Why it is a Great Time to be a Technopreneur!

It is a great time to be a technologist, a great time to be an entrepreneur or an intrepreneur.

Gopi Katragadda
Published: 29, Jan 2013

(Gopi Katragadda is the Managing Director at GE India Technology Center) Be it going down unknown roads of a new city, or peeling the onion of a known fact to discover fascinating unknown layers, what drives me is the unknown… The amount I have learnt trying to decipher the Indus script is as valuable as the eventual goal of decipherment. As a boy, one summer, I learnt to make soap from my English teacher, and I sold the soap to neighbors and friends. I made soap because I enjoyed the act of creating and I sold soap because it was a validation that what I created had value… Today, deep down, I am still that boy who makes and sells soap… Leading GE Technology in India provides me the ultimate platform to probe unknown corners of Energy, Healthcare, Transportation, and Aviation. We create intellectual property and put it into products that solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Over the last decade, the work done by inventors at GE India has resulted in over 1500 patents being filed by the Parent General Electric Company. My book on innovation titled ‘Smash Innovation,’ explores the barriers to innovation in India and how we could break those barriers. This blog is again my exploration of how to make this a century of Indian Innovation.

I spent most of January in the US, and among other interesting happenings, one highlight was that I got a new job offer!  That, hopefully, should not be surprising!!  What probably is surprising is that this was the youngest person ever to make me an offer - my 9-year-old nephew (cousin’s son).

After talking to me for some time, he looked straight into my eyes and said “I will hire you.”  Before I could recover, he went on to give me an impressive pitch on his social networking site for kids under 13.  He wanted me to make movies for kids which would be accessible through one of the tabs on his site.  I played along and asked him how much he would pay me.  He was quick to reply “$300". I said it was too little and negotiated if I could instead get one dollar for every view.  He thought over it and said he didn't want to charge the viewers, nor did he want to change his business model of getting revenues from advertisers.  Wow!  And I was having this conversation with a 9-year-old!

As I travelled across all the time-zones in the US, I could smell the return of  entrepreneurial enthusiasm of the late 1990s.  No kid wants to be a Rock Star – they all want to be “Mark Zuckerberg.”

There is convergence of technology, analytics, demographics, and availability of energy that is powering this new age of innovation.  Smart Machines, Analytics, Big Data, and Crowd Sourcing are the buzz words that describe this edition of the digital revolution.

The pervasiveness of networked industrial equipment necessitates the combination of computation and brain power to convert large amounts of data generated into insights for decisions.  The ability to work whenever and wherever with a computer or a tablet enables a ‘worker’ to access and deliver job packets online.  As crowdsourcing examples, mturk.com, elance.com, freelancer.com, and guru.com provide platforms for job assignment and delivery for jobs that can be completed in minutes.  The final work product may combine the small jobs done by several workers.  Collaborative design is in and examples abound - check out quirky.com, shapeways.com, nanosatisfi.com, and localmotors.com. GE’s Outage Management System is an industrial example where automated call tracking (crowd sourcing) and advanced metering infrastructure (smart meters) are combined with expert analysis (Analytics) and logistics (Big Data) to identify and manage electric outages.  The overall potential of the industrial internet (as it is being termed) is estimated at US $10-15 trillion, based on productivity growth assumptions.

Examples abound in creative fields as well.  Lyricists, musicians, and singers are collaborating globally through sites such as soundcloud.com to create fantastic music.

A percussion artist uploads a loop of beats, a string instrument player puts up a sweet melody, a lyricist looks up available music for inspiration and signs up a singer.  Each artist gets paid for a non-exclusive right to use the work package and you have a composition in place!  Check out my experiments here and here.  HD digital cameras and a collaborative environment (example vimeo.com) have brought movie making within reach of tech-savvy professionals from various fields.  (Check out my experiment at vimeo).  Social media sites such as Facebook are bringing together hobby actors, directors, and cinematographers to produce stunning movies.  The future of professional production houses and cinema halls would be to shift completely to the 3D format.  Opportunity for crowd sourcing also exists in labour intensive creative fields such as gaming and animation.

Newer applications of Big Data and Crowd Sourcing will be driven by the scientific strides of recent times in genomics and particle physics.  The practical applications emerging from these discoveries require abundant computational power and brain power to convert data into consumable information.  I recently saw the miraculous recovery of a colleague from late-stage cancer using experimental cell therapy to reprogram his blood cells using his brother’s stem cells!  This person now literally has the genetic structure of his brother flowing through his veins, while the rest of his body is his own.

More recently there was a Scientific American report on the successfully attempt to store large volumes of data on tiny volumes of synthetic DNA!  These are just amazing advances which have a potential to tip the scientific and technical world into a tizzy of new discovery and applications.

This digital revolution and its possibilities would mean additional demand for energy.  Luckily, the energy landscape is also undergoing tectonic shifts matching the scale needed to power the revolution.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) released its “World Energy Outlook 2012 recently. The report paints a very optimistic energy picture especially for the US.  As the US is slated to reach energy sufficiency and a net exporter of oil by 2035, the political and technical landscape is bound to shift.  Shale gas, shale oil, and tight oil all buzz words a couple of years ago have become major forces in shaping the brave new world of energy.  From a technology stand point, we should be thinking about water reuse in fracking (a single oil or gas well requires 5 million gallons of water), low-water fracking, shale gas liquefaction & transportation, gas storage; gas automobiles, and gas locomotives.

It is a great time to be a technologist, a great time to be an entrepreneur or an intrepreneur.  I recently heard this advice for entrepreneurs: ‘…be like heat seeking missiles – find the true signal in all the noise…’

  • Big Data Landscape Forbes | hedges - garden centre

    [...] Why it is a Great Time to be a Technopreneur! – Smart Machines, Analytics, Big Data, and Crowd Sourcing are the buzz words that describe … possibilities would mean additional demand for energy. Luckily, the energy landscape is also undergoing tectonic shifts matching the scale needed to power … [...]

    on Dec 29, 2015

    carry on gopiji

    on Feb 14, 2014
  • Krishna

    Great Article Gopi ! This has in - fact further fueled my quest towards bringing niche ideas into the market. Quite interesting to note that we share the same organization and the passion. Would love to interact with you.

    on Apr 21, 2013
  • Suman

    Great article Gopi. I can foresee your nephew to be a succesful enterprenuer of future. I guess we have lot of people in GE with off beat entrepreneurship vision and ideas (as your nephew). But are prohibited to materialize them because of challenges. I hope we can do honour to those dreams and capitalize by executing feasible and effective ideas.

    on Feb 12, 2013
  • Neeraj Gandhi

    Good article Gopi, i guess from this story next generation's important behavioral anchor would be netiquette rather than etiquette, having said that volume of penetration in Industrial Internet will be the key component in the company's assets and market cap.

    on Feb 5, 2013
  • Vinay Ramanath

    Excellent article, Gopi. i particularly loved your thoughts on DNA. My cousin recently started a venture in the field of bio-medical and he was telling stories of DNA sequencing, on big data related to genetics and cancer research. Truly exciting stuff happening around!.

    on Feb 5, 2013
  • Anand

    Wonderful Gopi. I look at most organizations as innovation engines, where a fraction of the ideas that work their way from discovery to feasibility to products actually make it to the market. But a majority of the ideas go uncashed. Can we leverage the industrial internet to connect ideas to markets through partnerships. Secondly, the ideas that do make it to the market are sold in a very linear manner into the market. Can employees that feel and touch the products actually become entrepreneurs, pulling in their network to make it happen. They multiply the sales force, often using digitization tools. But as it spreads they are off doing the next invention.

    on Feb 5, 2013
  • priyang kukadiya

    superb article sir very intresting concept "technopreneur" & very well written...............................

    on Feb 5, 2013
  • Arjun Bhattacharyya

    Great visionary article Gopi. You mention very interesting trends for the future...technology convergence, crowd clouding, energy/gas. It is indeed great time to unleash the entrepreneur.

    on Feb 4, 2013
  • Sourish

    Wow that was nice gopi mama. Oh yeah i am still hiring you. What video ideas do you have

    on Jan 31, 2013
  • suresh sistla

    Brilliant article. very well written and interesting concepts put together.

    on Jan 31, 2013
  • Dattaraj Rao

    Great article! This is a great time indeed for Technologists. We are finally starting to ask right questions on our data rather than just store it for future. We are realizing that the world has become small enough that we can reach out to experts anywhere in the world and solve problems collaboratively. The sky-rocketting dollar estimates aside, a new era of Innovation and Collaboration is definitely here.

    on Jan 30, 2013
  • Sasi Kumar

    Great Thoughts and many takeaways for who wish to innovate.

    on Jan 29, 2013
  • kavitha choudhury

    Great reading Gopi.Commendable experiments of your own too. Would be interested to know the name of the social networking site for under 13 year olds.

    on Jan 29, 2013
    • Gopichand Katragadda

      Kavitha, the social networking site for under 13 year olds developed by my nephew is still not public :-) However, here is a nice article with several pointers: http://parentingsquad.com/forget-facebook-safer-social-networking-sites-for-kids-under-13 Cheers!

      on Jan 30, 2013
      • kavitha choudhury

        Thanks Gopi. Quite an eye opener that was!

        on Jan 31, 2013
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