Company: E Ink
HQ: Cambridge, MA with an office in Tokyo, Japan
Management: Russ Wilcox is President and CEO. He was previously at PureSpeech, Inc., a speech recognition company that was acquired by Voice Control Systems of Dallas, Texas.
Dr. Michael D. McCreary is the vice president of research and advanced development. He held various positions at Eastman Kodak Company.
The core technology emerged from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Laboratory, where it was developed by Dr. Joseph Jacobson, J.D. Albert, and Barrett Comiskey.
Investors: On March 22, E Ink announced that Intel Capital invested an undisclosed sum in the company. To date, E Ink has raised $120 million in total financing from Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., Applied Technology Ventures, Atlas Ventures, CNI Ventures, a division of Gannett Co., Inc., Degussa AG, owners of Creavis Technologies and Innovation, Gruppo Espresso (Italy), The Hearst Corporation, The McClatchy Company, Motorola Corporation, New Venture Partners, Oriel General Trading Company, Philips Components, Solstice Capital, TOPPAN Printing Company, Ltd. (Japan), and Vivendi Universal Publishing.
Business model/technology: E-Ink creates electronic ink, a material that is processed like film and can be “printed” on a display device. The process works through the manipulation of black and white particles known as microcapsules, which are the diameter of a human hair. By charging these microcapsules with electricity, they are arranged to simulate a paper-like reading experience, with high contrast, low power consumption, and a thin form factor.
The print on a display device can be erased and the device can be reused. Applications include eBooks, PDAs, information kiosks, wearable technology, and programmable signage. Technology can also be used in roll-up displays, a kind of digital paper that can be rolled up like a scroll.
Competitors: Gyricon Media, Lucent
Dirt: Intel’s investment in E Ink provides the latest indication that the company and its many financial supporters remain optimistic and, more importantly, patient
Last March, when Philips and Sony announced that Sony’s e-Book reader LIBRIe would be launched in the Japanese market, E Ink finally saw its leading edge technology in consumers’ hands.
The product, which is based on E Ink’s technology, is the size of a typical paperback and allows users to view up to 500 downloaded books in a high resolution typeface that looks like newspaper print.
E Ink started its collaboration with these corporate partners back in 2001, so this consumer release marked a major milestone for a technology that’s been edging its way out of the laboratory for years. E Ink will now try to build on this momentum, particularly with its corporate partner and investor, Philips.
The company’s Polymer Vision subsidiary has developed a 5- inch roll-up display, based on E Ink’s technology, that it plans to introduce commercially by 2007, according to a recent announcement by Philips.