight when the rest of the was group long past their first beer. Greg got his presentation dialed in and was able to take his pitch on the road the next day, winning money in a venture capital competition, and attracting new professional investors to the company. He still has a ton of work to do with this promising startups, but I am glad we could help along the way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Entrepreneurship & Innovation & Beer

I am often asked "How do people find these great technologies that become the cornerstone of a great business?". The answer is "At happy hour". Specifically, one that involves a lot of smart technical guys at a great engineering school. There's one coming up at Cornell, so if you are an entrepreneur in search of a technological spark, or a smart technologist who is looking for someone to help you start a business, you should attend this event:

This is where some great companies have started

And if you already have a great business idea, you can go to see one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Jason Springs of Geneweave Biosciences, speak. He's a great public speaker and always has something worthwhile to say.

Friday, June 19, 2009

3D is all the rage -- at nerdy tech conferences

In the past month I have attend three major display industry trade shows, SID, ProjectionSummit, and InfoCOMM. As is typical with these types of tech shows, the new, cool thing gets a lot of attention, and more and more, it's 3-Dimensional displays. (and, ahem, picoprojectors).

I see 3D people

In between people throwing out big fancy concepts like anaglyph, psychovisual, and switching polarizers - I got to see these things in action, and they are AWESOME! Samsung had one that the glasses had a sensor, and as I moved, the 3D plane on the screen moved too. A lot of fun, and makes me look at my fancy HDTV as downright mundane.

The holy grail of this world is a glasses-free 3D display, just like we saw in the first Star Wars. I think it's telling that even in the visionary world of Star Wars, the image is low-def. This stuff isn't easy to do, but it's cool!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Widetronix Wins Again!

Last year I wrote a note about Ithaca company Widetronix winning the $250K DFJ Venture Challenge. This year they did it again by winning the MDA Creative Core $100,000 Emerging Business Competition!

The Force is strong with this Widetronix

This marks the third year in a row that an Ithaca/Cornell company has won this competition. e2e won in 2007, and Mezmeriz in 2008. It's a nice hat trick for the community, but it's not really a surprise to anyone here. That's because of the strong supportive environment fostered in the community. Of the 10 semifinalists, 5 were from Ithaca, and three of them were in the same building!

Well done Widetronix! Now, who wants to be next year's winner from Ithaca?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

SmartStart Venture Forum

This Wednesday, May 20th, a marquee list of the best New York startups will be presenting at the SmartStart Venture Forum. Here are the list of companies that will be presenting:

Diffinity Genomics
Free Form Fibers
Geospatial Systems
MicroGen Systems
Oral Health Innovations
PCAsso Diagnostics
Road Lok
SOMS Technologies
Sound Reading Solutions
UniteU Technologies
Upside Over
VisionScape Interactive

I'll be there. I get to be the guy who separates the investors from Happy Hour. I look forward to seeing you there too!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Vote for Digiceipt

Cornell MBA student Keith Cowing's company is a finalist for the 2009 DFJ $250K East Coast Venture Challenge. Cornell has a good history at this event. Mezmeriz as a top 5 (of 12) finalist in 2007, and Widetronix won the whole thing last year!

I want my receipts digitally!

Internet voting is brand new this year, so Keith needs your help making it to the finals. Please click here to vote for Digiceipt.

Go Digiceipt!


Addendum! Digiceipt won! Way to go Keith!! Thanks for everyone who voted online!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Scott Murphy Won!

We are so delighted that a venture capitalist has made his way to Congress. Way to go Scott! It really seemed improbable, but Scott and his team showed the value of having a guy who understands markets is what we need in an economic crisis. Though we are sad to lose Scott as one of our investors, we can't be happier that he has found this new opportunity.

Congratulations Scott!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Updated List of Ithaca Startups: 2009

In what is turning into an annual posting, I am updating and refreshing my list of startups based in Ithaca, NY. We have a great entrepreneurial startup community here that is interactive and supportive. As I travel the country, people are beginning to hear about our pocket of entrepreneurial fervor, and as a result we are drawing interest and visits from some of the top investors in the country, many of who are following up with investments in Ithaca companies.

In preparation for the this year's Entrepreneurship Celebration symposium at Cornell, here is the 2009 list:

Comet Action Sports
DataPoint Labs
e2e Materials
Fortis America
Finger Lakes Aquaculture
Gene Network Sciences
GeneWeave Biosciences
Hybrid Silica Technologies
International Climbing Machines
M.E.S.S. Express
North Sea Resins
ReMarkable Paint
SFS Therapeutics
Sound Reading
Strut Your Hut
Tech S2

As you can see, there is a ton of activity and a vibrant community. I invite you to come visit us to learn more!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How engineers make video compression funny

Recently one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons from my SightSpeed days came up in conversation. I used to have this cartoon hanging in my office in our Berkeley headquarters:

Uh, I guess I am supposed to be the guy on the left

Aron Rosenberg loved to poke fun at the business guys. That seems to be a trend here at Mezmeriz too. With video projection, video compression and decompression is also a big deal, so here we go again with codec jokes.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Peak Pitch Redux

I did Peak Pitch again this year. Last year I wrote about Peak Pitch 2008. What was key this year was the mood. Deals are still happening and businesses are still getting funded.

Economies are like skiers - they go up and down

The mood of most was "this too shall pass", and that businesses cycles are just that. Good businesses get funded in all cycles, and investors still invest in all cycles. So what can we entrepreneurs do about this economy? We can keep making our businesses stronger. We look forward coming back next year!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brad Tweet

Twitter was started by the same guy who started Blogger. I like Blogger (obviously), so I thought it was high time I checked out his new thing. Twitter is an easy to use tool for people to update the world on, well, whatever. I have been reading a lot about it so I decided to jump on the bandwagon, not exactly knowing where it was going, but I do like a ride.

Little birdie, what makes your wings so blue?

There are plenty of people who extol the virtues of, and claim to be making money on Twitter. I'm not so convinced of that just yet, but I will keep an eye on this interesting trend. Twitter is designed like text messaging, so you have to be clever in just 140 characters. It's tough to do, but since I do love a word game, that's what I decided to make it into. For me now, Twitter is a word game that challenges me to be clever and/or informative in 140 characters. Bonus points for both.

You can follow my Twitter "tweets" at

While I usually use this blog space to talk about something profound or interesting, this time I'm just curious and a tad befuddled. If I or someone else figures this thing out, I'll be sure to let you know - 140 characters at a time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Scott Murphy for Congress

One of the investors in Mezmeriz is running for Congress! I found this out via the entrepreneurial gossip hotline (the only thing faster than email). Scott Murphy of Advantage Capital has declared his intention to run, and I wholeheartedly endorse him!

Run Scott Run!

I'm not saying this because he is an investor in my company. In fact, this is kind of a bad thing for us because we aren't big enough to be on the radar of Congress members. And I'm one of about three Republicans in Ithaca.

The main reason I support Scott is because he isn't changing his tune to get to Congress. Scott has been consistent with his message long before there was a representative's seat vacancy. He has repeatedly publicly stated the same ideals and beliefs about growth and job creation at conferences and seminars that I have attended.

Scott would like to ask for your support. You can learn more at the Scott Murphy 2009 website.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Entrepreneurs, Technologists, and Delinquents at CES

I spent the better part of last week talking myself hoarse at the Consumer Electronics Show. We also used this opportunity to converge a bunch of our technology and entrepreneurial Cornell friends for some social time. We had friends from Simply Audiobooks, Widetronix, Instictiv, 3M, Qualcomm, P&G, Harrah's, and (of course) Mezmeriz.

True, except for the juvenile part

We compared notes, tales of woe, and passed around a lot of encouragement. Of course, it's not always a big case study session and we did have a little Vegas-style fun.

I am not at liberty to reveal most of the details of the week's non-conference activities, but maybe Harvard Business School psychology professor Abraham Zaleznik is right:

"To understand the entrepreneur, you first have to understand the psychology of the juvenile delinquent...the hallmark of the entrepreneur is a drive for autonomy, for a freedom from restraints that bespeaks an inner rebelliousness and a fearlessness in the face of risk."

Well put, Professor Zaleznik. And for everyone who wasn't there, I encourage you to join us next year.