How to Build Killer Products: Founder Obsession
tldr: James Lapeyre III , Amar Bose, Maurice Hilleman and other creators, movers, and shakers you may never have heard of. This is part 3 in a series about how to build killer products by LinkTexting.
Intersection of Obsession and Creativity
Obsession can be a good thing. Some of the best innovators of the past two generations were unrelenting in the pursuit of their creations. It’s easy to think about people like scientists and professors to be obsessive — but entrepreneurship brings out the same desire to create value. The best way to create this value is through unwavering attention to detail.
Obsession marks the line between good idea and killer product.
Celebrating the Prolific: Amar Bose, Maurice Hilleman, and JM Lapeyre.
Obsessive Innovator #1: Amar Bose
Audio Innovator & Visionary
“But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”
Bose (pronounced Bo-sh) is a consumate creator who frequently mentions his childhood fascination with radios and electronics and how he would want to take apart any device he could get his hands on. Bose later attended MIT and built a dynasty on top of his electrical engineering background. He built Bose, a billion dollar acoustics company that makes products that users love. He tells multiple stories about teaching, creating, and his philosophy of life.
“I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs,”
1966: First consumer product: 2201 speaker
1968: Revolutionary 901® speaker changes the way people listen to music
1975: World’s top-selling loudspeaker introduced
1978: Quest for noise cancelling technology begins
1982: First premium sound system debuts in a Cadillac Seville
1984: Ground-breaking high-fidelity room-filling sound from a compact tabletop system
1986: Prototype noise cancelling headphones make historic flight
1987: Acoustimass® 5 redefines home stereo
1987: Inventors of the Year
1988: First-ever Official Olympics sound system supplier
1989: First commercial Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headset
1990: A new standard in home audio
1991: Investigating cold fusion
1993: Bose Wave® redefines radio
1993: First Bose Store
1994: A breakthrough in sound predictions
1997: First automotive usage of Bose® Nd® woofer
1998: Aviation headsets get smaller, lighter, better
1998: First international Bose Store
1998: AudioPilot® Technology takes in-vehicle listening to new level
2000: Pioneering Bose technology changes the way people fly
2001: A beloved and renowned MIT Professor retires
2003: An entirely new way to amplify live music
2004: New Bose Division: ElectroForce® Linear Motion Systems
2004: Unveiling a Secret Born of Obsession
Bose was truly obsessed. He revealed a project that was in the works for decades that offered revolutionary automotive suspension, an electromagnetic actuator that replaced springs and and hydraulics to offer smoother rides to people.
Relentless in the Pursuit of Knowledge.
Amar Bose’s true relentlessness in his pursuit of knowledge is best shown here in this video. He talks about how he read the same published research and math article for months and months harping on equations until finally it sunk in and he just understood it.
Giving it All Away.
2011: Dr. Bose’s gift to MIT
Dr. Bose donates a majority of Bose Corporation’s non-voting shares to MIT. The dividends on those shares are used to sustain and advance MIT’s education and research mission. The company will remain private and independent and continue to operate according to its values and guiding principles.
“During World War II, the elder Bose’s business — importing coconut-fiber doormats from India — became impossible when nonmilitary shipping was suspended. The teenage Amar suggested that his father post signs at the hardware stores where he once sold his mats, offering radio-repair services. With his father gathering the radios and young Amar fixing them in the basement after school, the business helped support the family through the war years.”
"Better Living Through Curiosity," by Tom Clynes, originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Popular Science…www.popsci.com
Obsessive Innovator #2: J.M Lapeyre
Bringing Shrimp to the Masses
J.M. Lapeyre is the inventor of the automated shrimp peeler. He unlocked and created what we now know as the modern shrimping industry.
“I got my original idea, believe it or not, in church,” Lapeyre said in a 1982 television interview. “When I was supposed to be praying, I was thinking about how to get the shrimp out of the shell because my father had said that, ‘if you want to make a lot of money, invent a shrimp-peeling machine,’ and I thought, ‘why not squeeze them out of the shell?’ And so when I got down to the plant the next time, I began to step just to the side of the shrimp with my rubber boots to see if I could…squeeze the meat from the shell. And it worked.”
Research and innovation took Lapeyre to his mother’s washing machine, which used rubber rollers to squeeze water out of the clothes after the wash cycle. After adding running water and a mechanical pressure feed to the machine, he hit the jackpot when he discovered his invention produced a “pinch and release” effect with no damage to the shrimp. Source.
The Metal Conveyor Belts Started to Rust.
There was so much shrimp being pumped into Lapeyre’s shrimp peeling machine that his conveyor belts started to rust. He knew he needed a solution and went back to the drawing board.
Spurred by the need to efficiently load shrimp into the peeling machinery without rusting the parts, J.M. invented the first all-plastic, modular construction conveyor belt. This innovation later went on to be the bedrock foundation of Intralox, a billion dollar conveyor belt company.
But Wait, There’s More.
JM Lapeyre was a consummate creator, dying with over 100 patents to his name. His innovations ranged from X to Z.
Lapeyre (1926-89) built his signature machine in the 1940s in his native Louisiana, a state that hungered for an easier…news.investors.com
Obsessive Innovator #3: Maurice Hilleman: Saving a Billion Lives With Vaccines
I have personally been a fan of Maurice Hilleman since I was a child. I had hoped to meet him before he died, but I was late to the punch. He passed away in 2005. Hilleman created vaccines for the following diseases:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Cancer Causing Virus SV40.
- Oh yeah, and 31 more……
Here’s an excerpt I wrote about him on my own blog:
The next 85 years of his life he would leave a reckoning of life saving vaccines in his wake, being credited with saving more human lives than any other scientist in the 20th Century. (Source)
We live in an epidemiological bubble and are for the most part blissfully unaware of it. Diseases that were routine…www.nytimes.com
Obsessive Innovator #4: Norman Borlaug: Agriculturalist Who Saved a Billion.
Norman Ernest Borlaug is an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution”, “agriculture’s greatest spokesperson” and “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives.” Norman was obsessive about agriculture and bringing new methods to the masses.
The vast majority of his professional life was spent living and working in the developing countries of the world—Mexico, Pakistan, India, China, and most recently, regions of Africa.
Borlaug devised the green revolution by experimenting with different strains of wheat. His ideas enabled farmers to yield an exponentially higher amount of wheat, saving an estimated billion people from hunger.
The initial yields of Borlaug’s crops were higher than any ever harvested in South Asia. Source
Noel Vietmeyer's excellent, meticulously researched biography of Norman Borlaug, the plant breeder known as the Father…www.forbes.com
The only thing these people have in common was finding a problem they wanted to work on and dedicating their time to it. They were resourceful people dedicated to hard things.
Science and engineering are hard. The road to understanding enough of them to make a meaningful product experience or impact is well thought out. Success favors the persistent.
Some of our favorite founders, Adora Cheung and Brian Chesky, went for 600–1000 days before finding meaningful product/market fit and raising money. Don’t be afraid to be obsessive and persistent because some of the best founders/creators have these qualities.