by Timothy Lee
Wed, Jan 2nd 2008 1:57pm
The One Laptop Per Child project has announced that its Chief Technology Officer, Mary Lou Jepsen, is leaving the project to focus on commercializing the display technology she developed as part of the OLPC project. Computerworld describes this as a "blow" to the OLPC project, but I don't think that's necessarily true. It's hard to say without an insider's perspective, but it may be that this is just a natural development for an organization that's transitioning from a (non-profit) tech startup to a more mature technology organization. Traditional for-profit startups often see some of their early technologists leave the firm once the initial technology-development phase is completed. The skills required to develop cutting-edge technology are different from the skills needed to run a large technology company, and so people who don't want to do the latter often leave companies once they're off the ground. What I think this does illustrate, though, is that despite large differences in rhetoric, there's not that much difference between a non-profit technology organization and a for-profit technology company. Both are trying to develop cutting-edge technologies that will be useful to a lot of people. Both face challenges with holding down costs and finding the right market. As I've said before, OLPC might be more successful if it thought more like a technology company, looking for paying customers and ways to cut costs. Having former employees commercializing OLPC-based technologies can only help nudge the organization in the right direction.
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in...