Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A multitude of companies

How many ideas can one guy come up with?  We have often heard about that person who comes up with a great idea and creates a company.  Sometimes the company will then take off without them and they’ll be forced to either join or start another one.  However, how often do we hear about a person who cares much less about the progression of the company and cares much more about the startup?   That is how Jim Marggraff operates.  He comes up with an idea that he thinks will help people, and then starts a company to get started.  He works with the new company through the development phases and while they put the product out and helps get it through all of the early hiccups that a new company may face.  Then, when the company is doing well and the product is out there, he hands over control to another person, and starts working on his new ideas.  

Jim Marggraff worked for Leapfrog where he invented the LeapFrog FLY Pentop computer and the LeapPad Learning system.  He remained with Leapfrog until 2005 at which point he left to start Livescribe, the company that first caught my attention.  At Livescribe, Marggraff created a pen that could record what you were writing as well as record audio, and then transfer all of that information electronically to a computer through a USB device embedded in the pen.  The pens have been sold to a wide variety of people including educators, students, and business people – people who often need to record information.  For example: a student using the pen would be able to take notes (that the pen would record) as well as tape the lecture.  Then that student could later connect the USB to a computer and transfer all of the recorded information to a word document or an email for later use.  In 2011 Marggraff handed over the CEO position of Livescribe, and started to work on some of his new ideas.  He is currently CEO of a company he started called Eyefluence, where they are working on a pair of glasses that can record and use eye movement.  

While all of Marggraff’s inventions are unique and creative in their own way, as a creative Marggraff is fascinating.  He seems to be particularly internally motivated as shown by how he does not necessarily remain in charge of a company until it hits the peak of its profits.  He stays until he is sure that it will be successful, and then he moves on to his next idea.  In an interview, he was quoted as saying “I really enjoy ideas.  I have started many companies and enjoy that phase.  I also like to continue to innovate.  I continue to help the board and Gilles [The new CEO of Livescribe] in that regard.  He is now driving the company forward, so this works out quite well.”  Collins and Amabile’s article on motivation is particularly relevant to Marggraff.  His motivation stems from a desire to be challenged and to create something new.  He “enjoy[s] ideas” and the challenge of starting a new company and launching a new product.  He is certainly a unique creative with a wide range of ideas, and I look forward to seeing how Eyefluence does in the future, and what Marggraff comes up with next.  

Sources/For Further Reading
Collins & Amabile: Collins, M. A., & Amabile, T. M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of Creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


  1. Wow! You can really see that Jim Marggraff is really passionate about what he does. He enjoys the excitement of starting new companies and brings them up until they can stand on their own. Some of the companies mentioned above, like Leapfrog, are very prosperous companies. I think it’s really great that he does what he loves, and he is obviously great at thinking of these ideas. He is living in the creative zone and is constantly challenging himself to think of new ideas! He probably never gets bored!
    I really hope to one day get a job that I love so much!
    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I love this post! Being a business major myself, I have gone through this whole class thinking of creativity in the context of business, I can't help it! That being said, creativity in business is particularly interesting, because it has to be practical - it has to have a function that can be preformed on a deadline and with a budget.

    Unlike a creative and beautiful painting which must be visually appealing, a creative advertisement must be visual appealing, it must convey a message, the message must be persuasive, and, of course, this all has to be done on a budget and with a strict time frame. Jim Marggraff isn't creating advertisements, but he is a creating in the context of business, so the same limitations apply.

    Being a creative in corporate America can be stifling and difficult. It is very impressive to see someone strive within such limitations time and time again. Every company has a founder, but to continuously create these unique and successful companies is incredible.

    Thank you for sharing!


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