Ziana Astralos wrote:
> On Fri, 19 January 2001, Adrian Tymes wrote:
> > I'm actually trying to work out how this could be
> > done as a business, drawing up a business plan to
> > shop to investors. Not sure if I'll actually go
> > through with it (there are other opportunities
> > coming up), but I'd be glad to share the (very very
> > rough) draft plan with anyone here who wants. Or
> > maybe I could post it here: it's a < 20K HTML doc.
> Well, *some*one needs to go through with it :-) I'd be interested in reading that.
> > Does this list support attachments?
> I'm pretty sure it does. (seem to recall seeing a few previously, but I might be wrong)
Then here it is. Again, this is a *very* rough draft, with a couple
effectively blank parts. I've tried to modulate the pitch towards
your standard banker (Shock Level 2, at most), with emphasis on how to
start out. The hope is that whoever goes through with this could, once
the business has its act together, use funds from one stage of tech to
fund research into the next, including research into how best to get it
I've also got one (~29K) for a space launcher business, along the lines
of XCOR but with more advanced engines (and thus, potential for better
end result), which I could post if people want. I am, in fact, leaning
towards this one, but I can only effectively pursue one of these if I
go after either of them. So let it be said explicitly: if anyone who
reads this or the other plan is inspired to take it and run with it,
you need not seek my permission; it is not in my interest to enforce
any IP restrictions on these documents at this time, and likely will
Either way, I'll need help - a team to pull this off, as much as
funding to get equipment and pay salaries. And the best way of getting
both that I know of is to polish these into solid documents, then start
shopping them around to investors and to people who might know someone
who would be useful in starting these up. I'm looking for refinements,
both to the plans themselves and to the plan of using them.
For decades, science fiction writers have noted the possibility of using technology to
upgrade the human condition. Agriculture, industrial processes, computers, and other
applications of human ingenuity make our lives very different from that of our
hunter-gatherer ancestors thousands of years ago. But the stuff human beings are made of
has not changed that much, and the resulting limits still place a cap on humanity's
potential. We propose to change that, in a safe and effective way so as to gain many
customers - and so as to gain much profit. (See Proposed Solution,
paragraph 3 for a quick example of how.)
Biologically safe implants have been around for decades, but the field has recently experienced many breakthroughs. Silicon chips that can directly link human neurons to computers and machines have been a commercial reality since at least early 1999. New methods of growing human tissue are being published in science journals every few months. Runaway pets can now be tracked with a radio tag inserted just under the skin. Massive investment in biotechnology seems likely to produce many more such advances in the very near future.
However, when it comes to using these on people, almost all of the applications are focused on simply repairing or aiding people below the human norm. For instance, prosthetic arms and legs are used only to replace limbs already missing; anyone with an intact arm which happens to be unusable due to arthritis or the like is out of luck. Most scientific papers on decoding human nervous signals are careful only to mention applications to the disabled, if they mention applications at all. The only significant exceptions are where public notions of "normal" are already skewed towards an ideal, for instance with liposuction and eye surgery.
The main reason is not a lack of technology or interest. Many professional athletes and their support staffs try to increase athletic performance by any means possible, so long as they can hide the more artifical means from sports officials. Devices outside the body which increase personal ability typically meet with wide support, as perhaps best demonstrated by the worldwide adoption rate of cell phones. Mood altering drugs have a long history of use and abuse, including the two most popular modern ones, alcohol and caffiene.
It is mainly public perception which frowns upon seeking to improve oneself in this way,
and for good reason. Modern history is filled with failed attempts to do so, with
publically tragic results - most notably, the eugenics programs of the Nazis, the most well
known piece of which is more widely termed the Holocaust. Further, these attempts are
usually done by organizations which do not bother to address public concerns, thus raising
much fear even if they are in fact utterly benign. A good example is the above mentioned
pet tracking tags: there is public debate about applying the same technology to certain
classes of people, for instance children, the mentally ill, and convicts, where the
tracking is justified by their classification; yet simply leaving the tag active will deny
them their privacy even when they grow up, get cured, or are reformed and returned to
One way to change public perception is to change the public's perceived reality. If implants that augment body functions achieve widespread use, few will continue to deny their potential, and the path will be open for all kinds of upgrades of the human condition. Of course, the trick is to how to get that widespread use in the first place.
One path that seems promising is to develop a few basic applications of the technology and get it into the hands of early adoptors. Standard market penetration strategies can be followed from there, while the revenues are used to develop more advanced applications. This requires a business to develop, manufacture, and sell these applications, and a business requires profit. Fortunately, there are some applications which do not require much initial development, and should be rather easy to sell once on the market.
Perhaps the best initial application is a simple device that sits in a person's gut and converts fat to electricity, by artificially stimulating metabolism and capturing the resulting energy. When the device's battery fills up, it could discharge to some external device by induction (not conduction, since that would damage body tissue). Later generations of this device might power other devices, but the point of the first generation is simply effortless, zero willpower, 24/7 calorie burning. Given the number of obese Americans, and the lesser but not insignificant percent of overwieght people worldwide, this should prove rather popular - provided it actually works at a decent rate. Since the first versions may require minor surgery to install, we can also require distribution through doctors, who will naturally act to prevent PR disasters like letting anorexics abuse the device (since it would be their reputation, even more than our product's, which would suffer from such an event).
Another possibility is a memory chip or other data storage device in the arm. This would use the body as nothing more than a casing. It could communicate with the outside world via a cuff wrapped around the arm near the chip, with which it would talk via induction. The same induction, at higher power, could also be used to recharge the device's batteries. Among the potential applications here is medical records: barring loss of arm, this chip would always be present and scannable by properly equipped medical personell. Another potential use would be data security: if all accesses to the chip are logged, and if the log can not be erased without erasing the rest of the data, then - even if any encryption were broken, and even assuming contact so slight the user never notices at the time - the user will at least know if the chip has been accessed by someone else (again, barring loss of arm, which would definitely be noticed). There is also the coolness factor (one possible catchphrase: "Let me download that to my arm"), though it may be best to passively, not actively, emphasize that in case some people use active marketing of this to brand the company as irresponsible.
Further applications, for instance powering the above mentioned chip with the above
mentioned converter, or artificial muscles, or coatings to strengthen bone, or any of a
number of other possibilities, can be brought to market using funds from earlier
applications. There is a potentially infinite supply of science fiction material dealing
with this area if our own inspiration runs dry. Ideas are not the problem - implementation
and acceptance are. Implementation is largely a matter of developing the technology and
getting it through the standard clinical development cycle. Acceptance is largely a matter
of getting real world examples of the technology in use, to prove what it is and is not.
(Need to determine best target markets in detail. Possible points:
As noted above, most potential direct competitors prefer instead to aid the disabled rather than go after our customers. Although this may change once we have established the market, it is also the case that most such firms are large and relatively conservative, and thus resistant to change. It will therefore probably be years before we experience direct competition.
Indirect competition is another matter. Modification of one's body is not the only way to purchase improvements of one's capabilities. A number of potential applications give benefit to the user not because the device is inside the user, but because it is always with the user - which is also the main selling point of wearable computers. Any function that can be done as a wearable, can almost definitely be done cheaper than as an implant, though not necessarily better.
To minimize the effect of this competition, we must market applications which can not be done by wearable devices, or at least ones that obviously (to our customers) can not be done nearly as well. For example, many people carry laptop computers or PDAs today to take data with them. However, these devices can be stolen. That is practically impossible if the data storage unit is inside a person's body. For another example, no device outside the body can directly interact with a person's internal organs except under surgical conditions, but something that is already inside can give its aid no matter what conditions its user faces.
That said, it is also possible to take advantage of these competitors. Induced currents,
or data ports that breach the skin (once that can be done without risk of infection), can
communicate between our devices and wearables, to integrate both sets into a system. It
may, in fact, be worth presenting this to customers as an analog to modern desktop
computers: that which is inside the body is the core system, which must always be present
and is slightly more expensive to upgrade (thus justifying higher costs for our products),
while that which is outside are mere peripherals that can be present or not at the user's
Design Of Products And Services
Take any basic action that people do, or would do if easily possible, on at least a daily basis. Add a device or substance that - or in major cases, replace some or all of the relevant parts of the body used to do the action with a mechanism that - can do the action easier, faster, more efficient, or otherwise better by a nontrivial margin. Make sure the additions and replacements do not interfer with any other functions that the natural parts also do, and are safe for use with the rest of the body. Finally, come up with a way to cheaply install the parts, say by robots that will need minimal if any reprogramming per patient, or by injection with standard syringes if possible.
That is the ideal for design of our products, though Murphy's Law indicates that there will inevitably be complications that can, or at least will, not be forseen. Even so, complicating a simple process merely gives a complex process, not an insurmountable one.
Services will likely be minimal. Any device that requires extensive training of doctors
to administer can probably be made more profitable by redesigning to do away with the need
for training. Offering a community to our users, including tips as to how to use the
devices, will be more effective if viewed more as a cost of marketing (and thus, a freebie
they give out) than as a service to charge for.
Most of our devices will merely be assemblies of standard medical and electrical
components, with shells to seperate them from the body except where interaction is desired.
Titanium and silver are good examples of biosafe materials, which can be dropped in the
body and safely left there forever, thus they are good candidate materials for these shells.
Medical and electrical supply are well established industries, with many suppliers in case
any particular one has problems, and the shells can be made from base metals purchased on
the commodities market. Even those devices that require nonstandard components, for
instance the chemistry to convert glucose to electricity, will usually be mimicing or taking
advantage of some already well-known biological process, and it is usually the case that
there exist multiple industrial suppliers of the chemicals for said processes. This aspect
should present few, if any, serious problems.
Product Development Plan
Most of the costs of developing products are expected to fall into two areas: per-capability design, and clinical testing. Testing our devices will be so similar to testing drugs that this can probably be outsourced to a firm that does drug testing. Designing the products will require laboratory equipment for each feature that the product being developed uses. Sample features include interaction with specific types of cells, power storage, and data communication. This will likely be a significant initial cost, after which the existing labs can be used for new combinations of features.
People are likely to be the biggest stumbling block here. Given the public concern over
this field, and given as anyone we hire is by definition a member of society, care must be
taken to ensure that our hires know a firm distinction between the vague fears that keep our
would-be competitors away from our field, and the realities of what we are doing. Safety is
likely to be a larger concern than is appreciated by the typical engineer in the field: if
our products are not safe, they will not sell, moreso here than with almost any other type
of product. At the same time, our products must remain cheap enough to be accessible to
the general public if we are to gain many customers; safety, when bolted on as an
afterthought rather than being considered in the initial design, has historically been an
enemy of cheap. Note that this applies mainly to the engineering side of the firm, while
the rest of the company can be standard for its roles.
(Need to find out what's needed for one.)
(Need to find out how to do this.)
The biggest risk is a PR disaster before we get many users. There is already a public perception of technology which seeks to break limits as inherently unsafe. If we are perceived to be merely the next iteration of what has come before, some well-meaning civic group may well sue to shut us down. This is actually a danger at any stage of the company, but once we have real world demonstrations that our products are safe, we can more easily get such cases thrown out of court before the legal bills pile up. Best defense: make sure our products work, and make sure our distributors have more at risk than we do so the distributors do not act irresponsibly.
Another risk is widespread rejection of our products. There are people who actively propose much more radical versions of what this plan proposes, however those plans are rarely followed up because they lack any focus on safety, and thus fail to gather backing capital. If it turns out that such people are the only ones who would use our products, and most people prefer to stay as they are rather than buy improvements, then our customer base will remain small and stagnant. Best defense: marketing.
It may also prove impossible to cheaply install most of our products, thus keeping them out of reach of most customers. This would also keep our customer base small and stagnant. Best defense: simply looking for cheap methods of installation, rather than assuming the need for a multi-person surgical team and full operating room equipment.
There is also some risk of government rejection of our products, if and only if they are
not convinced of the safety. Best defense: make sure marketing emphasizes, at least in the
media the regulators listen to, that the products are safe. Also, play up the day-to-day
benefits on those devices that can improve general citizen health. And, of course, design
our products so they really are safe.
A standard Marketing/Sales/Design/Production/Ops division should suffice at the beginning. Marketing's focus is on the end users, and they are perhaps the best direct contact with people actually using the devices, though care must be taken to capture the data that Engineering will need to effectively upgrade our offerings and make new ones. Sales would be more focused on the doctors and institutions through which we would distribute these devices. Design, of course, is responsible for designing and testing new devices, including getting FDA approval (and, eventually, international equivalents) as necessary. Production is responsible for making sure our distributors have or can quickly get our products, and thus would not exist until Design was almost done with its first product. Ops is responsible for supporting the rest of the company, including HR, finance, and IS tasks, with probably more concentration on HR and finance since the IS needs will likely be minimal.
(Need to get people for those roles; first several hires should focus on being able to do the basic tasks, with one or two managers at most.)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:56:21 MDT