On the Road with Intellectual Ventures’ Global Head of Technology, Patrick Ennis

10/8/08Follow @gthuang

It’s 10:15 pm, and Patrick Ennis is in a taxi bound for the airport in Delhi, India. He’s getting ready for a 1:00 am flight to Beijing. The streets of India are legendary for displaying 2,000 years of transportation history in one place—animals, pedestrians, carts, bikes, cars, buses, trucks—and it sounds like tonight is no different. “I learned to drive in New York, but this is much harder,” says Ennis. Though it’s late at night, he adds, “It’s still 10 times as much traffic as Seattle.”

Ennis is the global head of technology for Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue, WA-based firm focused on invention. He joined about six months ago; before that, he was a managing director at Seattle-based Arch Venture Partners, where he funded and built technology startups, many coming out of universities and national labs. And before that, he held senior positions in technology and business at Lucent Technologies, AT&T, and Bell Labs. He did his Ph.D. in physics at Yale, and did scientific research for about eight years before joining Bell Labs.

As we reported last week, Ennis is currently part of a high-powered traveling team that includes Intellectual Ventures co-founders Nathan Myhrvold and Edward Jung. They are on a three-week, five-country tour of Asia to meet with the local communities and launch new offices there. I hope to sit down with Ennis for a more comprehensive discussion after he returns, but in the meantime here are some thoughts he provided by phone—through a dicey wireless connection in Delhi. He touched on some details from the tour, his impressions of the various Asian cities (including the food), and how the VC industry compares with the invention industry.

Ennis said he’d been in Tokyo, Singapore, and Delhi so far, spending three to four days in each city. Next up: Beijing and Seoul. “We’re in the middle of our tour,” he says. “It’s going very well. Our focus on invention is being well-received here, it’s truly a global world now.” Ennis says that in each city, they’ve been putting on events where they have a reception and invite local inventors, university professors, and administrators of research institutions. They’ve also been meeting with local university officials privately. “We have an inventor network we’re building in Asia…We want to get to know the whole ecosystem…and we do presentations. It’s like in Silicon Valley, you invite people who are interested in what you’re doing, to mingle and network.”

Ennis is no stranger to Asia. In the mid-to-late ’90s, he worked in optical networking and sold a lot of products to Asian national carriers like Korea Telecom. And when he was at Arch Venture Partners, several of the firm’s portfolio companies had partners in Asia. So Ennis has worked in places like Taipei, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore. “A trend you see more is VCs, even if they don’t have formal offices or deals in Asia, spend more time there,” he says.

He didn’t give details of his meetings this week, but he provided some general impressions. “Asia is so dynamic in terms of growth, innovation, and optimism,” Ennis says. “The energy here is palpable, it’s similar to the energy that exists in places like Seattle and Silicon Valley, both in the technology … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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