Where Are They Now?
The latest news on companies we've highlighted in past forecast issues.
(FORTUNE Small Business) – IN THE 2004 "NEXT LITTLE Thing" issue, FSB featured Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, a medical-device firm in Foxborough, Mass., that helps the severely disabled. The company's BrainGate device, an aspirin-sized cranial implant, allows quadriplegics to move a cursor around a computer screen merely by thinking about it. In the future, such technology could allow quadriplegics to move their wheelchairs solely using their thoughts. In July 2006, the company's first trial patient, a quadriplegic named Matthew Nagle, was featured in a cover story in Nature. Cyberkinetics recently announced results for a subsequent test involving three spinal-cord patients and a fourth with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), one of whom was able to maneuver a wheelchair. Similarly, CNS acquired another technology that promises to restore sensation and movement by stimulating growth in a damaged spinal cord. A ten-patient trial of the technology has already returned positive results, and an enhanced version (for older injuries) is now being tested in dogs. Since FSB wrote about the company, it has raised $27 million from investors and now has 36 employees.
MOLLER INTERNATIONAL, founded by aeronautical engineer Paul Moller, is on track for the first untethered flight of its Jetsons-style flying vehicle, the Skycar, this spring in Dixon, Calif. Moller hopes that a successful flight over a five-acre lake will help him toward his goal of getting a military prototype onto the market in about three years. As FSB wrote in December 2004, Moller's strategy is to fund the Skycar venture by selling off commercial aspects of the technology. He recently secured a licensing agreement to mass-produce versions of the Skycar's rotary engine, which can be used for devices as small as power tools (and cost as little as $40). Still, Moller International (moller.com), based in Davis, Calif., is struggling financially. R&D totaled $6 million in 2006 alone.
POSEIDON UNDERSEA Resorts, which is trying to develop an underwater hotel, has run into some setbacks but is moving forward. Founder Bruce Jones had problems negotiating real estate in the Bahamas and in 2006 switched locations to a private island in Fiji. The new site includes a lagoon, an airstrip, 21 beachfront bungalows, and an underground power system but has necessitated some changes in the hotel's design. (Instead of a tunnel leading from the beach, the new plan calls for an elevator that will descend from the surface.) The hotel's business model has also changed. Jones initially wanted to charge about $1,500 a night, but guests will now book all-inclusive, week-long packages for $15,000 a person (including a submarine pilot training class; Poseidon also designs tourist subs). Jones hopes to open in June 2008.
EXACTECH, A GAINESVILLE, Fla., maker of artificial joints (exac.com), has quickly captured a small slice of the market for replacement shoulders. Its new product, called Equinoxe, allows for a more precise fit, and analysts expect its first-year success--along with that of several other new innovations--to help push Exactech's 2006 sales above $100 million. The company has also moved more of its manufacturing in-house. Currently about 50% of its artificial knees and hips are produced by Exactech employees, and the company hopes that number will reach 75% within the next two years.
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