Each month, women and men come in droves to the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen Power Breakfast to hear the latest speaker talk about her personal journey in the technology field.
April’s speaker, Jeanne Dietsch, presented “Success at the Edge of Opportunity” to a room full of attentive technologists. Jeanne is the former CEO of MobileRobots, Inc., a world leader in research robots and autonomous service robotics. She is the Founder of Sapiens Plurum (Latin for “wisdom of many”), a non-profit with the goal of helping people to envision a technological future that empowers humans rather than constrains them.
As a young child, Jeanne was an avid reader of fantasy and was fascinated with Peter Pan and his exciting adventures. She was equally fascinated with Disney films – though not because of the cute, loveable stories they portrayed, but for the technology and animation that brought them to life.
Despite her interest in technology, when she attended Western Michigan University she majored in fine art and design, and also studied engineering, mathematics, and psychology. Her extra activities included participation in the computer-assisted art club, and at one point she created a vending machine for art supplies.
Her story became even more interesting when she quit graduate school in 1981 after her thesis topic, “The Future of the Computer as a Mass Medium” was denied, with the comment “It will never happen.” (Ha!)
She became an entrepreneur at 29 years old and sold her first company in 1984. After raising her children in New Hampshire and sending them off to grade school, she started her second company, ActivMedia Research, which conducted the first global ecommerce market research study. It reached the ecommerce best sellers’ list. She told the TechWomen Power Breakfast audience that the Telecom executives ridiculed her predictions when she forecasted a thousand-fold increase in ecommerce over five years. She proved them wrong again.
Her third start-up, MobileRobots, Inc., built robots that were designed to greet people at the doors of buildings or deliver items within hospitals. The robots she built participated in fun activities such as playing soccer games against each other. One was a greeter for Victoria’s Secret. Also, Microsoft chose the company to roll out their new Robotics Studio software.
Over the course of 15 years, Jeanne grew MobileRobots to a world-leadership position. In 2010, she sold the company to the largest industrial-robotics company in the U.S., Adept Technology.
Her advice when selling a business is to know to whom you can sell the business and to partner with people who have the tools to help you market it in the best way possible. She also recommended surrounding yourself with a team of professionals who understand the ins and outs of selling a technology business, as well as a support system to help you transition out of your leadership role.
Jeanne told the audience that information is traveling faster than innovation can keep up. Despite having been around for 65 years, robots are still not greeting us at the front door (yet). Jeanne described potential applications for commercial robotics, including the creation of exoskeletons and prosthetics for the medical field, virtual reality, space, and nanotechnology.
Jeanne went on to complete her Masters in Public Administration with honors at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She then founded Sapiens Plurum, an organization devoted to bettering the future of humankind. Their mission “is to inspire humankind to apply its amazing new technological powers to overcome problems that have plagued civilization for millennia: thirst, hunger, disease, pollution, brutality, tyranny and environmental degradation.”
In the fall, Jeanne will be running for the State Senate in District 9. Her goal is to bring innovation and “the best of the best” to New Hampshire.
The TechWomen Power Breakfast series is an initiative of the New Hampshire High Tech Council, serving professionals enthusiastic about technology and supporting the efforts of girls exploring STEM as a career or area of study. May’s meeting was held on the 11th in Manchester, featuring a panel discussion about the challenges female business owners have finding investors.
Candice Benson is an internationally recognized management consultant and CEO of Benson Consulting Inc. She is chairperson of the New Hampshire High Tech Council’s TechWomen Power Breakfast Series committee. Connect with her and her blog here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/candicecbenson.