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E Ink's Russ Wilcox: The Exit Interview

Posted by Scott Kirsner  March 1, 2010 01:26 PM

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Xconomy Boston broke the news this morning that Russ Wilcox, the co-founder and long-time CEO of Cambridge display maker E Ink, has left the company after 13 years; Wilcox was the last member of the founding team to take off, following the company's acquisition last year by Prime View International of Taiwan for $450 million.

I caught up with Wilcox this afternoon, who told me that "if there ever was a right moment to leave after selling [the company], this was it."

The acquisition of E Ink closed last December 23rd, and Wilcox said he didn't have a contract that required him to stick around for a specified period of time. Prime View chief executive Scott Liu, who works out of Taipei, will take over as E Ink's chief executive. "He's trying to take the two management teams and integrate them," Wilcox said. "Having spent the last six years as a CEO, I didn't want to do a staff job, and become a functional person, and I didn't want to step on [Liu's] toes."

E Ink grew revenues at 80 percent, 90 percent, 140 percent, and 250 percent over the last four years, Wilcox said, supplying displays for certain Motorola cell phones, the Amazon Kindle, and the Sony Reader, among other products. 

The company has been investing in R&D to develop color display technology. "To stay on that [growth] track, we they absolutely need to have some color," Wilcox said.

As for Xconomy's suggestion, based on a LinkedIn status update, that Wilcox is considering a "smart energy venture next," Wilcox said that he'd merely been visiting his friend Kevin Johnson, CEO of OutSmart Power Systems, and learning about their plans for intelligent wiring systems for commercial buildings that can more efficiently manage power consumption.

"I want to go off and do something new," Wilcox said, "and the most important thing is to pick something you care about, and that's good for the world. I want to pick a very hard goal that's truly challenging, but within that, there are a million ways to build businesses." Wilcox said he might shy away from another materials science start-up that's at a similar stage as E Ink was at when he helped shepherd it out of MIT's Media Lab. "I might pick something that's a little further along," he said. 

Wilcox's latest LinkedIn status update: "...taking a pause before starting the next adventure and will be reading happily on his many various E Ink devices."
 

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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