Philippe Kahn talks with Leo Laporte’s Triangulation, Episode 318

Philippe Kahn founded Borland, Starfish Software, LightSurf, and Fullpower Technologies. He talks to Leo Laporte about writing Turbo Pascal, inventing the first cameraphone during the birth of his daughter, and the data-driven science of sleep tech.

Download or subscribe to this show at https://twit.tv/shows/triangulation.

Congratulations 2017 Nobel Prize Winners

Congratulations Michael, Jeffrey and Michael for your unveiling of the molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythm.

Yes, our three science heroes have figured out that while we sleep our “protein batteries” get recharged and during the day our “protein batteries” get depleted. It all seems to work in rhythmic patterns timed by the rotation of planet earth. That’s the molecular-biologists’ confirmation of what the data shows, analyzing millions of night of sleep with the Sleeptracker deep learning solution among other things.

Further, the data shows that in eachsleep cycle, each phase of sleep (deep, light and REM), is essential and contributes to regeneration. With every complete sleep cycle, the mind, body and soul get regenerated. On average, for Ms. and Mr. Everyone it takes a total of four sleep cycles to get reasonably recharged and to perform emotionally, intellectually and physically the next day. Using a car as an analogy, think of deep sleep as the engine, light sleep as the body, and REM as the wheels. You need them all, equally, cyclicly, and multiple times during one night, or in separate naps.

From an evolutionary standpoint, genetic research has now established that 25% of us are night owls and perform best at night, 50% are morning larks, and the rest can perform both as owls and larks. What a fantastic opportunity to help Ms. and Mr. Everyone sleep better!

Again congratulations Michael, Jeffrey and Michael for your unveiling of the molecular mechanisms that control the circadian rhythms and for winning the Nobel prize.

Philippe Kahn named by tech journalist Mossberg in list of top 5 all time most influential technologists

Congrats to our CEO and founder Philippe Kahn on being selected by the most prominent tech guru Walt Mossberg as one of the top 5 most influential technologists ever. http://www.golocalprov.com/business/Tech-Guru-Mossberg

“1997: The Birth of the Camera Phone” Wins Industry Accolades

SAN FRANCISCO, July 25, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The short film, “1997: The Birth of the Camera Phone,” has been selected as both a Vimeo Staff Pick and as a featured film on the Short of the Week website. Created by Conscious Minds, the film depicts how technology innovator Philippe Kahn (currently CEO of Fullpower Technologies) instantly shared the first camera phone photo of the birth of his daughter. That iconic photo was included in Time Magazine’s 2016 list of the 100 most influential photos of all time.

“I was fascinated by the rather odd story of that day in the hospital when all the components of his project finally came together,” said Jonathan Ignatius Green, the director of the film. “It seemed like a true story that you wouldn’t believe if you saw it in a movie. That’s my favorite kind.”

“While we didn’t even realize the Conscious Minds team had created the film until we saw the final product, it captures that momentous day amazingly well,” said Kahn, the creator of the camera phone. “It is a great honor to have this film chosen as short-of-the-week and to reflect twenty years later how the camera phone has been a game changer for society in so many ways.”

The film can be viewed on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/221117048 or the Short of the Week website at https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/07/24/birth-camera-phone/.

Philippe Kahn is currently CEO of Fullpower Technologies, a startup focused on improving sleep through the AI-powered cloud-based IoT Sleeptracker® platform that has been commercially deployed by three leading bedding brands, Beautyrest, Serta, and Tomorrow Sleep.

More information and previous films from Conscious Minds can be found on their website at http://www.weare.cm.

About Fullpower Technologies, Inc.
Fullpower is the leader for cloud-based IoT smart-home and wearable solutions powered by AI, machine-learning and data science. With more than 125 patents, the Fullpower IP portfolio covers the AI-powered Sleeptracker® and the MotionX® IoT technology platforms. Fullpower’s business model is to license technology and IP as a PaaS to brand leaders such as Nike, Beautyrest®, Serta®, Movado® and others. Founded by Philippe Kahn, creator of the first camera phone, and based in Silicon Valley, the Fullpower team is passionate about AI, machine learning, IoT and PII.

Contact:
Leslie Ruble
Fullpower Technologies, Inc.
info@fullpower.com
831-460-7070

Happy Birthday Camera Phone! Your Papa Is Very Proud of You

1997: The Birth of the Camera Phone from Conscious Minds on Vimeo. (Kahn narrates a reenactment of the birth in the video below; the building of the prototype starts at 1:35.)

Twenty years ago, at the Sutter Maternity Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., while his wife was in labor, Philippe Kahn hacked together a Motorola StarTAC flip phone, a Casio QV digital camera that took 320 by 240 pixel images, and a Toshiba 430CDT laptop computer. When he took a picture with the camera, the system would automatically dial up his Web server and upload the picture to it at 1200 baud. The server would send email alerts to a list of friends and family, who could then log on and view the photo.

It wasn’t a brand new concept for Kahn; he’d spent about a year working on a Web-based infrastructure that he called Picture Mail. Picture Mail would do what we now call “sharing”—that is, one user would upload a photo and text, designated as something to share with a particular list of contacts (say, “friends,” “family,” or “colleagues”). The system would send email notifications to everyone at that list, directing them to visit the host Web page to view the picture. Kahn says he was aiming to be the Polaroid of the 21st century, providing “Instant Picture Mail” that would be a digital update of Polaroid’s vision of the instant camera.

What he hadn’t gotten around to building was the consumer hardware piece of the puzzle. Photography wasn’t going to be instant if you had to hook your camera up to your computer and go to a particular website every time you took a picture.

“I had always wanted to have this all working in time to share my daughter’s birth photo,” Kahn recalls, “but I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.”

Thanks to his wife spending 18 hours in labor at the local maternity center, he had a little time to build the prototype. He realized he had most of what he needed with him—in particular, the phone’s car kit, including a plug that allowed the phone to connect to a car speaker system. For the rest of what he needed, he asked an assistant to make a run to Radio Shack and drop off the additional gear at the hospital.

“It’s always the case that if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done,” Kahn says.

Kahn got it working before the baby came, and 11 June 1997 has gone down in history as the birth of a whole new world.

Philippe Kahn took the first ever cell phone picture of his then-newborn daughter Sophie in Santa Cruz County
This photo of Phillipe Kahn’s newborn daughter, taken on 11 June 1997, was the first digital photo ever shared instantly via cell phone

Some call this milestone the beginning of the camera phone. It’s not exactly that; Kahn acknowledges that others had put photo sensors in phones before. And it’s also not the first time someone sent someone else a digital photo on the Internet. But it was the first time that a photo went from one person to a broad list of his friends and family members instantly, with just a touch of a button. Kahn now calls the milestone Instant Share, and points out that this is the way social media still works today—you upload an image once to a site that stores it, and then notifications are broadcast and people follow a link back to the stored image.

Today, of course, instant sharing of photos—evolving to videos—is everywhere. It’s the idea behind Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Live. It has changed the way we connect with our friends and the world, and changed the way we experience things. For many, it’s hard to put the phone down and watch something interesting without sharing an image. Camera phones have even spawned dystopian visions of a world in which everything is shared, as in “The Circle.”

All this, looking back, seemed to grow organically. But, according to Kahn, that wasn’t exactly the case. He had to do a lot of plowing to prepare the soil, to extend the metaphor.

“After the baby,” he says, “I spent the next month integrating the design, using a microcontroller, a CMOS sensor, and a phone.” In early 1998, he founded a company around the technology, Lightsurf, and eventually received a handful of patents on the work, he recalls.

He took the technology, he says, “to Kodak, Polaroid, and [other camera companies]; they all had wireless camera projects, but none of them could imagine that the future was digital photography inside the phone, with Instant-Picture-Mail software and service infrastructure. They collectively came to the conclusion that phones would be focused on voice—this was before texting—and that cameras would become wireless.”

Having struck out in the U.S., Kahn moved on to pitch Japanese companies. He had no luck with dominant mobile phone service provider Docomo, but found enthusiasm at J-Phone. J-Phone, he says, then brought in Sharp to design their “Sha-Mail” (translated as “Picture-Mail”) phone, and the product was a success.

Back in the U.S., Wired magazine covered Kahn and LightSurf, prompting Sprint to contact him; Sprint worked with LightSurf and Casio to launch the first U.S. camera phone in 2002.

Quick, what’s the most recent photo on your phone? For photo sharing pioneer Philippe Kahn, it’s a selfie of him with his wife, Sonia Lee, on the beach.

Quick, what’s the most recent photo on your phone? For photo sharing pioneer Philippe Kahn, it’s a selfie of him with his wife, Sonia Lee, on the beach.

Even from the early days, Kahn says, he had a sense that instant photo sharing really was going to change the world. “Citizen journalism immediately came to mind; we were documenting the birth of my daughter, but that was just the beginning.” He believed that other, more political events would be documented, “and it has happened. People can’t hide things anymore. There is always someone with a camera phone taking a video; people can’t just claim that something didn’t happen.”

Bob Parks, who interviewed Kahn for the Wired article in 2000, confirms Kahn’s prescience. Parks says: “He was telling me things like, ‘In the future people will document crimes using video on their phones. Then everyone will know the real story.’ At the time I was skeptical. I thought, ‘OK, guy, I guess we’ll see how that works out.’”

For Kahn personally, the invention worked out quite well: LightSurf was acquired by Verisign in 2005 for approximately $270 million, the intellectual property scattered in later sales and, Kahn said, was tussled over in courts. Kahn is no longer involved with the technology—he has a new startup, FullPower Technologies, that has developed under-the-mattress sensors and cloud based artificial intelligence to gather data and personalize recommendations to help customers improve their sleep. But he’s thrilled watching phone-based photo sharing explode around the world.

“If you go to Africa, people don’t have laptops. They have phones with cameras and they do everything with them—sell things, buy things, telemedicine. If a person’s house burns down these days, their pictures aren’t lost, their memories are stored in the cloud. I see tourists with selfie-sticks and I think it’s fantastic, the more cameras the better. It’s a fantastic power to be in the hands of Mr. and Mrs. Everyone.”

And that rush to cobble together a prototype in the maternity room? Absolutely worth it, Kahn says: “The picture of my daughter’s birth was a magical, unique, instant moment and worth a million words.”

A baby girl and the camera phone were born 20 years ago

Twenty years ago Sunday, Philippe and Sonya Kahn spent 18 hours at a hospital in Santa Cruz, waiting for their baby Sophie to be born. Like nearly all expectant fathers, Philippe Kahn planned to take a picture of the new baby but, instead of waiting till he got home to distribute the photo to friends online, he wanted to do it directly from the hospital. But that was in 1997 when there were no camera phones. So he invented one.

Kahn, who previously founded Borland International and Starfish Software, had already configured a home server to store images, automatically notify friends about new images and send them a link so they could view them via the web. But there was no way to get the pictures to the server directly from a camera.

Philippe Kahn took the first ever cell phone picture of his then-newborn daughter Sophie in Santa Cruz County
Philippe Kahn took the first ever cell phone picture of his then-newborn daughter Sophie in Santa Cruz County.

Kahn had a Casio QV-10, the first consumer-grade digital camera with an LCD display that, he said, “made pixelated but nice 320 by 240 pictures.” He also had a Motorola StarTAC “flip” phone, so during Sonia’s 18 hours of labor, he thought about finding a way to connect the two so he could upload a picture of the baby directly from the hospital.

“It was clear that I had a hardware problem. Short of taking the phone apart I needed to interface with the phone,” he said in an interview.

He also needed to connect a laptop to control the camera/phone connection. Phones then couldn’t connect to either laptops or cameras but – as he pondered the problem – he remembered he had a StarTAC speaker phone kit in his car which, of course, could connect to the phone. With his wife’s blessing, he “literally ran down to my car, took out the whole speaker phone kit and started working frantically at creating a software/firmware/hardware interface” that enabled him to send the pictures from the laptop, which was connected to both the camera and the phone.

As luck would have it, he finished this Rube Goldberg device just in time for the arrival of Sophie and snapped what was not only Sophie’s first picture, but the first picture taken by what eventually evolved into the camera phone.

Kahn’s server sent links to this image to friends, family and colleagues and he started hearing from people who were impressed at how quickly he got this picture from the hospital to their screens, which made him realize he had a potential product.

“Immediately it became clear that we needed a CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) sensor and a micro controller unit integrated in phones. So we built these prototypes that were interfaced with the exact software/server/service-infrastructure,” he said.

With a prototype in hand, Kahn tried to convince the CEOs of Kodak and Polaroid to create an integrated phone and camera “but none of them could imagine that the phone would be the integrating device.” He said that they “hired consultants, market pundits and they all collectively came to the conclusion that phones would be focused on voice and that cameras would become wireless.” Both Kodak and Polaroid later went bankrupt.

“They totally missed the paradigm shift,” said Kahn.

Unable to find a partner in the U.S., Kahn took his idea to Japan but had no success with big players like NTT Docomo. But he did find interest from a small carrier called J-Phone, which, in 1999 partnered with Sharp along with Kahn’s company LightSurf, to design a “Picture-Mail phone.” In 2002 Kahn’s company worked with Sprint and Casio on the first U.S. camera phone.

Sprint loaned me one of those first phones to review. I picked it up at their office on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles and, after leaving the office, I found a parking ticket on my car. Convinced that it was an unjust ticket, I used the phone to document my surroundings to prove why I shouldn’t have to pay the fine. The Los Angeles Parking Citations Bureau disagreed and I didn’t bother to appeal, but it nevertheless convinced me of the power of always having a camera in your pocket.

Today, I routinely use my camera phone to help me remember where I park my car. I take pictures of luggage tags, receipts and the price tags of items I’m thinking of buying. Of course, like most people, I also use my phone to photograph people, animals and scenery. Truth be told, the pictures I take with my smartphone often look just as good as the ones I take with my $1,000 camera.

Kahn’s current company, Santa Cruz-based Fullpower, develops cloud-based technology to power sleep tracking, analog smartwatches and other “Internet of Things” products.

Both my kids were born before Kahn built that camera phone so I wasn’t able to use a phone to transmit pictures of my kids’ births in near real time. But millions of fathers have since instantly shared pictures of their newborns to loved ones far and near. Happy 20th birthday to both the camera phone and Sophie Kahn.

In Conversation With The Inventor of The Camera Phone

Philippe Kahn, a French entrepreneur, was waiting for his baby daughter to be born when he hit upon the inspiration for the world’s first camera-photo.

It was a summer evening in 1997, and Philippe Kahn was anxiously waiting for his daughter Sophie to be born. Desiring to share her birth instantly with family and friends, he conceived what would become the world’s first camera phone. The Internet was only four years old and only good for simple email with limited wireless connection. So he bought a Casio QV-10 digital camera and inserted it into a Motorola Startac phone. When Sophie was born, her photo became the first ever camera-phone image, something that, 20 years on, we take for granted.


Newborn Sophie Kahn — the person who inspired the first camera phone.

Now Kahn runs several companies, including Fullpower, founded in 2003, which provides a patented ecosystem for wearables and Internet of Things products. The inspiration for his main product, the Sleeptracker Monitor, stems from Kahn’s passion for sailing — he owns a team called Pegasus Racing. During a demanding race that means sailors have less than an hour’s sleep in a 24-hour period, Kahn began experimenting with biosensors and three-axis linear accelerometers that could detect micro-movements. Kahn created prototype sleep trackers using biosensors that optimised 26-minute power naps to maximise sleep benefits and sail time.

Click to read the interview

Beautyrest® Launches the New Beautyrest® Sleeptracker® Monitor

Bedding Industry’s First Stand-Alone Sleep Monitoring Device Empowers Individuals to Optimize Daily Performance


(ATLANTA, Ga. – March 21, 2017) – The Beautyrest Brand is proud to introduce the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor – a patented sleep monitoring system that pairs with any mattress or foundation, allowing individuals to make their bed a smart bed. This non-invasive breakthrough device is the bedding industry’s first stand-alone solution to monitor a broad range of factors affecting high-quality sleep for two individuals simultaneously. Offering an unprecedented level of accuracy, the monitor is 90 percent accurate when measuring heart rate and breathing rate for the vast majority of the population, 90 percent of the time.

“As one of the most trusted and recognizable bedding brands nationwide, we are proud to embrace the smart home movement with technology that provides a deeper understanding of how we sleep,” said Jim Gallman, Executive Vice President, Beautyrest Marketing. “The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor allows consumers to optimize their sleep habits and make improvements that can have dramatic implications for their overall quality of life.”

The monitor provides consumers with an in-depth analysis of each user’s sleep ecosystem – including current behaviors, comparisons to biometrical similar users and personalized tips to help them perform better every day. By analyzing a variety of sleep variables, it also provides personalized recommendations and expert insights designed to improve daily performance. While everyone has an individual definition of what performance means, the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor enables users to get the optimal sleep necessary to accomplish whatever may come in the day ahead – whether that is a full day at the office, managing a complex family schedule or even running a marathon.

“The Sleeptracker artificial intelligence (AI) engine represents a dramatic improvement over other sleep monitoring devices, and is the result of significant resources invested in research and development,” said Arthur Kinsolving, Chief Technology Officer of Fullpower Technologies, Inc., the technology partner of the Beautyrest Brand. “With the power of AI and machine learning, the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor will continue to stretch its lead and deliver unprecedented deep insights into consumers’ sleep patterns.”

According to the Better Sleep Council, “a good night’s sleep sets the optimal stage for, not only physical, but also mental performance. If you are well rested, you will approach social, professional, and physical challenges in the most advantageous state of mind and body.” The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor will provide individuals with a new understanding of what is keeping them up at night while also offering easy-to-implement solutions that recognize long-term trends and become more personalized over time.

The Beautyrest Sleeptracker® Monitor Benefits and Features:

  • The only device in its class that can monitor sleep patterns of two individual sleepers simultaneously due to an advanced AI engine
  • While wearables must be worn on the body and charged regularly, the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor plugs directly into a wall outlet, is completely non-invasive and requires no changes to day-to-day bedding
  • Patented system that accurately measures both respiration and heart rate for deeper sleep analysis (wrist-worn wearables can’t monitor the essential respiration vital sign and are notoriously inaccurate for continuous heart rate monitoring)
  • Can be set to automatically monitor sleep data when users fall asleep unexpectedly
  • Pairs with the Sleeptracker iOS and Android smartphone app to offer an unprecedented level of detail – providing users with a minute-by-minute snapshot of their journey through each sleep cycle: light sleep, deep sleep and REM
  • Features a Sleep Cycle Alarm that detects a light stage of sleep in order to wake users at the ideal time in their sleep cycle
  • Offers an AI Sleep Coach that monitors improvement over time and provides effective, easy-to-implement, personal sleep tips based on a comprehensive analysis of individual sleep patterns and external factors that may impact sleep quality
  • Integrates with Amazon Echo – soon allowing control of other smart home elements from a single device, such as thermostats, lights, music, alarm systems, door locks and more

The Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor is compatible with all mattresses and foundations (results may vary depending on the type of mattress and foundation used) and is available on Amazon.com for $199. The Sleeptracker app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play. Visit Beautyrest.com for more information and to find a retailer near you.

Related Links
Visit Beautyrest.com
Follow Beautyrest on Facebook
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Follow Beautyrest on YouTube

About Serta Simmons Bedding, LLC
Serta Simmons Bedding, LLC (SSB) owns and manages two of the largest bedding brands in the mattress industry National Bedding Company L.L.C. (the largest licensee and majority shareholder of Serta, Inc.) and Simmons Bedding Company, LLC. SSB is based in Atlanta and operates 33 manufacturing plants in the United States, five in Canada and one in Puerto Rico. Its subsidiary, National Bedding Company L.L.C., is based in suburban Chicago and markets a broad range of products under the Serta® brand, including Perfect Sleeper®, iComfort®, iSeries®, Sertapedic® and a portfolio of licensed products. In addition to National Bedding Company L.L.C., Serta, Inc. has five other independent licensees in the United States and one in Canada that manufacture and market Serta-branded products. SSB’s other subsidiary, Simmons Bedding Company, LLC, is based in Atlanta and markets a broad range of products including Beautyrest®, Beautyrest Black® and BeautySleep®. Both companies also serve as key suppliers of beds to many of the world’s leading hotel groups and resort properties.

About Fullpower Technologies, Inc.
Fullpower is the leader for cloud-based IoT smart-home and wearable solutions powered by AI, machine-learning and data science. With more than 125 patents, the Fullpower IP portfolio covers the AI-powered Sleeptracker® and the MotionX® IoT technology platforms. Fullpower’s business model is to license technology and IP as a PaaS to brand leaders such as Nike, Beautyrest, Serta, Movado and others. Founded by Philippe Kahn, creator of the first camera-phone, and based in Silicon Valley, the Fullpower team is passionate about AI, machine learning, IoT and PII.

Beautyrest Press Contacts:
Hunter Public Relations on behalf of Beautyrest 
Blake Kaufman
bkaufman@hunterpr.com
(212) 679-6600 x 41-228

Beautyrest Public Relations
Cameron Purcell
cpurcell@simmons.com

Sensor Fusion Market Analysis and Value Forecast Snapshot by End-use Industry 2016-2026

Sensor Fusion Market Analysis

Sensor-fusion is at the heart of our work at Fullpower together with AI, Machine Learning and Sleep and ambulatory sciences.

Click to view the complete analysis:
http://www.openpr.com/news/418860/Sensor-Fusion-Market-Analysis-and-Value-Forecast-Snapshot-by-End-use-Industry-2016-2026.html

3 lessons from serial innovators

Hint: It’s not just one bright idea, repeated several times.

Some people appear to be blessed. They aren’t just lucky enough to have a single right idea at the right time; they keep coming up with more bright ideas that make the world better, or at least are valued enough for a profitable business model. While innovation and market success do not always have a strong correlation, there are a few things the creators often have in common.

It’s one thing to get lucky—to have a bright idea at the exact right moment. But many of the people I admire have been “lucky” several times over, sometimes in different guises. Maybe it’s creating a business that evolves from a solo success to a wide range of profitable endeavors under the same corporate umbrella, such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. Or the spark of creativity may touch different realms, such as Philippe Kahn, whose success began with Borland’s Turbo Pascal, then camera phones, and now working in the Internet of Things.

I’ve paid some attention to what these people do differently from the rest of us mere mortals, including the things they don’t notice. Because, often, we take our personal strengths for granted; they are, after all, the things that require the least conscious effort.

Lesson 1: It’s all about technology. Except when it isn’t.

3 lessons from serial innovators

Always lead with technology, says Philippe Kahn. “I’m passionate about making things that help Ms. and Mr. Everyone. At different times, different things. But it all has to be led by unique technology innovation.” You may remember Kahn’s legacy at Borland, which drove software development on microcomputers. At LightSurf, it was the camera phone, accompanied by key patents. “Today at Fullpower, it’s the leading platform for the smartbed in the IoT smarthome, powered by machine learning and data science,” he says, with “a lot of innovation and patents.”

However, the world is full of technology that is inherently cool, but also an answer in search of a solution. Whether an innovation is an improvement over existing solutions (the iPod, a faster CPU, a more affordable compiler) or a disruptive game changer (DVDs by mail, crowdsourced classified ads), it answers questions that people immediately realize they had—as soon as the answer appears.

The technology breakthrough itself can be a distraction. Even though the market makers may talk about technology publicly, says Saul Kaplan, founder of the Business Innovation Factory, their attention usually is on problem solving and business models. It’s part of their DNA, he says. “When they stand in line at the supermarket, they are considering how to improve the buying experience,” he points out. Indeed, architect and inventor Buckminster Fuller was incensed by the time wasted standing in line when the bank tried to “save money” by limiting the number of bank tellers, and actively did the math to figure out how much income generation the bank was losing out on in that false economy.

Serial innovators constantly prototype and try on mental models in search of a better way. “They fix a problem and worry about scale later,” Kaplan says. (“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”—R. Buckminster Fuller)

“Technology can be a force multiplier,” agrees Dave Gray, management consultant and author of The Connected Company (you can read a free chapter here). “What tips the balance in most cases is the culture, the people, the morale. Those kinds of things win.” Gray refers to work from management researcher Saras Sarasvathy, who observed that entrepreneurs focus on their capabilities and ask, “Given what is currently under my control, what kinds of things could I do in the world?”

Kahn’s innovations with the camera phone bear this out. Instead of his team trying to develop manufacturing systems (not their core knowledge set), the inventors benefited economically by their licensing patents and technology to other companies with manufacturing systems. Others, such as Apple, Google/Android, and Samsung were then able to build the industrial powerhouses that still exploit the LightSurf original 1997 vision of “Point, shoot, share instantly.”

Lesson 2: In the desire to move forward, be willing to make your existing products obsolete.

Serial innovators look for opportunities to improve their own products because they’re aware someone else wants their business. “Paranoia is good,” Catherine Ulrich, chief product officer at Shutterstock, told the BBC. “Paranoia makes you think about your competitors, and that’s going to make you better.”

If the customer is going to find a better product, ideally it should be from the entrepreneur’s own company. Surely it was better for Apple to build a Macintosh that might “steal sales” from the Apple//e than to wait for a competitor to invent the next improvement, because the customers’ money all went into the same corporate coffers.

And that means leaving things behind—even if you once were really proud of the innovation. Back in 2007, Steve Jobs talked about the courage it took to remove technology from Apple products—in this case, support for Flash, USB, and floppy disks—saying that leaving them behind lets you “put energy into making those new emerging technologies be great on your platform.”

It’s hard enough for an upstart (or startup) company to “innovate” over its own products, but even more difficult for large companies to do so. That’s most famously examined in Clayton Christensen The Innovator’s Dilemma. (Here’s a great 4-minute video summary, for the impatient.) Once a product becomes a success, innovators—or the organizations they build—are unwilling to endanger it. Instead of chasing dreams and betting the house on them, they turn to incremental improvements and optimization of the status quo.

Or, as Kaplan expresses the sentiment: “You get so busy peddling the bicycle of the way your business works that you create constraints. Then along comes someone else who says, ‘I am not constrained and can solve it another way.’”

This isn’t new, of course. MIT senior research scientist David Clark, in discussing the development of the Internet, described the attitudes about innovation during the 1960s and 1970s. “A major source of doubt and skepticism was the mindset of the traditional telephone companies that basically said: first, it won’t work, and second, if it does work, we’re going to try to kill it because we’re not interested in having something that competes with us. I actually think that this doubt and skepticism was incredibly empowering because it basically meant they didn’t pay attention to us. As long as they didn’t pay attention, we could do anything we wanted, so we built a network more or less over their dead body, but they couldn’t stop us.”

In the 2004 article Why Big Companies Can’t Invent, author and venture capitalist Howard Anderson explained why new technologies are seen as a threat to the market leader’s profit margins. “Why would RCA or GE push solid-state technology when the profits from vacuum tubes were so high? Why would Kodak push for digital cameras when its real money was made in film? All eventually entered these markets, of course, but late, and only when change was inevitable. Major corporations much prefer ‘just-in-time’ innovation—innovation that peaks just as older products are on the back half of their life cycle. But innovation does not choreograph so simply; it comes in fits and starts, defeats mixed with occasional breakthroughs.”

Little has changed. “BlackBerry and Windows both suffered the fate of their owning companies focusing on the thing being sold, instead of the problem being solved,” points out Peter Coffee, VP for strategic research at Salesforce.

Lesson 3: Create a culture of innovation (really).

People bandy about the phrase “create a culture of innovation” as if it’s something you can order from Amazon or from which you get the parts from your local hardware store. But the serial innovators, particularly the ones who keep recreating their companies as well as their products and services, truly do encourage their people to try new things.

“No one here is ever told ‘That’s not your job’ when they propose an innovative action,” says Saleforce’s Coffee. “For that matter, I would say that people here are genuinely expected to innovate without permission (let alone a formal organization).”

To avoid being disrupted, a company has to create conditions for entire new business models. “Take Uber: they didn’t invent anything. They saw a problem, and they created an app,” says Kaplan. A few global transportation companies had all the resources and capabilities to make their own Uber, he points out. “But they were stuck in their business models, with their own rules of the road.” These other companies never had a sandbox in which innovative employees were challenged to “explore the possible business models even if it is disruptive to us.” And Uber was worth more than the global transportation company’s whole industry just a few years later.

Similarly, Sony had a huge division that created the Walkman. It also had a division that managed music talent, under contract. It had all the pieces. But, points out Kaplan, Jobs did it from scratch with the iPod.

For serial innovators, the problem is never the idea. It’s how to get the ideas off the white board and onto the ground. “In the end it’s about a repeatable and scalable business model and the ability to reinvent it,” says Kaplan. “That’s what it’s going to take to constantly stay relevant. And we live in a world that constantly screams for it.”