A Technopreneur by the name of Thomas Alva Edison

Let us just look around us. How many technological inventions and innovations do we see? The answer (though clichéd) is umpteen. But in the list that we would conjure up, there is a high probability that at least a quarter of them would have something to do with Thomas Alva Edison, one of the few mortals who had the license to say ´Let there be lightµ! Thomas Alva Edison, born on February 11, 1847 is undoubtedly one of the greatest inventors the world has seen being credited with a little more than a thousand innovations which would range from revolutionizing ones like the electric bulb (which is now used to symbolize a new idea and reportedly took him 10001 attempts!) to lesser known ones like stock tickers. But not many would recall Edison as an entrepreneur as much as a technologist In fact, Thomas Edison is a perfect example of a Technopreneur, a word coined more than half a century after his demise in 1931. A Technopreneur is an entrepreneur who deals with technology products. Many a time, the word Technology takes precedence over Entrepreneurship in the definition of a Technopreneur. But, Entrepreneurship is in many ways as important as Technology for a Technopreneur especially nowadays where there are very few standalone technologists. But, this has not been the case in those days where there was a clear demarcation between innovators and entrepreneurs. Scientists preferred to spend their time in the laboratories than in the market. Edison was among the first exceptions. He showed that an innovator could use his innovation to make a successful venture. Not just the way he built a venture, but also the way he went about his researches demands attention from prospective Technopreneurs. He emphasized on team work and found people who had the ability to think differently to work with him. He looked at those people·s talent and skill level than their educational qualification reflecting his own success despite the lack of formal education. He was also one of the first inventors who went for mass production going against the prevalent practice of inventors satisfied with the invention and selling the patents to business men. He bought patents for himself and had setup manufacturing facilities to mass produce those innovations himself leading to unchallenged leadership in some products.

The way he dealt with the trade-off between maintaining secrecy about the innovation and at the same time creating awareness about the innovation after its completion was classic. His laboratories were conveniently in discreet locations and he would shroud the ongoing research in secrecy and immediately after completion he would get a patent for it. Then his firm would go about holding public exhibition of the products pre-empting the competitor·s ability to imitate the product legally and even brand-wise as people would have already associated the product with Edison·s firm. He also had the ability to value his innovations perfectly. This attribute is important for a Technopreneurs as he has to understand the value of his innovation first before teaching the market the value of the product. Another important skill is the art of networking with people. He knew the right people in the right places. He had Henry Ford, JP Morgan, the members of Vanderbilt family in his friend·s list. They mutually helped each other case in point being Edison helping Henry Ford·s automobile with his technology and Ford, Morgan standing by Edison in his infamous feud with Nikola Tesla. Edison, though being a genius and being attributed with the phenomena like Edison effect, focused more on improvement on existing products to make it more useable serving niches initially and then expanding the market base. Edison·s interest in investments and financial aspects could be gauged from his keen interest in the activities of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and him merging his General electric illuminating company with Thompson-Houston Electric Company to infuse capital and thus enabling public distribution of DC electricity. Edison·s success story holds remarkable lessons for entrepreneurs with his hard work and perseverance being the first of many. He famously remarked, ´Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspirationµ. This remark narrates a lot about the man. One can see that he had focused on all areas of management. Human resources-wise he employed the right people, Marketing-wise he satisfied the need of the market helped by appropriate promotional activities, Finance-wise he had the great gift of valuating his ´assetµ accurately and Operation-wise he was the pioneer of mass production. Thus Edison is an inspiration not only to Scientists and academicians but also to entrepreneurs with him being a model Technopreneur. Now with inspiration derived from him, let prospective entrepreneurs do the rest 99%. The part which is called PERSPIRATION!