Written by Shaweta Saini
Picture

ReconRobotics was founded in 2006, and since then, it has been a leading force in robotics technology. Several of their products have been used extensively by organizations such as bomb squads, fire/rescue teams, the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps, FBI, U.S. Marshals, Border Patrol, and many more. One of their most successful products, the Recon Scout Throwbot, is particularly innovative as it contains numerous qualities crucial to military operations. Due to the fact that it is highly stealthy and mobile, ReconRobotics has suggested using the Throwbot to explore dangerous environments prior to sending in a team.

The Recon Scout Throwbot is a small robot that can be placed anywhere that an operation might deem necessary prior to entering the area. Sturdy and dependable, it can be thrown across rooftops, over walls, and through windows, making it so that the personnel using the Throwbot can gather crucial information before the operation begins. It is sturdy enough so that can survive a 30-foot fall without being damaged. More recently, ReconRobotics has developed a version of the Throwbot designed for anti-piracy. This Throwbot is a two-part “marsupial” system, meaning that a smaller robot with a camera is placed inside a larger (though still small enough to be handheld) robot. Fired from a cannon, the larger robot sticks magnetically to the side of the pirates’ ship while the smaller robot gets to the deck and retrieves information for the team in charge of the operation. The robot can be controlled at a considerable distance using the Operator Control Unit, which transmits live feed. Low light is not a problem, as the robot has infrared illuminators that allow it to see in the dark. The Throwbot is crucial for military personnel as it allows them to survey a hostile situation before entering which could potentially save lives: already, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are using this device. However, the device is not solely for military use: police and security forces, as well as rescue teams, also utilize the robot. The Throwbot allows such groups to make informed decisions prior to taking an action.

The Recon Scout Throwbot’s numerous stealthy characteristics do, indeed, give it a ‘ninja-like’ quality that different organizations use to their full advantage. Currently ReconRobotics has developed a version of the Throwbot specifically to help fight piracy, though it may also develop later versions to combat future problems. Perhaps the Throwbot’s most valuable asset is that it has the ability to save lives: by staking out a situation, personnel such as the police and military can make the best decisions that will cause the least amount of harm. Certainly, the robot’s intricate technology has already made a large impact, and as ReconRobotics continues to develop new versions of the Throwbot, it will continue to do so.


 
 
Picture

Christina Gagnier is the CEO of REALPOLITECH, a digital public relations and web strategy consultancy. She also leads the Intellectual Property, Internet & Technology practice at Gagnier Margossian LLP. She consults technology firms on international and domestic policy issues ranging from data security to communications issues. She previously served as Chief Information Officer of Moblize.org, the Millennial Generation public policy and advocacy organization.

1.     What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful leader to possess?

Successful leaders have to be willing to lead by example and treat all members of their team, whether an intern or a partner, with respect. If you work hard and create an environment where people feel like they can succeed individually as the company succeeds, leadership will be easy since people will want to follow you.

2.     Can you describe your typical day as a CEO?

As a lawyer working in a space that is impacted day-to-day by the political cycle, it is normally impacted by what is reflected in a day’s media cycle. As a firm that caters to an international set of clients, each day brings with it its own surprises and challenges.

A big part of being successful in the technology policy space is being actively involved in the community and keeping abreast of what is going on. It is pretty easy to fall behind if you are not actively researching and following what is trending and happening in the space.

3.     How do you foster innovation in your company?

We are a law firm entirely compromised of a team ages 30 and under, which is a rarity. Our distributed nature and low overhead allow our team members to work from a variety of locations and have allowed us to remain nimble.

We encourage everyone on our team to work on new projects and to find legal issues and cases that they find personally interesting and challenging to the firm. We are luckily in a position practicing Internet and technology law where we find this rather easy. Many of the legal questions we are asked do not have a direct response, so our team is always learning and discovering.

4.     How do you manage your work-life balance?

Running right out of law school and starting a practice has made work-life balance difficult, especially when you enjoy the people that you work with, both at our firm and outside of the firm in the larger space.

Best advice: Put away your cellphone when you are with people that matter personally. Other professionals certainly understand that you are busy and sometimes duty really does call and work must take priority, but you have to appreciate the time you have with friends, family and significant others. I may be guilty of falling asleep with my iPhone or with work scattered on the bed, but you have to know when to stop and take some time to nurture personal relationships.

5.     What changes do you see in the next 5-10 years for business owners and entrepreneurs?

The legal industry is going to be severely disrupted. The large firm model is not working for many clients and service delivery needs to keep pace with the changes in technology and society. It will become easier for firms like mine to change the space and compete since remaining flexible will be imperative.

 
 
Written by Janelle Francis
Picture

 With everyone trying to develop the most energy efficient cars, Tour Engines, Inc. has come up with a revolutionary new engine model that actually splits the engine in half to boost efficiency. Founded in 2006, the San Diego based company is working with universities and subcontractors from top engineering firms to develop the final round of prototypes.

 The traditional engine has four strokes, two of which work best when cylinder is cold and the other two work best when cylinder is hot. The radiator is continually working to heat one cylinder and cool the other, causing a great waste in energy.  Tour Engine’s prototype separates the engine into hot section and a cold section, dramatically reducing the energy that is lost.  By making the cylinder smaller as well, the Tour engine cuts down on the amount of fuel-air mixture that is lost as exhaust. A conventional engine wastes forty percent of energy during cooling and another thirty percent due to exhaust. In reality, only thirty percent of the fuel used to fill up a tank is converted into actual work. With gas prices rising as well as the shortening supply of fuel, the Tour engine could be a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

Engineers at Tour Engine believe that the new prototype can boost engine efficiency by twenty percent immediately, and hopefully by fifty percent in the near future.

 


 
 
Written by Shaweta Saini

Picture
Blue gel has proven itself to be crucial in regards to decontamination of radioactive spills. Officially called DeconGel, the hydrogel was manufactured by researchers at CBI Polymers and discovered by Skai Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Hawaii. A firm with an emphasis on finding new technologies with biomedical and biodefense applications, Skai Ventures discovered the wonders of DeconGel upon realizing that, after removing the hardened gel, the area on which the gel had been placed was completely clean with absolutely no foreign substances.

Though it has most recently been used extensively to clean up radioactive waste, DeconGel has a wide variety of other applications, such as cleaning up toxic industrial chemicals, asbestos, acids, and mercury. When placed on a surface, DeconGel absorbs all foreign material – including radiation and other pollutants. By hardening around the pollutants, DeconGel eliminates any threats that the pollutants may pose and allows for a far easier time for workers, as they can remove the gel and dispose of it without having to worry about pollutants leaking into the air and radioactivity spreading.  Normally, radiation would be scrubbed using soap and water, thus highly increasing the risk of spreading the pollutants and negatively effecting both the environment and the people who live in the area. Most recently, DeconGel has been widely used to clean up radiation in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. Due to its immense success in containing the radiation in Japan, DeconGel has entered the market easily and is now in high demand.

Skai Ventures has certainly profited from the triumph of DeconGel. Indeed, DeconGel is the safest option for both workers and civilians: it allows workers to handle radiation and contamination without fear of being personally affected by the adverse effects, and it also allows civilians the assurance that they will not be harmed by the spread of radiation. Because of its wide applicability, DeconGel can clean up any mess – even the most dangerous – while ensuring the safety of all those involved in the process. Furthermore, it has a positive impact on the environment, as it is an environmentally-friendly gel that has an almost neutral pH value. With all of its benefits, it is no wonder that DeconGel is experiencing such popularity.

 
 
Picture
Written by Janelle Francis

Pelican Imaging Corporation, a California based technology start-up, is looking to revolutionize the mobile imaging industry. Founders, Aman Jabbi and Katrik Vebkataraman, have raised 17 million dollars since starting 2008 to make a mobile device camera that can refocus after a picture is taken, has gesture control, and 3-D depth. 

Traditionally camera manufactures have believed the more pixels the better the resolution. Pelican has developed a new way to get better resolution cameras with out sacrificing the sleek, slim look mobile devices have today. Its new array camera is composed of 25 micro-cameras that together will form a single image. Since the picture will be taken 25 slightly different ways it allows for the user to manipulate the picture after it has been taken. Along with the new camera, they have developed a new patented software that takes the raw data and processes it instantly, which Jabi says is the key to their mobile technology. The user could sharpen the foreground in a picture, and blur the background almost instantly. 

Pelican Imaging is in the final stages of finishing the prototype and will begin selling its patented technology to phone makers in the near future. With its new light sensitivity and sophisticated software, it will allow users to do things they have never been able to before. 

 
 
Written by Shaweta Saini

Picture
General Fusion, a nuclear-fusion energy startup company located in British Columbia, Canada, is in the process of developing nuclear fusion technology in order to provide affordable, environmentally-friendly energy. Although it was founded in 2002, it took longer for the company to make serious progress in its initiative to create such energy.   In 2007, General Fusion received approximately C$1.2 million in financing from a venture capital company, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, which greatly assisted its capacity to acquire resources appropriate for building nuclear-fusion technology. Currently headed by CEO Doug Richardson, General Fusion has currently been focusing on implementing Magnetized Target Fusion.

This year, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, invested $19.5 million into General Fusion. Such an enormous investment has huge implications for the company in the pursuit of its goals: now, General Fusion has set an accelerated date of 2013 to successfully implement Magnetized Target Fusion. Essentially, Magnetized Target Fusion is a process that produces fusion power by using a magnetic field and plasma to break lithium down into helium and tritium. Then, the two elements are separated and mixed with deuterium, which is consequently fused into the element helium.  The fusion produces enormous amounts of energy, which have the added bonuses of no radioactive waste, greenhouse gas emissions, or pollution. Such energy can be channeled into building power plants at a lower cost than using normal energy.

Currently, General Fusion is in the process of fully developing Magnetized Target Fusion and integrating it into the energy industry by 2013. In terms of the future, however, the company plans to commercialize their fusion energy by the end of the decade. Development of fusion energy has the potential to be truly revolutionary because of the implications it holds in terms of how the world uses energy: fusion energy suggests that energy would always be affordable and plentiful. Thus, it would never run out, which would suit the needs of today’s rapidly growing population and economy. Furthermore, the fact that it has no repercussions on the environment is important – if fusion energy does become commercialized by the end of the decade, then it will effectively reduce and even altogether eliminate the negative effects that energy used today has on the environment. Though General Fusion is nowhere near to having a completed product, the exorbitant investment by Jeff Bezos shows that there is tremendous potential for the project, and if properly executed, it could certainly go a long way.  


 
 
Picture
Diane Bloodworth,
Diane is the CEO and founder of Competitive Sports Analysis, LLC. (CSA), a company that provides highly accurate predictive data analysis for sports. She was also the founder of another company, BIT, in 2003 and has over 25 years of experience in the technology industry.

1.     What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful leader to possess?

I think that to be a successful leader you really have to know to what you are good at and excel in that area. Being able to recognize other peoples’ strengths and weaknesses and adjusting accordingly contributes to running a successful organization.  

2.     Can you describe your typical day as a CEO?

Since this is a young company, during the day I’m trying to raise awareness, get press releases out and keep an eye on the newsletter, blogs, and twitter. In the future I think I will be able to think more strategically but since the company is new, I am working on all the little things.

3.     How do you foster innovation in your company?

With a small company it’s easier to foster innovation.  People can throw out ideas and even we don’t have time or the resources at the moment, we will slate the idea for later. The best ideas always come from the team. When they see their idea implemented that gives them the encouragement to keep moving forward. Seeing it in action, that’s what fosters innovation and motivates the employees.

4.     How do you manage your work-life balance?

It’s a challenge; there was a point in my life when it was all work. Now I have to find a way back to having balance. We make choices with our time everyday so I feel that if one week I am overloaded, the next week I will try and take some time for myself.

5.     What changes do you see in the next 5-10 years for business owners and entrepreneurs?

It is a great environment now, and people are realizing the role small business. With the dynamics of social media today, small businesses have the ability to reach every consumer and grow at a much faster rate. You still have to work to build your following but the possibilities are endless now.


 
 
Written by Francesca Malenky
Picture

Millions of IPhones and ITouches are sold every year. Apple started a technology revolution with its innovative use of haptics, the touch behind touchscreens. 

Haptics give gadgets electrostatic properties that add tactile sensations to screens. The creation of haptic technology has caused an explosion of technology start ups. One such start-up, Pacinian, has created a kind of coating that can be put on any surface and will turn it into an electrostatic surface that responds to touch. They are currently working on a mainstream haptic keyboard and will be incorporating haptic technology into casinos and cars. Another startup, Senseg, has actually used haptics in order to replicate the feel of textures. This will aid consumers while they shop online. Tactus Technology has taken this a step further by developing a haptic keyboard that allows one to feel the buttons. 

With such advancing steps in haptic technology, it seems that every gadget will find ways to incorporate it.

 
 
Picture
Alex Bard,
Alex has been part of the founding team of four different internet software start ups including eShare Technologies, eAssist Global Solutions, Goowy Media, and is currently serving as CEO for Assistly, a customer service software. He is a very passionate entrepreneur who also serves as an adviser for several start-up companies.


1.     What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful leader to possess?

Well, I totally agree with Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. He talks about the 3 most important roles of a CEO:  
  • Setting the overall company vision and communicating it with the organization
  • Hiring the best possible people to execute on that vision
  • Making sure the company is properly financed
I also see my job as being the Guardian of our culture. Great companies are built on the foundation of a great culture and it’s essential to protect and nurture what is special about your organization. As an organization grows quickly, you run the risk of diluting the company culture if you don’t make this a conscious part of your leadership. Finally, I am a big believer in the CEO’s role as “water carrier” for the organization. I see myself as an enabler. There’s a great article in the Harvard Business Review titled The Most Important Question a Manager can Ask and I try to ask it of all my employees on a regular basis:  What can I do to help you be more effective?

2.     Can you describe your typical day as a CEO?

I run a startup, which means I rarely have a typical day! But here’s what often happens. I jump start my day with a protein shake and visit the gym where I catch up on email, follow internal projects and review any pressing concerns with customers or partners. Once I come into the office I generally meet with my key officers to get an update on the top priority projects and see if there are opportunities for me to help (again, asking they key question: What can I do to help you be more effective?).  I then have external meetings with partners, customers, investors, and other people that can help me advance the business. My schedule is usually packed, but I try to leave blocks of time open to work on items that come up unexpectedly. And I’m always able to move things around to make room for the people that work for me.

3.     How do you foster innovation in your company?

We first look to our customers for innovation. We are very close to our customers and get their feedback regularly through their experience with our products.  We pay close attention to their challenges and successes and see if we can improve on their experience through new features or improvements to existing features.  Additionally we have our own road map—an iterative one—to help us build a product that delivers value to our customers and also helps us differentiate from our competitors. We pride ourselves on hiring the best, most creative talent, and we reward them with exciting projects and encourage them to help us innovate. In fact, we have monthly “hack days” where everyone has an opportunity to work on any project they dream up, and many of these ideas make it into our product.  

4.     How do you manage your work-life balance?

Hopefully, you will have an understanding family, and I am very lucky in that regard. At a startup it’s hard to have a perfect balance.  Being a CEO is a kind of marriage, and in order to be successful you have to commit fully. What few people realize about startup companies is that it’s often not the idea that is special but rather the execution, which only comes from commitment and passion for the business. You can’t run a startup and expect a 9-5 experience.  It’s going to be a significant part of your life.  

5.     What changes do you see in the next 5-10 years for business owners and entrepreneurs?

You can count on it becoming easier to start web businesses with a good idea and little capital. Two college students in a dorm can build an app that reaches millions of customers and they can use a cloud-based tool like Assistly to support all of those users. But as it becomes easier to start a business, you will see dramatically more competition and companies will need to find new ways to differentiate. In our view, customer service is becoming the new competitive battleground. No longer can you depend on a nifty new feature to set you apart; you have to build service in as a key part of your product in order to survive.

 
 
Written by Shaweta Saini
Picture

Undoubtedly, efforts to boost environment awareness  have increased in the past few years, and such efforts have resulted in new products designed to cut energy costs and reduce pollution. Evocative Design, a startup company based in Nework, is one such company. Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, both graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded the company in 2007 and since then it has seen prodigious success. By replacing non-compostable items such as plastics with entirely natural materials, Evocative hopes to make sustainable products cost-effective so that they can be widely used. Their most recent product – compostable car parts made out of mushrooms – has earned a variety of accolades, and the company has teamed up with Ford to supply the car company with organic foams and insulators to make their cars more compostable.

 Evocative has designed biodegradable car parts – such as bumpers, side doors, and dashboards – made out of mushrooms and other agricultural products such as corn husks. The mushrooms act as an important binding tool: the magic ingredient is mycelium, the root system of mushrooms. Mycelium binds the agricultural products together, resulting in a fireproof foam material that is then used to make the car parts. Once the car has lived out its useful life, the car parts are then buried in the soil and can take up to one month to decompose fully. Ford Motor Company is especially interested in Evocative’s creations, as it is seeking to replace 30 pounds of petroleum-based foam components of their cars with sustainable products. Such compostable car parts are especially important due to the world’s increasing pollution: by providing an environmentally-safe option, Evocative hopes to lessen the amount of contamination and waste. Furthermore, unlike other ‘green’ products, mycelium foam is not more expensive than regular petroleum-based foam: its low-cost is appealing to companies such as Ford, not to mention the fact that it helps get rid of local agricultural waste by using it in a productive manner. 
 
Though it is a relatively new company, Evocative hopes to  eventually stand as a formidable opponent against the vast plastics and Styrofoam industries. Already they have received a variety of accolades, such as being listed in the Technology Pioneers of 2011. Now, they are setting their sights on finding more innovative uses for mycelium. Evocative’s car parts are universally important: even the common consumer can afford to buy them and use them in his or her car, and dispose of it in an environmentally-friendly manner once finished with the product. Although its environmental effects are obvious, the car parts also have the potential to strike a blow into the Styrofoam industry as they serve as a low-cost and low-energy alternative to petroleum-based foam. Only time will tell if their success will be long-lasting.