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July 23rd, 2010
Jason Hartlove has a name and a rakish mug worthy of a soap-opera star, a resume that any Silicon Valley engineer would envy, and a bit of swagger as a turnaround CEO. He co-invented the optical mouse at Hewlett-Packard, ran a 3,000-employee manufacturing operation for HP spinoff Agilent in Malaysia, and set South Korea's struggling MagnaChip Semiconductor on its current path to an IPO. "One of my investors said this—so I won't claim it for myself—but I am a technology MacGyver," Hartlove says. "If you give me some piece of technology, I can really figure out what to do with it."
But at Palo Alto, CA-based Nanosys, where he took over as CEO in October 2008, Hartlove may be facing his biggest challenge yet. With an impressive portfolio of patents based on work at MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other institutions, the nine-year-old company has repeatedly been described as one of the most promising in a batch of nanotechnology startups that emerged around the turn of the millennium. In its early years, it investigated areas like solar cells and display electronics where it was thought that nano-engineered materials could lead to higher power output or greater efficiencies. But real commercial applications for nanotechnology insights have been slow to emerge, and Nanosys has yet to bring a single product all the way to the market (the first is set to appear in the fourth quarter of this year, if all goes according to plan).
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