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Impressions from the IEC Nano-Engineering Conference
June 23 - 25th, 2003 in Marlborough, Massachusetts
By Jim Hurd
The IEC Nano-Engineering Conference met this June 23rd - 25th in Marlborough Massachusetts,
about a half hour's drive east of Boston. The conference, which is organized by
the International Engineering Consortium (www.iec.org) happened alongside the DesignCon East conference, which is a
more technical conference geared to the semiconductor industry.
A similar meeting of the Nano-Engineering Conference and DesignCon had occured in Santa Clara in January of this year.
This was the first time the conference had been held on the east coast. While the attendance was a
little on the light side,
there was no shortage of insightful interaction on the events and trends influencing nanotechnology today.
The following are two examples of sessions from the Nano-Engineering conference. One panel of interest on Monday,
6/23, was the "Venture Capital Perspective" panel - moderated by Robert Kispert of the Massachusetts
Technology Collaborative and included Alain Hannover of Navigator Technology Ventures,
Todd Hixon of DFJ New England and Paul Wormser, Konarka, a venture-backed solar technology company.
Alain spoke of his company's focus on investing in companies that already have a working prototype -
and staying away from companies that are too early stage. He also talked about the importance of having a
very strong patent position in order to be funded by his firm. Some of Navigator's areas of interest are
fuel cells, nano-materials and drug delivery companies.
Todd Hixon gave some insight into the way DFJ - New England works. As a $50 million venture fund,
it identifies good companies to fund which are often funded in later stages by Draper Fisher Jurvetson -
Silicon Valley. Todd explained that they are willing to come in before a working prototype may exist,
if the technology and the market are strong enough. One company they had funded was Coatue, which had
been purchased just a few weeks before. Todd's areas of interest are in fuel cells and catalytic deals.
He does not focus on nano-bio opportunities.
Paul Wormser gave a good overview of Konarka's leading solar technology and talked about how the
company had put together its rounds of investment. They have been funded by Eastman Ventures and DFJ -
and Alain Hannover said that his company had wanted to come in on the last round but it had been oversubscribed.
Robert Kispert gave the audience a glipse of the strong initiative that Massachusetts is putting together
- with the work that start-ups, leading universities, corporations, investors and government agencies that
are developing together.
A second session that stood out for me was the Keynote speaker at lunch Tuesday.
Bernard Gordon was intriguing, down-to-earth and brilliant.
He is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of Analogic. At fourteen years old, Bernard re-designed and
installed a series of thirty
local outhouses in the mid-1930's at a time when there was no process designed to enable effective cleaning.
After being passed over by MIT, in part due to his stated interest in the re-design of useful day-to-day
things such as outhouses, Bernard went on to the military. After serving a brief time, the military ended up
sending him to MIT!
After graduating, Bernard developed technologies that led him to eventually design the A-to-D
(analog to digital) converter. At one point, his tiny start-up received a $10 million order.
Only problem was that the company that placed the order called back a few days later and required
that Bernard's company have $100,000 in the bank to prove they could handle the order. The only
place Bernard could obtain the money was a successful entrepreneur who required 51% of the company for his
$100,000 loan. Bernard made the deal and ended up getting along very well with the investor as the
company developed. The original $100,000 loan became worth $20 million.
Such are the trials and powerful achievements of major new technology companies.
Bernard holds more than 200 patents worldwide. A lifelong inventor, his creations include the
fetal monitor, the instant imaging computer-aided tomography scanner, Doppler radar, and an advanced
bomb-detection device. Mr. Gordon established Analogic as a worldwide leader in areas such as
ultrasonography and digital imaging, supplying the digital electronic processing subsystems for the
leading laser imagers in the industry.
Bernard's humor and insight as a keynote was a great treat. Similar stories are emerging today
as nanoscience enables nano businesses to create dramatically improved materials and products.
These are two examples of sessions held at the IEC Nano-Engineering Conference.
Copyright Jim Hurd 2002
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