Business IDEAS for Creative People
She started thinking of things that could beam energy through the air. The signal in a TV remote was too weak, radio waves were too inefficient, and X-rays were too dangerous. Then she came across a device that could convert physical vibration into energy. If you put it under a train, for example, you could collect the energy the train generated.
Although it wasn't practical to have people gathering near trains to capture their energy, she realized that sound travels through the air by vibration. What if she could use ultrasound, which is invisible and silent, to generate air vibrations and convert them into wireless power? Her physics professors said it was impossible. Some of the world's most respected scientists told her she was wasting her time.
Three years later, I met Perry at a Google event. After landing $750, 000 in seed money from Mark Cuban, Marissa Mayer, and Peter Thiel's Founders Fund, her team had just finished its first functional prototype. It could power devices faster than a wire, at longer distances, and would be ready for consumers in two years. By the end of 2014, her company, uBeam, had accumulated eighteen patents and $10 million in venture funding. Debate continued about how well the product would work, but she had overcome the fundamental barrier to proving the viability of the technology. "Every single person that is now working for the company didn't think it was possible or was extremely skeptical, " Perry said.
Meredith Perry faced an extreme version of the struggle we all face in championing original ideas: overcoming skepticism. Her initial efforts fell flat. She reached out to scores of technical experts, who were so quick to point out the flaws in the math and physics that they wouldn't even consider working with her. It probably didn't help that she was offering to hire them as contractors on deferred payment-they might never see a check.
Researchers Debra Meyerson and Maureen Scully have found that to advance new ideas, original thinkers need to become tempered radicals.That means presenting your bold vision in ways that are less shocking and more appealing to mainstream audiences. And it made all the difference for Meredith Perry.