November 17th, 2000
I've kept my dreams alive
'Cause the boy will never die...
So long so long so long
You been away
So long so long so long
You're back again "
Tom Cochrane, Boy
Inside The Man
Landers was almost run out of the business when she
surreptitiously tried this. I'll be up front. I'm
recycling old articles this week. The reason I am
recycling is that the topic that I wrote about 2 and a
half years ago just turned 100 three months ago. I have
pictures to prove it. You have read here that we need to
celebrate our star technology people and promote them to
the rest of the world. Well, here's an original, THE
original tech star with roots in Vancouver. I have
updated the article a bit with some new information. So
gather the kids around the fireplace and listen to a
story about the entrepreneur and some of the decisions
made that created a massive technology company that has
been in the Fortune 100 longer than Bill Gates has been
story begins in Manchester, England on August 6th, 1900,
but it doesn't stay there for long. A young boy and his
parents soon set sail for San Francisco. In the brave
new world, the boy's father sought employment in mining
concerns. About 1906, he decided to venture north to a
new place called Vancouver.
a nearly disastrous decision, he left his wife and the
young boy behind. San Francisco then quaked and burnt to
the ground. The boy and his mother were homeless and
penniless and had no way of getting to Vancouver. A
complete stranger listened to their plight and gave them
enough money to board a ship north. The 6-year-old boy
remembered this generosity and it helped shape the man
off the ship in Vancouver, a rather unruly logging town,
the mother and boy set about searching for their
husband/father. Legend has it that they actually walked
right into him on Hastings St. (Picture that moment next
time you are standing at Granville and Hastings).
Reunited, the family decided to stay in Vancouver.
boy became a man, attending public and King Edward high
school in town and then attending UBC, when it was a
McGill campus downtown. In 1921, he left for Boston, MA
and a prestigious school called MIT. He earned a
Master's in Electrical Engineering by 1924, specializing
in a leading edge technology field of the day, steam
turbine electricity generation (!).
bounced between jobs in Boston, at one time working on
gaseous tubes with a company called Raytheon. He then
traveled across the country to Palo Alto and worked for
a small company called Federal Telegraph (IT&T) (at
the time, the largest telecommunications equipment
provider). It was here that the engineer started to see
was a new field emerging in the labs, using a technology
called reflection seismograph (later, called sonar). In
the height of the depression, mid 1930, the young man's
knowledge of this new technology impressed two founders
of a new start-up in New Jersey. He joined the company
and immediately started to implement his seismology
techniques in oil exploration. The company was
intuitively named Geophysical Service (yup, engineers -
not marketing guys).
young man then led a "nomadic life" in the
world's oil patches for the rest of the 1930's. The new
technology slowly started to show promise in predicting
optimal drilling locations. The company started looking
for oil on its own and had some success. Our young man
becomes one of four key executives in the company. Then,
something called a world war started to play havoc with
their business. Oil companies were not into overseas
exploration anymore and the company lost contracts and
December 6th, 1941, an ultimatum was made to the
company's four founders. The geophysical unit was to be
split from the oil discovery business. If the founders
couldn't buy the unit themselves, Standard Oil would buy
it (and they would most likely be looking for work). Our
now 41-year-old man is part of the group decision to
mortgage everything they have to buy the unit. The deal
closed on this day. Entrepreneurs often talk about
timing being a key to their success. The next day, the
Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Within 3 weeks, the small,
struggling company had a new ultimatum. This time it was
from the US Government. Oil exploration was way, way
down on the list of priorities. Uncle Sam was telling
every company in the U.S., "make something for the
war effort or we conscript your employees".
four founders discussed possible products. A man from
the US Navy had seen their technology and proposed that
it could be used to detect enemy submarines. The
founders agreed that this was their best course of
action and, after all, the military could afford to pay
for expensive equipment.
a period of one month, the founders of Geophysical
Service had become reluctant owners as an alternative to
being out of work. Then they had become submarine
detecting equipment suppliers as an alternative to
closing up shop. Only one thing left to do after
refocusing the company: give it a new name. Since their
headquarters had moved to Dallas a few years before to
be closer to the oil, the men decided to call their new
fledgling company... are you ready for this.... Texas
company went on to make more radar equipment in the 40's
and in 1952, purchased some licenses for a brand new
technology called transistors. Texas Instruments (TI)
listed on the NYSE in 1953, the same year they released
a pioneering new consumer device called the transistor
followed that up in 1954 with the first commercial
silicon transistor. In the process they beat Bell
(AT&T) to market, even though Bell's scientists had
invented the transistor in the first place (The story of
how William Shockley invented the transistor and then
failed to capitalize on it, only to spawn Fairchild and
then Intel, is also worth a read). And to top it off, in
1958, TI was the first company in the world to
demonstrate an integrated circuit, invented by Jack
Kilby who just won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physics.
Jack Kilby joined TI in 1952. His invention, also called
the microchip for many years, has created US$231 Billion
in revenue from all products developed around it by TI
and many other companies that improved the original
design. If you bought 100 shares of TI in 1953, you
would have 6,000 today through share splits. If you were
one of the founders, you became very, very rich.
man in the story is Cecil H. Green. Remember the
stranger that was his benefactor at age six? Cecil, and
his wife Ida, became great philanthropists in the name
of technology and education. Have you been to Stanford?
You might study in the Cecil Green Library. Have you
been to MIT? Possibly been by Cecil Green building
there. And yes, he did own that beautiful house at UBC,
which he then donated. They named a residence after him
for good measure.
2nd from right among the TI founders
next time you go to Science World, possibly for the
Vancouver Enterprise Forum, stop in the front foyer and
take a look at Cecil's picture. He helped save Science
World, along with Milt Wong, Haig Farris and others. He
just turned 100 years old and Haig was at his party,
supplying me with these pictures. He has been a friend
of Haig's for many years, fishing with him almost every
summer until a few years ago. Can you imagine the
stories he must have?
foreground with David Strangway (former UBC President)
on left and Haig Farris on right
last thing - I was married at Cecil Green Park at UBC
(the house that was his) on August 6th (Cecil's
birthday). At the time (1993), I had not yet met Haig
and had no idea who Cecil was. It must be some crazy
cosmic coincidence that will allow me to find and fund
the next TI right here in Vancouver. Which one of you is
the next Cecil Green?
blows out his 100 candles
Why Don't They Play Sudden Death Overtime? - I
talked elections last time, figuring that I could
comment on the impact of the US Election results prior
to our election here in Canada. Then a bunch of old
people in Palm Beach Florida couldn't follow an arrow
and look at the mess they're in now. Could we have a
tie? Three hundred and one seats and five parties, sure.
Imagine this scenario: 125 seats Liberal, 125 seats
Alliance, 25 seats Bloc, 25 seats NDP and Joe Clark. Joe
becomes the most powerful man in Canada, the de facto
PM. His coalition choice puts that group in power. What
sweet revenge that would be, eh?
Gorged on Tech - I attended the Deutsche Bank
Alex Brown Tech 2000 conference in Baltimore this week.
Alex Brown, Hambrecht and Quist and Robertson Stephens
were the original technology only investment banks.
Attending any of these IBank's events is a must if you
need to get to the heart of what's happening in tech.
2500 patrons (DBAB's corporate finance, analyst and
support staff along with invited mutual fund, venture
capital and institutional investor clients) whiz between
5 concurrent streams of ½ hour presentations by all the
top public technology companies and a few dozen up and
coming private companies backed by the top VC's in the
land. What's the real story in semiconductor markets?
(Slight oversupply, but demand still strong everywhere
but the US) Where are content distribution networks
headed? (hypergrowth, as the optical buildout will just
increase demand for more bandwidth hogging data) What's
the latest, greatest disruptive technology? (holographic
crystal optical switches… Puts MEMS companies out of
You can't help but come away from these events feeling
like this is where the game is played at a higher level.
There were no lightweights in the crowd. The top tier
IBanks and the top tier VCs in the US are the NHL.
Everything else is a farm league. I'm not talking about
technology innovation, where Canada and other nations
outside of the US are as good as or better at coming up
with the concepts and products. I mean the finance side
of the coin. Like it or not, you need this part as much
as you need the innovative engineers and scientists to
make it big and these guys/gals make the biggest. As the
cliché goes, "I was just happy to be there."
What Do You Think? Talk
Back To Brent Holliday
Something Ventured is a bi-weekly column designed
to supplement the T-Net British Columbia web site with
some timely, relevant and possibly irreverent insight
into the industry. I hope to share some of the
perspective and trends that I see in my role as a VC.
The column is always followed by feedback (if its
positive or constructive. I'll keep the flames to
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