UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Let him learn your problem

9 November 2012

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Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series: Gordon McQuoid
Jack Jackmann’s entrepreneurship is about solving problems: problems are his opportunities to invent and innovate products for business application.

Jack studied at Columbia University and to earn pocket money, before and after university hours, he used to work for an equity business as a salesman. Having graduated, Jack went “off in big business”, joining fast-growing and big-named companies; it was in the very sales department of one of these companies, that Jack became an entrepreneur.

The starting point for Jack’s business is the question, “what’s your problem?”, which he asks people in different fields. The first problem Jack solved had to do with the amount of phone calls the sales department he worked for had to face on a daily basis. Most of these consisted in trivial enquiries, concerned the completion of forms and mere admin information. Jack created a system of automatic replies to such calls; it was an immediate success and was adopted by other companies and departments.

Jack’s second invention concerned hospital reporting, a system which arranged patients’ files and data into digital domains. It proved particularly useful to radiology departments, saving 30% of the time which was usually invested into organising and tidying up information; all American hospitals adopted the system.

The “huge strides Jack took along his path” counted several successes and a few failures. Amongst them features a failed innovation in the bin collecting system. Having noticed the amount of space waste water took up and its bad smell, Jack invented a complex and highly refined garbage grinder technology. The excellent invention, however, was a disaster to sell. Learn from your mistakes, is lesson number one; products need a market, is entrepreneurial lesson number two. No matter how brilliant an invention is, it must fit the needs of the market to be truly relevant. In the case of the garbage grinder: by its invention, it aimed to address a common problem, yet it was excessively expensive as a product– thus it wasn’t fit for the market, and could not hope to be sold.

“Chemistry, electronics, engineering… I always need to learn it all over again”. The very latest field Jack has been operating in is that of health care. Two are his main current projects. The first, involves dental treatment; specifically, the aim is to renovate root canal therapy, which at present is not very advanced. The second is an electronic band-aid which provides continuous health monitoring for people affected by diabetes. The band will be particularly useful in the case of young children, to help parents and adults around them to keep track of their blood glucose levels. With the latter invention, Jack will have –probably- reached the peak of his career. Not only is it the creation he is proudest of; it is also ideal in marketing terms, as it follows the best business model its inventor could hope for, that of life-time use.

Written by Carolina Mostert

The UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lectures are organised by UCL Advances which is affiliated to UCL Enterprise