Ben Brink

A founding partner of Carthage, Ben Brink has over 30 years of experience in the management of high technology companies and in venture capital—in Silicon Valley, Southern California, and the Midwest, with operations in Europe and Asia.   As CEO, he has led startup, early-stage, growth-stage, and mid-sized companies, both private and public in the software, defense electronics, medical electronics, environmental, and biotechnology market spaces.

Recruited into the Federal Government in 2006, he turned around a $400M program, bringing the new biometric US passport into production. A Captain in the Navy Reserve, he was recalled to active duty in 2007, deploying to Afghanistan, where he led efforts to increase intelligence sharing and coordinate operations between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISAF forces—awarded Bronze Star; following demobilization, Brink took command of Navy Intelligence Reserve Region Southwest, in San Diego. Retiring from the Navy at the beginning of 2011, he has re-established his corporate advisory practice, The McAlester Group, and is a founding partner in Carthage Intellectual Capital Management, a new firm that has developed novel valuation techniques and an investment vehicle to monetize productive intellectual property.

Volunteer efforts include: Director Employment Initiative Program for the Missouri ESGR, and mentor and judge for the Washington University Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the St. Louis IT Entrepreneurial Network. Brink holds degrees from: Harvard—MBA; Stanford—MS (Operations Research) and BS (Mathematics); and US Army War College—MS (Strategic Studies).

Recent Posts

Too Big to Think

When I was a kid, I loved dinosaurs because, among other things, dinosaurs were SO Big. Big is very cool to the young and relatively small. But the other amazing thing about the really big dinosaurs was that their brains were so small- way smaller than my kid’s brain. Big dinosaurs’ brains were so small that they needed a ‘helper brain’ near their hind quarters so their back end could keep up with the front end. When I was older I sometimes wondered what happened when the two brains disagreed with each other. Was it the equivalent of a Jurassic brain freeze? Well, no matter- dinosaurs went extinct. Maybe they just got too big to think.

Watching the US Congress debate and momentarily jump off the 2012 ‘Fiscal Cliff’ on New Year’s Eve brought back those dinosaur memories. Tomorrow (March 1), it appears they are going to take the leap. I couldn’t help thinking that the Federal Government was just too big for the two brains- Republican and Democrat- that were trying to control the beast. The choices- cut spending or increase taxes to save the government and the economy- now constitute the entirety of a binary decision conflict for an organization comprising around a fifth of the US economy. Apparently there are no other solutions that can solve this pending extinction.

Innovation is about problem solving with new solutions. When these emergent solutions are sufficiently unique, without precedent and useful, they can be turned into intellectual property. And intellectual property can be a valuable asset when it solves recurring problems that have economic dimensions. Increasing revenues or decreasing expenses are just the sort of economic dimensions I am thinking of.

The way to get these unique solutions also involves using binary logic. To see if a proposed solution is true, we use a scientific method that starts with the problem that is also a testable hypothesis. Computer geeks will recognize this method in the familiar IF THEN algorithm (IF such and such is true, THEN this or that will result). In business or academia or government this is the function of R&D. The proposal either does what we propose or it doesn’t- that’s the ‘binary’ part of the process. The key is to make the problem small enough to test in a laboratory or an environment that’s much smaller than place we intend to use the solution in the event it’s true. The Federal government knows how to do this- it has dozens of laboratories doing it every day. So do big businesses and big universities.

The thing about a big problem is that usually it is a collection of smaller problems which themselves are sometimes collections of even smaller problems. The smaller the problem, the easier it is to solve. But solving small problems is boring and tedious and not very glamorous. No one holds a press conference to announce the solutions of a portfolio of very small problems. There is no Nobel Prize for the guy who solves the biggest number of small scale experiments. The CEO doesn’t get the corner office with a hundred small deals as often as with the One Big Score- even if there are a thousand losses on the way. This is often true of intellectual property as well. But, as it turns outs, these small innovations are the sure thing solutions that actually work and have actual value.

This year I resolve is to think smaller and smarter. Dinosaurs may be big and cool but they are also extinct. I think maybe it’s a good time to be something else. Like a smaller mammal. With patents.

  1. Still thinking about the $5 million gift opportunity? Think patents. 2 Replies
  2. For Estate Planning, Don’t Forget the Patent Estate (Part 2) 1 Reply
  3. For Estate Planning, Don’t Forget the Patent Estate (Part 1) Leave a reply
  4. Writing off a Business may be a Good Time to get Cash for your Patents 2 Replies
  5. Why Patent Attorneys should talk to Corporate Finance (and why Finance should listen) Leave a reply
  6. Pricing Intellectual Property- The Rule of Eight Leave a reply
  7. With the Facebook disaster will the wait for IPO be longer? Leave a reply
  8. Send Lawyers, Guns and Money- and IP Leave a reply
  9. It’s a Demand World- Really?? 1 Reply