Jake Russell: Inspiring Invention
Jake Russell is an inventor with a sharp sense for detail. When he isn't developing software to improve mapping sciences, Jake is known to take things apart to rebuild them. Like a true inventor, he doesn’t do this exercise to rebuild items the same way, but instead with small improvements he finds along the reconstruction process. Intuitive and hardworking, Jake is an inventor that is optimizing efficiency through his inventions.
What do you do and how did you get involved with IV?
As Invention Development Manager, my role is focused on sourcing early-stage inventive ideas from Intellectual Ventures’ global network of inventors. The inventors I work with are a mix of individuals, companies, and university researchers. One of the things I like about my role here is that while it mainly involves a focus on software technologies (where I have most of my career experience), it also exposes me to a broad range of other technologies that I think are fascinating — and likely to be very significant in our future.
When I first heard about IV’s Invention Development Fund (IDF) and its unique business model, I immediately saw a need that it addresses in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s because I’ve been in various situations (by myself, with entrepreneurial friends, and at companies) where we’ve conceived good ideas but didn’t have the resources to commercialize and monetize them. In such situations, seeking the help of a partner such as IDF is a far better alternative than doing nothing.
What kind of inventor are you?
I suppose I’m a type of person who can maintain a keen focus while grinding away at a problem — even when countless hours of research, prototyping, or experimentation are required. While my mother calls me “the absent minded professor,” my wife can’t believe how I often work straight through the lunch hour. I also have a mechanical mind and enjoy disassembling and improving things. For example, to optimize an intake manifold for a car racing hobby, I taught myself to TIG weld and built an airflow tester from a Shop-Vac.
What have you invented?
At a software company I co-founded about ten years ago, I devised a clever way to encode geospatial metadata into a new compressed image file format called “JPEG2000,” which subsequently became rapidly adopted by organizations using satellite imagery and aerial photography.
Besides image compression, other areas I’ve worked on include innovative computer algorithms (such as high-performance 3D rendering algorithms), techniques to programmatically modify source code, and more recently some improvements to augmented reality systems.
Do you have a process you follow?
Usually, coming to the realization that a significant need exists in a particular problem area is a necessary precursor to thinking about a compelling inventive solution. At times, inventions conceived in response to esoteric problems can come very quickly. Other times, you may have some vague ideas about a solution, but the bulk of the inventive process will be figuring out how to actually pull the pieces together in a workable and compelling application.
Which innovators inspired you to become an inventor?
Leonardo Da Vinci comes to mind as an inspiringly prolific innovator, and Bill Gates as an inspiringly impactful one. As an example of an innovator who impacted me more directly, Brian Roundtree comes to mind, whom I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with to help build a mobile phone customer support software company. After demonstrating early commercial success and also earning key patent protection on some compelling new technologies, we were able to sell the company for a nice return to our venture capital investors. It’s one of those inspirational success stories that I think everyone involved with loves to talk about, and it especially helped underscore for me the importance of patent protection for technology start-ups.