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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How To Live UP Innovation Hype

In February, Matthew Desch, chief executive officer of Iridium, the maker of portable phones with service provided by a network of satellites, was visiting the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He overheard two men talking unfavorably—and inaccurately—about his company, which can provide telecommunications in remote areas, such as in deserts or the middle of the ocean, where there are no cellular towers.

"Yeah, Iridium isn't around any more. It went bankrupt in 2000," one of the museum-goers said as he looked at a display of an Iridium satellite. Desch wanted to tell the men that Iridium is actually still around after private investors resurrected it in 2001 and that the company saw $212 million in sales and $54 million in profits in 2006.

Desch walked closer to the display and discovered why the men were misinformed about Iridium's current profitable state. The plaque beside the satellite read like an obituary, declaring Iridium's life span from 1999 to 2000. According to the sign, Iridium—initially funded by Motorola (MOT) in 1998 to an avalanche of publicity—was kaput, after going bankrupt when the phones failed to catch on with consumers. To Desch's dismay, the museum sign had no information about the company's subsequent resurrection and current success.
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