May 6, 2005 — People often ask me how I became an industry analyst specializing in MEMS. The truth is, it was mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right skills to tackle a complex subject like MEMS. Now I find myself in that position again, with the opportunity to research, analyze and write not only about MEMS, but all sorts of emerging technologies for EmTech Research, a new division of Small Times Media.
About 10 years ago I left my job as a government employee with the State of Minnesota, where I honed my analytical skills, to begin my own business writing advertising copy, sales proposals and marketing plans. In my ongoing quest for new work, I found an ad for a market research firm looking for free-lance industry analysts. I wrote a couple of reports on various topics such as machine vision, CMOS image sensors, and biosensors, and then was asked to update a report done several years earlier on an emerging technology called MEMS.
I was hooked, and the focus of my work quickly narrowed. After several years, I decided to join an established market research firm, and for the past five years I’ve focused exclusively on MEMS for In-Stat/MDR.
A while back, someone asked me if I ever took a look at my previous reports, to gauge how well my forecasts have held over time. In doing so, I decided to go back to the beginning, to look at the very first MEMS report I ever did almost a decade ago. It was gratifying to see that my original forecast was, for the most part, in the ballpark. Some segments, such as sensors, have fared as well as estimated, whereas others, such as lab-on-a-chip, didn’t meet growth expectations.
But what struck me most about the report was the sense of it being a crystal ball into the future. Things I identified as having strong market potential then have indeed become successful products. Even at that time, it was clear that optical MEMS would make a huge play in projection systems, and that all kinds of different MEMS devices were destined for integration into cell phones. More than anything, looking back provided validation of the work I’ve done in the years since.
An analyst is not a fortuneteller (if I were, I’d buy lottery tickets). We can only aspire to provide meaningful commentary based on trends we observe (both obvious and obscure) that will be of help to those involved with and/or impacted by the technologies that we cover. To that end, I get a kick out of being able to advise companies on the dynamics of the markets they’re pursuing and an even bigger kick seeing products finally become embraced by consumers, years after I first learned about them. Maybe I just like being in on secrets, but at the very core, I guess it’s a sense of pride from feeling like I played a small role in their successes.
But while my focus has been MEMS, from the very beginning, I’ve kept a critical eye on all sorts of emerging technologies for the simple reason that I found them fascinating. What I didn’t know then, but that I do now, is that I was already actively tracking nanotechnology back in its earliest days of commercialization. In fact, while working on a report about new dermatological drugs, I remember very clearly learning about the recent introduction of a unique, molecular-level pharmaceutical delivery system for use in a new sunscreen. I’ve been a faithful user of Durascreen ever since.
As vice president of research and principal analyst at EmTech Research, I will continue to analyze the MEMS industry; but I also will be able to use the expertise I gained over the years to provide guidance in other technology fields.
As a result, I’m very excited about my new role. I’ll finally have the opportunity to discuss emerging technologies that are shaping our world. More importantly, I’ll be able to continue the work that I enjoy so much — helping companies to make smarter business decisions by providing information critical to their decision-making process.
By the way, one of the projects from the days when I had my own business was a proposal I wrote for a local design firm. That proposal helped the company land a deal with Gateway, then under the leadership of executives Rick Snyder and Steve Johns. They went on to found Ardesta, which provided the funds to start Small Times Media. Little did I know that in a few short years our paths would cross again, but in an entirely different way.