© 2010 David Gustafsson

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

As a few of you already know I am interested in entrepreneurship ever since my experiences of starting up EverTee; the everlasting golf tee. One of the masters at Chalmers is called MEI (management and economics of innovation) which I have chosen not to study (I wrote about that in an earlier post). One reason for the decision is that it is useless to try to educate to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is about doing and a theoretical background in other engineering fields are then in my opinion more important.

My protected invention EverTee, the everlasting golf-tee

My protected invention EverTee, the everlasting golf-tee

However I do feel that one course on the subject has a certain meaning; to gain theoretical insights of how to go forward from a great idea to success. It is not all about executing, it also comes down to how you execute! In the course we are suppose to develop an idea and go through a few key steps an entrepreneur is facing. Pitching and writing a business plan is two examples. In parallel to this guest speakers come and visit every week.

Yesterday Gary Zamel spoke to us about his career as an entrepreneur. He has made 7 start-ups of which 5 has been (and still are) successful. Mine Site Technologies was his first and maybe most impressing company. 1986 a mining accident occurred in Queensland, Australia, which got the government to react on mine safety. Gary came up with the idea to introduce communication systems to mines. Prior to 1986 there was impossible for an operator to communicate with above ground level. Mobile phones run over a high frequency (typically MHz spectrum). The signal does not propagate through rock. Mine Site’s solution is a low frequency wireless protocol that indeed can send signals through thousands of meters with unknown material. To communicate does not only help safety since there are several of other applications that make use of data transmitting. Still today there are very few competitors and all mines do not have a communication system (as late as 2004 it got regulated by law in USA). The company does today have 100 employees.

Other examples of companies that Gary own are:

  • A company that drills on the seabed. Normal drilling techniques involves sending a drilling ship platform that lets the drill run from the surface 1000-meters to the seabed and from there further down rock. To send a craft down to the bottom and drill from there gives advantages when it comes to stability, efficiency etc. Definitely a technology that is becoming more and more popular…
  • A water supply company that recycles the gray water from the shower, laundry and sink. In Sydney there is often water shortage and restrictions which prohibits people from watering their flowers. By cleaning the gray water it can be used to second hand tasks such as this and water does not have to run all the way from the water treatment plant for garden work etc. Also a great invention!

I am constantly looking for great ideas for my next start-up, which will be successful! Gary did not start until a few years after he graduated as a mining student. Therefore I still feel young. You should not be too young when you try a serious start-up. I do believe that this was a main contributor to my failure with EverTee; lack of experience. One of the things that are recommended when bringing new innovations to the market is to not go via retailers or distributors. In my case I got scared of when we faced resistance from the golf retailers. Often, which I do believe were the case with EverTee, retailers want to stick to proven business models. They earn little success in promoting an invention that will radically reduce, in my case the golfers expenditures on golf tees (our idea were that only one tee was needed to get rid of the unhealthy consumption spiral that exist in the tee-market). We should have continued to develop the product and sell directly to customers which also was the strategy we took that was the most profitable. Based on this and other lessons I am seriously considering the thought of starting up the same idea again in the future. The market is small enough for competition to be weak. Contact me if you are interested.