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Phoseon takes off in Hillsboro

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Articles - February 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
0211_Phoseon
Phoseon CEO Bill Cortelyou and Darrel Lawson examine one of the company's LED lamps. // Photo by Teresa Meier
The production floor at the newly expanded Phoseon Technology headquarters glows with purple light as workers go about the task of building and testing lamps. The purple creates a nice ambience, but its real purpose is deeper.

For nearly a decade Phoseon has been trying to transform the printing industry by replacing high-voltage, mercury-based bulbs used to dry and cure ink with ultraviolet LED lamps that last longer, emit less pollution, use less energy and contain no mercury. For years the company made a clean tech argument for its products similar to that of the solar and wind power industries. As in, yes, the product is more expensive, but…

Not any more. After years of research and development and 50 patents filed for or approved, CEO Bill Cortelyou says Phoseon lamps are as powerful as mercury lamps and similarly priced. “Our lamps today are 10 times more powerful than they were four years ago,” he says. “We used to have to push the product into the marketplace. Now we’re feeling a pull.”

Launched in 2002 and backed with venture capital, Phoseon reached profitability in 2009. Cortelyou, a former vice president of operations for IDT, first invested in the company in 2004 and took over as CEO in 2006. Phoseon grew from 24 to 34 employees in 2010 and Cortelyou expects 50 jobs and 3,000-4,000 lamps shipped by the end of 2011. His goal is to build a $70 million to $80 million business employing 250-300 people.

That could happen if the printing industry makes the shift from mercury to LED. About 60% of Phoseon’s business is in printing, and Cortelyou sees a billion-dollar market in replacing the printing industry’s mercury bulbs with LED lamps. The technology also has applications curing and drying adhesives and lacquer in the automotive, furniture and electronics industries.

Beyond that, Cortelyou sees vast potential in thin-film solar panels, organic LED computer monitors and other futuristic products. “The mercury lamp is fragile, high voltage and large,” he says. “If you can substitute that with something smaller and more efficient you can start doing all sorts of things that weren’t feasible before… The growth in this business is going to be all of the things we never thought of.”

BEN JACKLET
 

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Editor's Letter: Power Play

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There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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