Bernstein’s Retirement Brings Changing of the Guard at PARC; Q&A with Incoming CEO Steve Hoover

1/11/11Follow @wroush

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Internet technologies: how do we catalyze our technologies using the distributed intelligence of the Web. And my last position was running pretty much a pure software and electronics group. So, I’ve been a bit of an integrator, crossing and bridging different fields. Oftentimes that is where innovation lies, in the white space between well understood technologies.

X: Was it a given that a Xerox insider would be tapped as Mark Bernstein’s successor? And if you’re the CEO of PARC, is it a big advantage to come from inside Xerox?

SH: I wasn’t picked for that reason. There were definitely other candidates who weren’t Xerox employees, so that was not a given. And I am not here because Xerox wants to put a Xerox person in charge. With a lot of startups, their business model evolves over time, when they figure out what really works. We started PARC as independent back in 2002, and we have evolved that over time into being a wholly owned subsidiary. We, meaning Xerox, really value this model…I am not here to change that in the least. It’s a successful business model, and Xerox gets a lot of benefits from being part of that vibrant economy of outside ideas and companies, and PARC is a great channel for that.

I’m here because I’ve got a strong history of innovation, of connecting technologies and businesses and customers. And most of that, yes, was at Xerox, so I’ve got a strong background of close collaborations with PARC over the years. I’m a known entity to most of the PARC people, because we’ve done great collaborations over the years. For example, when we started looking at this parallel printing work, I knew about the modular robotics work that Mark Yim, who is no longer at PARC, was doing, and we formed a collaboration in that area. So I understand the PARC environment and the value of this business model and I want to continue it.

X: Are you saying that you don’t see the need for any course corrections? Or do you think you’ll just spend some time first getting the lay of the land?

SH: I don’t see any big course corrections that are needed. But I do need to come in and get the lay of the land. I am here to run the business and continue its success and make it even more successful. I don’t come into this with the idea that there are any big changes needed—the models all seem to be working, and it’s a great set of people. Over time, will there be some things that we, as a senior team, come to the conclusion need some change and some minor corrections as a business? That’s what you do on an ongoing basis. But that is not the raison d’etre for me to be here.

X: How would you summarize Mark Bernstein’s legacy as PARC CEO?

SH: I think Mark was a key player in really navigating the successful creation of this new business model. When we started this, Mark was involved from the beginning, and then became the CEO. And under his leadership we’ve certainly broadened our research agenda. One of the things that excites me about this job is working with the people here and the broad set of technologies, like content-centric networking. He established the relationships with the key outside clients, and that’s led us to where we are today.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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