Ron Erickson is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years of experience in the high technology, telecommunications, micro-computer, and digital media industries. Mr. Erickson is also the founder of Visualant, Inc. In addition to his Visualant responsibilities, he also serves as Chairman of eCharge Corporation an Internet-based transaction processing company.
He was formerly Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Mobile Media, an entertainment company. Blue Frog Media; Chairman, CEO and Co-founder of GlobalTel Resources; Chairman, Interim President and CEO of Egghead Software, Inc. Additionally, Mr. Erickson has been an angel investor and board member of a number of public and private technology companies. We asked him about his plans for reinventing the technology industry over the next decade.
The name ChromaID conjures up images of tried and true steadfast technology from earlier days, yet it's truly cutting edge. How did you become a trendsetter in bringing the science of spectrophotometry into the palm of your hand?
I have always been interested in new technology and curious about how the world works. The technology behind ChromaID emanated from a conversation about the vanity of human perception. As humans, we typically believe that the color we see with our eyes is the color that exists. In reality, it only exists for us. It is what our brains tell us we see, but other species see other colors and sometimes more vivid colors. From that initial conversation the technology evolved to what it is today.
You say "When people ask me what is the most interesting application of ChromaID, I tell them that the most interesting one is the one I can't even imagine." Where does your imagination see ChromaID heading in the next decade?
Color is nature's fingerprint. Everything in the world has a unique machine readable chromatic or color identifier. With our ChromaID technology we can read that unique identifier. When I say I can't imagine the most interesting application I'm really saying nothing more than my perception is limited by my own personal and unique experience. I think ChromaID technology will, within a decade, be embedded in everyday devices and become a part of our daily lives, enabling us to identify, authenticate, and diagnose a wide range of conditions in our lives.
When a new kind of technology is so vast and comprehensive, it can sometimes have difficultly quickly finding practical applications in the marketplace. What kinds of strategies are you implementing for developers and interested parties to have Visualant and ChromaID hit the ground running?
We are about to deliver our Lab Kit which will allow interest parties, consumer product and technology companies and others to play with the technology and develop unique applications for their own particular use case. We feel a bit like Johnny Appleseed, seeding the market with our Lab Kits. I'm sure we'll be surprised at some of the many ideas that result from developers and interested parties playing with our ChromaID Lab Kits.
You've been in the technology sector for over three decades, from your time as Vice Chairman and Director of Egghead Software to several recent smart angel investments. How do you feel the industry has changed the most dramatically within that timespan?
The paramount element has been the ever-accelerating velocity of change or evolution of the technology ecosystem. The life-cycle of technology has compressed. Of course, I have to temper that view with my own perspective. I've been involved with the technology business for over 30 years. Each moment today is a rapidly decreasing portion of my own life.
The most profound change in the business of the technology industry, is in my view, the compression of the channel of distribution. Products are shipped directly from manufacturers to consumers. Many middlemen have gone out of business. People make their own buy decisions and learn to use formerly complex products without the aid of intermediaries or savants.
That compression of the channel of distribution goes hand in hand with technologies' ease of use and portability features. And technology seems to get cooler, more engaging, and more fun to use with each passing day.
In those three decades, what was the biggest surprise of your career?
There have been several. I wouldn't call them surprises so much as epiphanies or "aha moments." I learned with one company that being best doesn't mean you can win the war for consumer attention. First to market can command mind and market-share and can be very difficult to dislodge with the most brilliant and elegant alternative. At another company I learned that a problem solving product and productivity tool had a tough time with consumers who were comfortable with their existing Rube Goldberg solution. Our obvious and better solution fell on deaf ears. At more than one company I learned that venture capitalists are not venturesome risk takers. Seed round angel investors are risk takers. And, unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of venture capitalists have never started or run a business. They are not entrepreneurs.
What's next on your to-do list after Visualant and ChromaID?
I never know what the next thing is until it crosses my path. There will come a time when I can make the time to create an opening for something to appear. I look at that process in a Zen way. When you are open to opportunity then opportunity appears. With Visualant, and whatever comes next I hope to continue to work in modest ways to make a difference in the world.