Don’t Listen To Your Critics, VCs Are Not Enough, and Other Lessons from Breakthrough Idea Forum

4/1/10Follow @gthuang

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and still deliver more personalized care at a better price.

Dan Weld of UW computer science and engineering (and Madrona Venture Group) showed us the state of the art in semantic Web search and knowledge systems that enable a computer to understand the question you’re asking and find an answer. He also mentioned new applications in areas like product search. (Amazon, Bing, and Google might want to keep an eye on that.)

A few more thoughts in closing:

—The intersection of biology and information technology is still not a place where that many entrepreneurs (especially techies) are putting their energy. Despite hugely important problems to solve—in human health, diagnostics, computational modeling—I think there’s a significant language barrier, and quick commercial opportunities are not easily found. Also, the culture gap between tech entrepreneurs and academics seems much wider than it is between their counterparts in life sciences. I’m not sure why; it might just be the nature of the disciplines.

—The Paul G. Allen Center at UW beats the pants off the Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT, for a quarter of the price. And not just for hosting an event—for everything, I dare say. The Stata Center, which was also funded in part by Bill Gates, has housed many of MIT’s computer scientists since 2004 and is still a monstrosity, in my opinion. (I’ve never been a Frank Gehry fan. Sorry, EMP.)

—Some of the best slides weren’t shown on Monday. David Bluhm from Seattle-based Z2Live had to cancel his talk because of a medical emergency. I won’t spoil his punchline, but any deck that includes iPhones, chimps, and Tom Hanks—and how the future of social gaming will impact education and society—needs to be seen in its entirety sometime soon.

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. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.spreadingscience.com Richard Gayle

    Part of the disconnect between IT and biology may be due to a difference in the types of entrepreneurs attracted to each field.

    IT tends to pay off for development work in months. Biotech can take years if not decades.

    As an example, in 2008, there were no revenues from apps for the iPhone. A year and a half later, it is a $3 billion a year market, expected to be over $25 billion in 2013, after just 4 years.

    In biotech, we might be ready to consider filing an IND after 4 years, with another 5 or more years before approval.

    Those time frames are going to attract very different types of entrepreneurs, making it harder to find ones that overlap.

    – I liked the venue also although I wish they would fix the squeaky automatic door that kept opening and closing.