I’ve always wanted to know how things work and how I might be able to make them work better. For me, science was the outlet for that drive, and I quickly found myself in a laboratory making microscopes while studying Physics at Boston University. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and solving physical problems (as opposed to those just on paper). After one too many frigid Boston winters, I decided it was time to head west and go to get my PhD in Materials Science at Berkeley. Materials Science is a mix of physics, engineering, chemistry and biology – I relished the breadth of applications and possibilities.
Although I enjoyed research, I began to feel as though my perspective on the world was narrowing. I developed expertise in materials characterization (particularly electron microscopy and x-ray diffraction of nano materials), however, I saw the greatest scientific breakthroughs coming from the overlapping areas of different disciplines. In order to take a step back and open my aperture to new topics and ideas, I took a job as a liaison scientist working for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global in Tokyo.
As an Associate Director for ONR Global, I searched for and provided research grants to some of the world’s leading scientists in fields such as alternative energy, energy storage, advanced materials, optics, communications, and even oceanography. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and afforded me the opportunity to interact daily with people a lot smarter than me (including a number of Nobel Prize winners), with a complete spectrum of scientific and cultural backgrounds. Three years with a focus on Asia led to an additional three years in London focusing on Europe and the entire experience taught me that innovation and ideas know no borders. Diverse environments yield new and innovative approaches to common problems.
The process of moving around the globe every few years has the byproduct of reminding you exactly how much stuff you have. It constantly forces you to confront the possessions that you own and reminds you (many times with the price stickers still attached) just how much you have spent on things that are barely used. After a certain point, the adage about your possessions owning you truly becomes a reality, as you realize the square footage necessary for your next apartment is completely dependent on how many things you have.
One frustration that continually nagged me throughout my time at ONR Global was the difficulty associated with scaling the solutions that scientific research has provided. This issue is manifested in a number of ways: first, it can be the difficulty of taking a scientific breakthrough to market and building an effective business around it, or it can be much more fundamental in that a solution that is fabricated on a few millimeters of a microchip can’t be extended to cover a few feet. Although the brain-power is there to solve these problems, there are generally very few rewards within the scientific community for solving either issue and thus there are very few incentives to pursue them. As a result, I decided to pursue an Executive MBA at London Business School (LBS) with an emphasis in entrepreneurism, start-ups and venture capital.
LBS exposed me to a whole new group of people – classmates and professors from around the globe, with diverse backgrounds, cultures and stories. I learned the challenges and rewards of starting and growing business across the world. I also began to spend time learning how advanced manufacturing processes, particularly additive manufacturing (3D printing), were changing the way that technology is being created. My thesis project combined these themes, examining how manufacturing might look in the future, how the processes to scale science were becoming more and more accessible and finally how the venture capital industry could play a role.
A desire to see this future develop is what drove me back to California and San Francisco. It’s my hope that I can get Silicon Valley excited about a future where we better leverage the brain power that resides in university departments other than computer science. I want to expose some of the great ideas coming from unlikely locations of the globe. I want to unlock new products and production that are designed for specific users, rather than to be thrown away by the masses.
This website is the first step.