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Trump University Entrepreneurship 101: How to Turn Your Idea into a Money Machine, Second Edition by Michael E. Gordon

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8
Build Your Fortune as a
Techno-preneur
I
n Chapter 4, “Start Right—Build on the CUSTOMER Model,” Technology
was identified as one of the nine driving forces for competitive success. This
would seem to disqualify nascent entrepreneurs who have little or no academic
technical training. But things aren’t always as they seem. As an avid reader
of MIT’s Technology Review magazine, I have been impressed by the growing
number of technology-based ventures launched by entrepreneurs who lack
formal degrees in technical fields. In this chapter, I share the stories of two
such techno-preneurs who followed their passions and willed their way to
success: Ric Fulop and Timothy McTighe. Their achievements should serve
as an inspirational guide for your own techno-preneurship adventure.
Ric Fulop, Co-Founder of A123Systems, Inc.
Ric Fulop has had an exceptional entrepreneurial career, having launched six
successful technology ventures before the age of 30. In 2008, he was acclaimed
in Technology Review magazine as one of the outstanding men and women under
the age of 35 who exemplify the spirit of innovation in business and technology.
1
My
acquaintance with Ric Fulop goes back to 1995, when he was an undergraduate
student of entrepreneurship at Babson College. At the age of 21, and working
with a technology partner, Fulop developed a business plan to launch an
Internet company. His enthusiasm for that new venture was unbridled. He
was concerned that Internet technology was moving so fast that he and his
venture might be left behind. As a result, Fulop made the bold decision to leave
business school before graduation to launch his company. Within a few years,
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TRUMP UNIVERSITY ENTREPRENEURSHIP 101
the enterprise he co-founded became a dramatic success. Since then, he has
gone on to launch several other ventures and then to earn a master’s degree in
business administration (MBA) from the MIT Sloan School of Management,
where he was a Sloan Fellow.
Fulop’s most recent venture, A123Systems, Inc., is poised to be his greatest
entrepreneurial accomplishment yet. In 2001, he began to focus on energy
storage technology for the transportation industry as a means of reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. He was determined to make a dent in global warm-
ing. The absence of a formal background in material science did not slow
down this self-starter, who has been described as an “unstoppable rainmaker
with an unsurpassed Rolodex file.”
2
He quickly acquired extensive knowledge
in lithium-ion battery technology through self-study of the technical jour-
nals, attendance at energy conferences, and discussions with scientists and
personnel in the MIT Technology Licensing office. His quest brought him
into contact with Yet-Ming Chiang, a brilliant MIT professor of material sci-
ence who specialized in the field of lithium-based ceramics. Fulop and Prof.
Yet-Ming Chiang rapidly developed a strong rapport and agreed to launch
A123Systems, along with another co-founder, Bart Riley (CTO). That part-
nership was the launch pad for the company’s vertical ascent. Consider this
synopsis of the company’s astounding upward trajectory:
2001: A123Systems established R & D laboratories to optimize
battery manufacturability and performance (power, safety, and life)
for the hand tool and motor vehicle market.
2005: The company announced a new higher-power, faster recharg-
ing lithium-ion battery system based on technology licensed from
MIT.
2006: A123Systems was awarded a $15 million development con-
tract by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium with a
focus on systems that are high-power, abuse-tolerant, long-lasting
and cost effective.
2007: Separately, General Motors and Daimler Orion an-
nounced plans to co-develop lithium-ion battery technology with
A123Systems for use in their future hybrid and electric vehicles.
2007: A123Systems received a $30 million investment to support
scale up and recent contract awards in the automotive and power
tool market.
2007: President George W. Bush met with A123Systems’ CEO to
discuss advanced batteries for plug-in hybrids capable of over 150
mpg.
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