Shuji Nakamura

Shuji Nakamura’s a guy I’d like to meet one day. This man invented the blue LED and the blue laser and was so poorly compensated for all his efforts that he left his company and his nation for a teaching post at UCSB. Here’s the SciAm interview with Nakamura.

Last October, having done everything he wanted to with gallium nitride and weary of a Japanese industrial R&D system that he characterizes as “communist,” Nakamura decided to leave Nichia. Though his inventions had swelled NichiaÌs profits from under $100 million to over $400 million, Nakamura was being paid only $100,000 a year, he says. In 1999, NichiaÌs products accounted for 40 percent of the $300-million-a-year market for nitride LEDs, according to Strategies Unlimited of Mountain View, Calif. That market is growing at a rate of 40 to 50 percent a year, says the company.
Within a month, as word got out of his decision to leave Nichia, Nakamura was offered professorships at 10 U.S. universities and two European ones, and at five U.S. companies. One of the companies (he declines to identify it) offered him a salary of $500,000 a year and stock options worth $10 million. “It was unbelievable to me,” he says. He was set to sign with the company, but a professor at one of the universities that was courting him advised that if he took an industrial job, NichiaÛwhich held the patents on all his gallium nitride breakthroughsÛwould sue him the moment he did anything even remotely related. “I was afraid of those things,” he explains. In effect, he was a prisoner of his own painstakingly written patents. Ironically, patenting all of the advances was his idea, not his superiorÌs, he claims.

Nakamura’s yet another canary in the coalmine to me. I’m more depressed than ever after hearing about his accomplishments and how he’s been treated.
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“Why do people sit in theaters and watch a bunch of trailers?” he [Yahoo! CEO, Terry Semel] asked. “Because they enjoy it.”
What a bunch of bullsh!t. People sit through trailers because they want good seats for the movie that they paid $10 to see so they go early to get good seats and then the HAVE to sit through the trailers. Sure there’s some who’re excited to see trailers for upcoming movies, but that’s incidental to the moviegoing experience.
I think Yahoo!’s gone the wrong way by hiring an ex-Hollywood exec to run their show because he’s going to migrate the company towards the areas that he has experience in- entertainment and content. I think Yahoo!s core competencies lie in “communication technologies” (email, listservs, instant messengering, portals) and NOT entertainment or professional content. Just watch as the geeks get amazed by the celebrities and broadband takes decades longer than predicted and their new direction sends them into a deep hole.
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pjammer pens another heartbreaking, poignant story of his past. would that I could be so eloquent with similar stories I have….

In the beginning of the world, there was an old man assigned to create the souls of those who would populate the earth. He would knead the clay and create little figures in pairs, male and female, connected by a red thread that he would use to hang them upside-down to dry. When his work was finished, the thread, from the left foot of one and the right foot of the other, would be severed and the souls would be sent to populate the earth, where they spend a lifetime finding the one they were connected to at their creation. This is what we call yuen.