September 21, 2008
Last night marked the finish of the Inc. 500 conference here at the Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center in National Harbor, Maryland just outside of Washington, DC. iContact was honored with the 85th position on the list and the 7th position nationally among marketing and advertising companies when the Inc. 500 list was released in mid August. The three day conference (more pictures from the event) included highlights like a two hour keynote by Jim Collins, famed entrepreneurial researcher and author of business bestsellers Built to Last and Good to Great. Other sessions included a one hour chat with marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin and longtime explorer of excellence Tom Peters.
As a leader of a top 100 company on Friday I was extended the opportunity to join Jim Collins after his morning keynote for a private lunch round table to discuss issues currently facing entrepreneurs. Jim provided characteristically sharp but detailed responses to my questions which focused mostly on his new research that he included in his morning presentation. As an example, he mentioned his previous interpretation of the data collected in his Good to Great research project showing that the strength and quality of leaders in great companies was not substantially different from those in the comparison companies. His new research has segmented the leaders of these companies by leadership style instead of experience and conviction and has found a distinct difference in the leadership styles of those at the helm of great companies. Particularly, what he describes as a Level 5 leader, a leader who puts the cause her company serves before herself. I asked Jim specifically if he thought a Level 4 leader could become a genuine and effective Level 5 leader… or if this was a talent or style that one must non-consciously assume. He responded with an adamant yes but clarified that an experience much like an epiphany must occur, something of enough substance to humble a leader into inverting her priorities. I generally agree although I can only assume that sometimes an entrepreneurial leader (who will often succeed because of a level of arrogance that powers her motivation) will also require a life or career change before she can find a cause so engulfing that it proves to be of higher worth than self perpetuation.
The conference closed with a black-tie awards ceremony gala overlooking the setting sun on the Potomac River on Saturday night. The evening program included video profiles of a handful of companies each closing with their founder(s) on stage under a bright spotlight declaring their success and boldly stating “… and I’m an entrepreneur.” Profiles and specific awards for the highest ranking 10 companies followed including the number one company with over 30,000% three year annualized growth. That leading company had an amazing story of building to $150M in annual revenue in just five years. They were founded in 2003, the same year Ryan and I started iContact. Both their success as a business (they’ve been profitable for the last two years) and the honest passion with which they deliver their services (they help underprivileged elderly take maximal advantage of the services the government makes available to them) made their top position a real inspiration. Taking a company from zero to one hundred and fifty million dollars of annual revenue in just five years sounds like fun to me!
After seeing many of the companies on the list described in some detail in the opening session and as part of the top ten list and as each company’s name was announced I compiled a short list of interesting take-aways in my head. I decided to take a leasure day to write and reflect after the conference so although I jumped on a 40 minute flight up to DC Thursday after work I’m returning home today via a six hour route on AmTrak. As I write now we’re meandering through the countryside of rural Virginia. Here’s what’s left on my mind to ponder in conclusion to the conference.
1) There were far fewer technology companies on the Inc. 500 list than I expected.
I guess my own personal interest in technology and my tightly focused view of business models in the technology space led me to believe that technology companies would primarily be topping the list. That wasn’t true. Business models ranged widely from products to services and consumer goods to government contractors in industries like health care and consulting. Quite a few companies were in the construction business. Fellow North Carolina company and Triangle Fast 50 winner Mainline Contracting was among contractors in the construction space high on the Inc list. I wonder with the drastic cut in construction spending over the last 12 months if construction companies will fall against their peers in the Inc. list next year. I might have assumed this six months ago but with the continued collapse of financial markets in result of the mortgage-backed security crisis it looks like all companies (regardless of the industry) depending in some way on the capital markets will descend the Inc. list together. Companies topping the list in 2009 will likely be those who maintained very conservative cash reserves and who were thus able to use their own capital instead of others’ to make the push through.
2) There were far more family owned companies on the Inc. 500 list than I expected.
Again, it probably has something to do with my personal bias against working with family or friends. I’ve tried the working with friends thing specifically before and it only further confirmed my thoughts here, and that was even with someone three tiers removed from me within the organization. I’ve certainly had the best luck becoming friends with people who have first been business partners or simply remaining an acquaintance of those who I know marginally. A number of businesses took it a step further as husband and wife executive pairs. In the examples I remember one held the CEO title while the other was the President. That dangerous territory if you ask me but some couples can do it. On top of the additional stress it imposes on a marriage it’s also a classic example of putting all of your eggs in one basket from a personal capital and cash flow standpoint. But for some people it works and it looks like for them it works really well. It’s hard to argue with that.
3) The event is a joint gathering of Inc. 500 and Inc. 5000 companies
This is the second year that Inc. magazine has extended their 25 year tradition of doing only an Inc. 500 list out to a larger list of 5000 companies. For the magazine I’m sure this makes sense for a number of reasons not excluding revenue. At the dinner ceremony each company was given either a Inc. 500 or Inc. 5000 item of recognition. I think it’s worth mentioning that companies on the Inc. 500 are also on the Inc. 5000 and therefore I would like a second item of recognition to close this hole in mathematical logic Work with me people… or next year they should name it the Inc. 500 | Inc. 501-5000 Conference. Then, I’ll rest my case.
4) A lot of Inc. 500 companies have names that are hard to remember.
Despite their success I would personally never start a business with an acronym at its name. I figure that most of these companies have arrived at their shorter abbreviated names because their longer names were simply impossible to remember or even say in the first place. As an example, which I believe I remember from Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm, business names like Federal Express and American Express have been shorterned into smaller unique names greatly in part by common usage, FedEx and Amex respectively. Of course other longer names like International Business Machines have been shortened as well. When it comes to readability and speakability I think it’s clear that shorter names are better. But when it comes to memorability unique words do the best. So, if you’re starting a business and you want to call it Scott Rogers Business Consultants, SRBC is probably not the best name to take to the market. Although, either way you slice it, long or short, this name is hard to remember. In my opinion you’re much better off naming the business something like Green Tea Business Consultants or even better something that’s really off the wall like Slippery Tea Business Consultants. Just avoid words or phrases with any commonly known negative connotations and pick the wierdest combination you like. This also gets you tons of bonus points when it comes to finding an available domain name and in being at the top of the list when someone searches Google for your business by name. I mean honestly, who else is going to have already named their company Slippery Tea Business Consultants? But, as I mentioned in the prompt, the Inc. 500 is full of companies with names like SLFI Technologies, OPW Consultants, and The DLW Group (all fake names). Maybe they would have been much more successful had they given themselves better names, or maybe I’m just totally wrong here.
September 12, 2008
A post on TheFunded.com yesterday requesting information on typical Founders Ownership Percentages in startups caught my attention. One of the comments within pointed me to Noam Wasserman’s Founder Frustrations blog and a specific post on the average equity advantage of entrepreneurs who bring “the idea” to a startup that contained some great information that wasn’t just the hearsay I’ve always just run with in my new ventures. How entrepreneur of me. Surprisingly my own rules of thumb were quite close to the results Noam turned up. I posted the following comments on his blog in response to his post.
Noam, this is a great post. Thanks for getting this information out.
I’ve launched a number of startups over the last ten years and in the ones that we’ve been sophisticated enough to carve out the corporate structure at the very beginning our split of equity has been very similar to what you’ve mentioned here. All of these companies have been in the IT industry. I don’t know where it came from but my partners and I have always used 20% as the generally agreed upon rule of thumb and it has served us well. Although, that number has not differed based on the position that the idea person takes within the company (either intentionally or unintentionally).
In our most successful company the idea person became the CTO with his 20% equity advantage which in your research shows to be uncommon (around 6%). Although I should also mention that this person not only had the idea for the software but also wrote 100% of the code that initially took the company to market before the additional partners joined. This could be considered an investment of capital which would then bring it back in line with your findings.
I think it’s also worth considering the leverage advantage that idea entrepreneurs gain in a startup considering a 15-20% equity advantage. In your example of a common spread being 55% for the idea partner and 35% for the other partner, considering that these startups are always private companies on day one, the idea partner has full control of the company with his majority ownership because in a private company only three ownership amounts really matter (<50%, 50%, >50%). But, as with my primary company, once VC funding arrives the dilution of shareholders pushes the majority owner below 50% assuming he approves the funding round from his position of complete veto power.
This is a delicate dance in many startups and a point of contention as the partners must all be on the same page in regard to their expectations of using equity to grow the company. As a corollary when the minority ownership partner is actually building the idea brought to the venture by the majority partner I’ve seen great concern from the minority equity partner about losing his job and losing everything he’s built by being diluted out by the majority partner. Again, simply being on the same page about expectations goes a long way here.
This brings me to an idea I’ve had about matching entrepreneurs on more than just their skills and experience (which I figure they match up based on most frequently since those are more obvious) but instead on the total picture of their expectations on running a startup. If done right I think this could help more startups succeed and jump the hurdles of growth strategy alignment which I’ve seen tear so many teams apart. From my experience when the team behind the company splits the company always fails.
September 11, 2008
Internet Retailer decided last week to break the news of iContact’s June 29th 2007 funding… nicely timed on their website on September 4, 2008. I was a bit confused to see the headline “E-Mail marketing and blogging provider iContact gets $5 million in funding” arrive in my inbox from my “iContact” email alert I’ve configured with news.google.com. Good work Internet Retailer.. it’s only a bit over a year out of date.
For me the untimely news release with its automatic relay through Google News was good for a laugh and a minor inconvenience. I deleted the news alert without giving it much thought. Only today did I realize what this type of mistake could actually do… and it did.
This Monday (September 8th) the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper accidentally republished an article from 2002 announcing United Airlines’ (UAL) filing for bankruptcy. In an identical fashion to how I received the reposted and outdated iContact funding article the Google News alert system noticed the target keywords included in the article (probably either UAL, the stock ticker for United Airlines, or the name United Airlines itself) and quickly sent out emails to all recipients with alerts registered for those words.
As it turns out, a number of recipients of that email were people with their fingers on the pulse of the public stock markets and upon seeing the article on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel website they quickly began selling UAL’s stock. Within the day UAL on Nasdaq fell from $12.50 to $3.00 at which point the market froze further trading. Although the stock rebounded to $10.60 the following day the difference represents a 15% drop in value due greatly to the accidentally posted article in South Florida. I’ve included UAL’s five day chart below from Yahoo Finance to illustrate the activity on Monday.
Taking a second look at the Internet Retailer article again I’m noticing something interesting. At the bottom there’s a single paragraph about Sendmail Inc that mentions their revenue growth and one of their products by name. Sendmail is in a similar industry at iContact. They are a provider of email sending infrastructure including software and hardware although they aren’t a direct competitor of iContact. I’m wondering if the tactic being used here is to republish an old article about a company with a visible brand name likely to have a lot of Google News alerts configured for it and to then include news about a company hoping to get their message in front of that same audience. In concept it’s a brilliant way to segment an audience and then use Google as the conduit for your message at zero cost to you.
I think this could get someone in a lot of trouble because it does involve using a trademarked (most likely) brand name to the benefit of someone other than the trademark’s owner. I’m not sure if this technically is illegal but clearly using a trademark in a confusing way to promote another brand or company or product is illegal. Although I feel like I’ve discovered a brilliant new guerilla marketing tactic and have discovered the cause of the reposted article mentioning iContact some facts point the other way including the fact that I couldn’t find an earlier posting regarding iContact’s VC funding on Internet Retailer site and the fact that the blub about Sendmail mentions their revenue over the first six months of the year. Had this content been first written in late June 2007 when it was actually announced by iContact the timing mentioned in this statement would make perfect sense. Although maybe the piggyback news alert concept was actually utilized back in 2007 if the article went live online then for some period of time.
September 10, 2008
My dad sent me a note today about ZDNet Government Reporter Richard Koman digging into the per-megabyte cost of text messages as charged by the top four wireless service providers. The original post that did the exploration on the unit cost of AT&T text messages was posted on CrunchGear back in July but Richard Koman’s post included a recent note from Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.) to the wireless carriers asking them to clarify some of the details about how they provide and price their text messaging services. CrunchGear determined the cost to send one megabyte of text messages was around $1,300. Wow.
Senator Kohl noted a 100% increase in the price of text messages with major carriers from 2005 to 2008 which I’ve been mentioning casually to friends as well recently. I found out back in January that Verizon had bumped me off of the unlimited text messaging plan that I had purchased (probably back in 2002) for $7/month. The new price for the unlimited plan was offered to me for right around $20/month. Back in 2002 I used to send text messages to people with the expectation of getting an immediate call back to ask me how the heck I got a message into their phone. In fact, in July of 2004 I got a call from my mother (from her Nokia phone) to thank me for text messaging her a happy birthday message but she was confused a bit since her birthday is in September. I remembered sending the message a long time before so I asked her to check the date on it… it was from September of 2002 (nearly two years old). She simply didn’t know how to find text messages in her phone and somehow didn’t get alerted when the message arrived years before.
The increase in utilization of text messaging can’t be denied and the continuous release of new mobile phones with full keyboards is driving adoption as the momentarily brilliant but frustrating T-9 input phones continue to die off slowly. But Senator Kohl is looking for hard details on the costs mobile service providers incur in providing text messaging to their customers and for proof of the increased demand for text messaging over the last three years. I think the increased demand is obvious and the doubling of cost seems appropriately related to the increased demand for text messages among wireless networks. The Senator also asked for a comparison of the gross profits across multiple lines of wireless provider revenue including text messaging, voice service, and data service. He cited a recent text messaging price increase by Sprint that was followed shortly by the other three of the top four vendors to wireless phone subscribers doing the same. He mentioned that he thought the steadily increasing rates for text messages wasn’t indicative of the fierce competition that should exist among carriers in an open market… indirectly accusing the wireless carriers of collective price fixing although he described his letter instead as the opening of a conversation.
One of the comments following the CrunchGear article mentioned that the figure of $1,300/mb of text messaging data was probably a bit underestimated because it assumed that the average text message contained the full 160 characters when it may contain as little as 20 on average, I don’t know. I thought another comment was brilliant as well and I wonder if it’s true. It mentioned that the data transfer required to send the average text message was nearly identical to the overhead required for the messages between a mobile phone and the local cellular towers that it updates with its position as it moves. Also, as I discussed my thoughts on this tonight with my friend Wes he mentioned that the issue really isn’t with bandwidth at all considering the fact that text messages don’t always go over main carrier networks where bandwidth is at a premium. These messages only move over the airwaves between mobile phones and cellular towers in most cases and this type of exchange of data occurs over the last mile in concept (where bandwidth usually isn’t an issue).
September 1, 2008
Intel recently announced a display of some new technology which looks like another step along the way to a good proof of concept of efficient wireless electricity. Building on Marin Soljacic’s work at MIT (it’s unclear to me whether Intel is actually building on top of the work of Marin’s group or if they’re working in parallel) the group from Intel is displaying the transfer of energy without wires from a transmitter to a receiver separated only by air which in result lights a light bulb. Intel’s demonstration was covered by Gizmodo and has a nice description and some great pictures.
Two years ago Marin Soljacic’s group out of MIT made their first announcements of their plans to use electromagnetic induction (the transfer of energy through the conversion of electric charge to magnetism and vice-versa) to transfer energy through the air from a sending device to a receiving device. The trick to keeping everything safe for humans and electronic devices sharing the air in between was to use a very low power signal and to then use the principle of resonant energy transfer. This is essentially pushing on a wave at a frequency that in result magnifies the strength of the wave. In plain English, think about pushing someone swinging on a playground swing. If you push them at the right time during their swing you will increase the speed at which they swing and the distance they cover. Push at the wrong time and you slow them down. The same concept allows your standard AM/FM radio to tune into a radio wave frequency.
Shortly after Marin’s announcement of the concept for a system to efficiently provide for wireless electricity in the fall of 2006 I contacted him via email. I requested a meeting to introduce myself and my ideas on how important wireless electricity is for our world and also asked for the opportunity to invest in his research. Hey, never chance never dance. Within a few weeks he responded with a short but polite message with an apology for the delay in his reply because he was having difficulty responding to his email volume with the 200+ media outlets that picked up on his recent announcement. He mentioned that he was currently not considering investment or commercialization options for his research. I figure that at some point he’s going to have to consider transferring some of the intellectual property he’s created at MIT out to a private corporation to seek the type of investment required to take it to the next level. Maybe he’s taken another route already and has licensed his technology to Intel in support of their current exploration into wireless electricity. I wish I had some better information on this. Since late 2006 his name has been a continued topic of discussion as the progress on his work has remained on the fringe of media hot topics.
Before Intel’s August 2008 announcement of their demonstration Marin has completed his own presentation of a working device built to the specifications of his plans announced in late 2006. News of his prototype built at MIT was released mid year 2007 and once again was widely covered by the media. Marin’s faculty homepage at MIT tells a bit of his story through links to news stories and published research. Intel took another 14 months and has claimed that they’re able to transfer power the same distance as Marin (a couple of feet) with greater efficiency (75% over the previously achieved 50%), essentially losing less power through the air.
Efficiency is of course the name of the game with wireless electricity now and that’s why everyone’s measuring it and talking about it. The first challenge was creating a way to transmit power through the air in a way that is safe for humans and everything else in between the sending and receiving devices. Wireless electricity has existed for many years in the form of lightening in nature and arcing among high power circuits. I remember as a kid enjoying the night sky going from black to bright white during a major snow storm as a nearby power exchange station shot huge arcs of electricity into the air. Our house was probably two miles from the station and we could clearly see the strings of electricity that must have been launched several hundred feet into the air to have been visible to us. Severe storms, the kind that produce the biggest lightening, have always been one of my most favorite things to see. For some reason seeing nature at work creating electricity in the sky is incredibly calming to me and I’ve been known to wanter outside in big storms just to get a chance to take it all in.
In concept, radio and TV waves are already electromagnetic waves, containing a wave component of electricity and another of magnetism that mirror each other and repeat over very long distances. But they are very low power and require a powered device on the receiving end to interpret their signal and boost it. As another example in about 2001 I bought an induction charged electric shaver which charged by simply sitting in a cradle (no metal connections existed on the charger or the shaver). The charger which plugged in to the wall outlet alternated current within a coil which created an alternating magnetic field which because of its immediate proximity (about 5 millimeters in distance) was sensed by the shaver which itself had a coil of wires on which the current alternated in result of alternating magnetic field. This process moved the alternating electric current from the wall outlet into the shaver which could then charge its internal battery as if it were also plugged into the wall. I was probably the person most excited in the world to be charging my shaver for the time I used that model. In the radio/TV and the induction charging shaver examples we have both a long distance and short distance solution for electromagnetic signal transfer. The long distance solution being too weak to transfer any type of meaningful power to the receiving device and the short distance solution not being able to cover any meaningful distance. As an entrepreneur this void is what got me excited about a mainstream wireless electricity solution that fell somewhere in the middle. A model that was both powerful enough to charge a receiving device but weak enough to be sent over long distances without disrupting everything in between.
In both Intel’s and Marin’s prototypes they’ve started with a distance of a couple of feet (enough to allow them to stick some things in between to see what effects are realized) and they’re entirely focused on trying to get as much power as possible from the sending device to the receiving device. There may also be a parallel advantage here in that 100% power reception on the receiving side may also mean that since no power is lost along the way that it couldn’t have affected anything in between because otherwise it would have lost intensity but I don’t know enough about electromagnetic signals to know if this is true. I guess a device in between could have been affected by the signal even if passes along an identical signal but something about the law of the conversation of mass and energy seems impossible there. I’ll defer to a physicist on this one. Regardless, efficiency is the goal and the improvement from 50% to 75% efficiency within just 14 months is really exciting.
I envision a go-to-market solution here where 15-20 feet is considered good enough for the first round of devices because it accommodates the size of a standard private office, cubicle, or room of a residential house. Since all of these are already hard-wired from an external source to the outlet the big advantage here in the short term is from the wall outlet to the end device: the cell phone, laptop computer, monitor, projector, digital camera, etc. I think the first company that moves in this space will establish a brand name with builders who will install the wireless electricity sending devices into each room they build alongside traditional plug-in devices. These relationships will then later be leveraged as a product with the required efficiency at longer distances and through more obstacles (walls being the important ones to consider) becomes available and they go into production as the infrastructure that moves power from an external source to every outlet or end device within a building. I haven’t done the math but my gut (Steven Colbert reference) tells me the first opportunity is at least a $50 billion annual market with the latter being 3-5x that annually. Then of course the opportunity that remains is for long distance regional power distribution through the air. Even as optimistic as I am now I really don’t see this being utilized as the primary source of power distribution any time within the next 25 years even if it were to exist now but the model for its adoption exists in the transition from wired home phone service to cellular phone service. Personally, although there is absolutely no good reason for me to have a wired phone line at home I do have one. Even early adopters like my wife and I are still clinging to the ways of old I guess because if just feels wrong to abandon it. I guess our monthly stipend to AT&T for wired phone service helps us sleep better at night. I do have a number of friends that don’t have wired home phone service but I don’t know of any of our parents that have done completely without. Time will change this of course.
I do wonder what the required efficiency for widespread market adoption will be, it seems like 75% is getting really close. For instance if I pay 10 cents to charge my laptop over night (I have no clue what it costs me to do this now but it can’t be much) I would gladly pay 15 cents to charge it over night without a plug. Since the devices that consume the majority of power in my house are large or don’t ever move (water heater, air conditioner, oven, lights, etc) it seems like the efficiency lost will maybe apply to 10% of my power consumption in total but will benefit 100% of the devices I move around and that need their batteries recharged at least once per week (laptop, cell phone, digital camera). That seems like a trade off that most people would be willing to make. So, what are you waiting for Intel? Other than the obvious requirements of bringing a product to the mass consumer market which I don’t begin to claim to know it seems likely that the remaining obstacle will be in terms of power intensity. Current prototypes are lighting a light bulb. I’m not sure how that equates to the power required by my laptop’s power chord but it seems likely to be less.
Of high concern will also be authentication and access control. Since wireless electricity when originated like in current prototypes is turned on literally any device that is in reach of the signal can charge from it. I’m not sure whether multiple devices receiving the signal will cause additional usage of power from the source. They may also reduce the strength of the signal for all other receivers which if true means that your immediate neighbors could easily leach off of your power. Although wireless Internet signals went mainstream without any decent type of encryption in place they were typically associated with sources that allowed unlimited data transfer which meant wireless Internet theft really only drew resources away from the source device but didn’t cause any associated additional unit cost to the owner of the wireless access point. Of course in aggregate a unit cost to upgrade to a higher speed service existed but this didn’t affect the vast majority people. If additional users of broadcast wireless electricity cause the source device to increase its power throughput in a similar fashion there may be a direct unit cost to the owner who will experience a higher power bill in the following month. If this is the case finding a way to limit usage to a controlled group of receivers will be critical before a solution can go into mainstream production. This doesn’t seem easy considering the broadcast model and no apparent need for communication from the receiving device back to the source device (unlike in the wireless Internet signal model) with wireless power.
In terms of social benefit (since I’ve spent my focus so far considering commercial applications and strategy) I see several opportunities that we must hold high in our list of intentions for the technology that enables whatever solution we end of reaching:
Emergencies: Wireless power over long distances should remove many of the break points in power service that are caused by natural disasters that take down physical transmission lines. Using wireless power as an alternative power source just for emergencies might allow a central power source to bring local power sub-stations back on line instantly when major trunk lines are disabled.
Safety: Countless accidents caused by the necessity of power transmission lines could be eliminated. Physical power chords are some of the last things we have running all over our houses and offices these days and they spend a lot of their time among our feet and near our water sources where they are most likely to cause problems.
Beauty: Power lines are most frequently run through the air where they serve little other purpose other than being a great resting place for shoes whose laces have been tied together and for birds who intend to poop on us from a fixed vantage point. Among our houses and offices the wire managers and conduits that move wires around are constantly being adjusted in an attempt to make them more discrete already.
Poverty: Moving power through the air may make it more cost efficient than the current implementation which requires a lot of resources of wood, metal, rubber, and land to get it from point a to point b. Areas of the world that it has been just too difficult to get reliable power to previously may be easily powered without the need for wires. Historically we know that the access to a reliable power infrastructure is a key component in stimulating developing countries’ economies.
Political Power & War: Moving power through the air may make it more difficult for military targeting of key power distribution resources as they won’t be as visible as they are now and they won’t follow any key distribution lines. After an attack power could be restored more quickly from an alternative source station that re-powered the air from a different point whether provided by the country affected or by emergency relief efforts from allies.
My Peace of Mind: Power chords are so 1800s and they’re cramping my style. Everything else I do today is free from wires, except my tightrope walking habit (my fake tightrope walking habit that is), so it sure would be nice to cut that electric wire away without worry of being shocked back to the century that invented it. Set me free!
Update 1/13/2009: Last week Palm announced wireless electricity as part of their new charging base for the Palm Pre to be released around March of 2009. The device’s Touchstone base will be sold separately and uses the basic process of induction to turn electric current into magnetism then back into electric current. The Touchstone base (like a shaver I bought back in 2001) claims to charge “wirelessly through the air” when in fact the charging base and the device actually touch directly. Having the two components touch isn’t required as part of the transfer of energy but it is required to minimize the distance between the sending and the receiving devices. As I’ve mentioned above, new developments focus primarily on using this same principle over a more helpful distance (larger than two millimeters ) of five to twenty-five feet where the challenge becomes focus, sensitivity, and tuning to preserve the energy in the transfer and prevent damage to anything along the way.