The best advice I ever got: Ray Kurzweil

October 25, 2012

Futurist, inventor, author: In 1978, Xerox became interested in Kurzweil Computer Products and made an investment in my company. In 1979 they expressed interest in acquiring it. They were interested in the scanning and character-recognition technology. Xerox was in the printer business, and they had a lot of machines: copiers, printers that took computerized information and put it out onto paper.

We had a technology that could go in the other direction. At the time I did not have the philosophy that the real business I was in was creating technologies, creating a business from them, and selling them. My attitude was: This is my company, and my role is to create it and build it up and maybe make it into Xerox.

But my CFO, Harry George, said, “What you’re really good at is creating a new technology and bringing it into the world. But there are other people who can bring it to a world market. You should sell to Xerox.”

I took the advice, and Xerox created a world-leading company out of it. That got me into this paradigm. It caused me to redefine the business I’m in, which is being an inventor and creating breakthrough technologies and then finding the right home in a larger company where they can really thrive. I’ve sold five companies, and all of them have not disappeared into the woodwork. Kurzweil Music, for example, is now part of Hyundai. They were able to bring it to a world market in a much better way than we could as a small synthesizer manufacturer. […]