Here’s a happy subject this month: entrepreneurship.
Believe it or not, I know a lot about starting and running your own business. Beginning in 1963, four years after engineering school, I began manufacturing plastic parts for the aerospace industry. Then I filed a patent and, when it was issued in 1967, three others and I started a business to manufacture reinforced plastic grain storage silos that the rest of the world desperately needed. We immediately received a $25 million contract with financing from Argentina’s government, but within a month their corrupt leadership changed and one partner “disappeared” and a second dropped dead on the streets of Perth. So, we stopped that venture.
A partner and I then made electronic signal jammers, selling them around the world, until we started making other high-tech facility security items and information-gathering things in three more firms that I started with others. They were all self-financed. All of this was before I started writing this column in 1972, and it was fun!
To be an entrepreneur requires self-realism, honesty in planning, ability to understand both defeat and success, and imagination. It is mandatory that you know yourself and your shortcomings. It is also essential that you are willing and content to work in an environment that is “different” from most jobs. It takes long soul-searching hours with commitment. Oh, and did I say imagination with realism?
This all leads us to a suggested entrepreneurship situation for readers of this journal. Maybe one or more companies could get together and bring the following ideas to reality – for world benefit and participants’ profit.
Nearly 30 years ago a fellow named David Giles invented what he called FastShip. The patented method changed hull design so that, for example, a freighter 265 meters long x 40 meters wide with 10.5-meter draft and powered by five jet turbines driving water jets could complete a transatlantic crossing in 90 hours (compared to 160 hours with conventional container ships) and offload intermodal containers in under six hours (compared to the conventional 48 hours).
The hull design was quite different. For whatever reason(s) private shippers (e.g., Maersk) were hard against FastShip. Common sense says this new and different approach “horned in on their turf.” This negativism also included the U.S. defense establishment, U.S. Navy and several support contractors on the Littoral Combat Ship project, which were sued by FastShip. Government and contractors totally lost the case for patent infringement. FastShip went bankrupt in 2012. It is still a good idea, the world needs it and it is essential to understand that FastShip is quite affordable.
Now let’s add another dimension. Some fellows at MIT and Harvard have been studying sharks. They found that due to “denticles” in the skin structure, some of these creatures can swim 60 mph. Looking at denticles, we observe that they create a “cupped” surface that “increases lift without increasing drag.” It is reported that lift can be increased by (as much as) over 300%. It works and has been tried. It is not a big deal for readers of this journal to put dimples (denticles) on the surface of vast areas of metal sheet used in ship hulls. Duh!
Now to skip ahead and sideways at the same time, let me introduce you to a friend of mine who knows all the folks involved with what is being described. I met John Bosma when he came to Washington, D.C. as part of the Reagan transition team at the White House in 1981. He is a prolific researcher and writer and knows all the folks mentioned that deal with both FastShip and denticle technology. He lives out near Seattle, but you can reach him at 410-446-8198 to discuss the issues mentioned here and to start building a team of entrepreneurs to make what seems like two good ideas into a reality. He has identified a team, including shipbuilders and system designers, but no one that can put denticles on metal for ship hulls.
Since none of this is set in stone, talking and learning is always the next step at a time and juncture like this. It will be fascinating to learn if these ideas go anywhere.