The New Jersey Economic Development Authority continues its series highlighting how entrepreneurs and investors are helping to build the Garden State’s technology ecosystem:
After decades building two technology companies, innovator and investor Derek Lidow, of Princeton, now devotes his time to coaching emerging entrepreneurs. A strong believer in the motto “anyone can start a business, but only leaders will succeed,” Lidow currently teaches budding entrepreneurs at Princeton University how to build successful enterprises. Having earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the New Jersey Ivy League school, Lidow is passionate about nurturing New Jersey’s technology ecosystem.
“Entrepreneurial leadership definitely can be learned,” Lidow explained. “It boils down to some fundamental skills – ones you don’t necessarily have to be born with. They are things that everyone can learn with attention and practice.”
Lidow also serves on the Board of United Silicon Carbide, Inc. (USCi), a company in which he invests. South Brunswick-based USCi, which creates technology designed to replace silicon in semiconductor applications to increase performance and improve efficiency, has benefited from several State resources, including the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program and a $2 million Edison Innovation Green Growth Fund (EIGGF) loan. Funded by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the EIGGF program offers growth capital loans to assist New Jersey clean technology companies in advancing energy efficient and renewable energy products in the State.
After graduating with a PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford University, Lidow worked his way from being a product engineer at International Rectifier Corp. (IRC) to the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In 1999, he left IRC and spent nearly a dozen years founding and building iSuppli, an electronics technology research and advisory services company in California, considered to be the largest of its kind in the world. Lidow sold the company to IHS in 2010.
As an innovator, Lidow has made several contributions to the electronics industry, including widely implemented best practices in project management, quality management, and critical insights into the operations of large complex value chains. Technology-giants Sony, Samsung, Philips, and IBM, all of which have a footprint in New Jersey, have benefited from Lidow’s innovations.
In addition to teaching and innovating, Lidow has written articles that have been published in such high profile publications as The Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review, and is the author of “Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises,” which was published last year. He regularly travels around the country advising audiences on how to build successful companies.
@NJEDATech spoke to Lidow about his experience in New Jersey and the advice that he has for emerging entrepreneurs:
To what State resources do you point emerging entrepreneurs in New Jersey?
Since New Jersey has such a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem, it depends upon what type of entrepreneur I am talking to. For example, if I am speaking to someone who wants to grow an agriculture company, I would point them towards the exciting and potentially impactful agricultural startups around Princeton. Depending upon the field of interest, I usually ask entrepreneurs who they know at the great universities in the state. Entrepreneurs are always better off with great advisors and mentors, and NJ has a wealth of savvy, experienced, and well-connected experts waiting to help entrepreneurs, not just students, at its world class universities.
What is the first piece of advice you give budding innovators?
“Understand why you’re doing this!” Starting a company is hard work that requires huge sacrifices and changes. Furthermore, if you’re aspiring to be your own boss, you will want to steer a very different course than if you are looking to make the most money. If you can understand why you really want to start your company, you can avoid countless heartbreaking crises down the road.
What do you tell your students makes a company marketable in today’s world?
The most valuable companies make their customers and clients the happiest. This applies for business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer companies. Many entrepreneurs lose sight of the fact that the happier you make someone (or maybe a group of executives in case you’re selling to a company), the more money they are willing to give you in return.