Panta closes, LightSpace Technology put on ice

I had not written about this two weeks ago when I learned of it, but Panta Systems, a pioneer in flexible HPC and computing systems, closed its doors. Details are sketchy, basically they were unable to find a buyer is what I have heard. They were pursuing VC money about a year ago, though I am not sure what happened. Best guess, based upon conversations, was that they ran out of money. Seems to be a common refrain when dealing with/working with VCs.

Also, one of my best friends, former CEO/CTO/chief cook and bottlewasher, left one of the coolest technologies he developed behind when he left LightSpace Technologies, effectively putting that company (now with no US employees) on ice. LightSpace had/has by far the best/coolest/most incredible volumetric display you have ever seen. Nothing spinning, this is a solid state system. I thought it was amazing that I could walk around the display, looking at a molecule with an ion channel at SC05, and see down the channel from one physical viewing angle, and not from another physical viewing angle. That is, you could walk around the display, exactly as if it was an object in 3-D space and see different things. In 3-D.

The implications of the potential impact of this display were huge. The problem was the cost. These displays are expensive to build. They are big and bulky. But you could represent a 3D tactical map and explore it from many angles. You could combine imaging modalities (like Micass’ software does), and present them as a fused 3D volume. Great for virtual surgery, and related.

But at the end of the day, VC’s could not be convinced that there was a market there. There was, but it took time/money to develop.

Such is life. My friend is now at a new position, hopefully enjoying the return to research, and away from the many joys of running a company and trying to get revenue and get funded. Today is is first day there.

The technology he poured his brilliance and creativity is, for all intents and purposes, lost.

The hard lesson for any entrepreneur is this: Building a better mousetrap doesn’t matter as much as the ability to sell the mousetrap you build, and convince the “venture” capitalists that you have a fighting chance at topping a billion dollars ($10^9 or $1E+09 for those in the UK) before they will act. The act of selling implies good marketing, good partnerships and alike. This lesson is not lost on me with JackRabbit. I believe our product is better than the competition, it certainly costs less, and is faster. That doesn’t matter unless we can get it to customers, and get them to know about it. It is a better mouse trap. But history shows that resting on those laurels is a really good way to go out of business. So we don’t rest.

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