“Knowing is not enough; we must apply,” said Goethe, Germany’s greatest man of letters. A consultant is presumed to know his subject well. Just knowing the subject well is good enough to carry on his consulting business. Well, applying the knowledge to consultant’s own venture is a whole different ballgame. Most consultants would not dare jumping into the same pool that they teach their clients to swim through. But what happens when a consultant is challenged to swim through the sea of his own creation. I did not know that when I met two young enterprising gentlemen, who got excited by their first look at my idea of capitalizing on the rapidly evolving Internet.
Yes, from hardcore biotechnology / biopharmaceutical research I was getting into Information Technology. Well, there was a reason. Biotechnology product development is very resource intensive, requires 100s of millions dollars, several years and huge risk. And if you develop a blockbuster drug you are the rarest of rare. But here I saw in IT big opportunities that cannot even be imagined in biotechnology. All you need is your innovative mind and your COMPUTER. You can create blockbuster products if you got the patience, perseverance and the knack of making it happen. When I started my own consulting firm, I had some of my own product ideas; two of them were related to Medicine but had an IT overlap. One of them was a computerized rating system for rating the quality of the peer reviewed clinical research, and the other was a 3D imaging system. I had patent applications almost ready to be filed. It was a great coincidence that my previous employer offered a consulting assignment to co-ordinate the Company’s product development collaboration with a Harvard University physician, who with another collaborator was developing a 3D breast cancer imaging technology for early diagnosis and removal of breast cancer. As much as I needed an assignment like that while I establish my consulting business, the project was an eye opener for me as to the possibilities that IT opens up for innovators.
Anyway, to cut the story short, these guys who were excited about my Internet idea, gave me the first push into the pool of entrepreneurship. The consultant in me who was teaching others to swim was not very sure whether he himself would swim or sink given a situation. And this swim appeared to be much tougher than any a professional consultant would face, because:
i) these guys who were investing in my idea were totally and completely naïve as far as technology business is concerned, so the entire burden of developing the product and the business was on me;
ii) although an inventor, I was basically a medical doctor with no training or experience in IT. They had good hearts but had absolutely no concept of Intellectual Property; what it means, how to develop and how to take it all the way to the market. But a business needs more than good hearts and an inventor, not all of which could have been acquired by me alone. First, thing I did was to get the - Visual Basic in 24 hours - book. The idea was not to learn programming, but just to have a broad understanding of applying enough logic to interact with my programmers and get done what I want from them. It was a big challenge, but eventually I did invent a futuristic product that excited not only my business partners and investors but also world’s leading accounting and IP evaluating firm.
Amidst wild speculations and Wall Street booming with Internet revolution my business partners started learning how mere ideas and patents can create value out of thin air. The IP valuation report was released by this global giant of an accounting firm, who also scheduled for us investment conferences with some of the Wall Street’s biggest players to help us capitalize on this value through solicited venture capital. The IP report valued our IP at $63 million.
Vow, is that how value can be created from thin air out of nothing that was apparently tangible? My partners would wonder. Have their thousands really grown into millions in just a few months? Can’t be legitimate their friends thought. Well, my partners had lived through the legitimacy and credibility of our technology business and they could not have imagined anything more legitimate than this. But one thing they could neither imagine nor could be talked into was:
“If technology can create value in your business with lightening speed, it can also perish equally fast.”
Read the next Case Study to find out about the perishability of technology and how a foresight that can still salvage value of your IP from the onslaught of a financial tsunami.