The White Lake Beacon was able to catch internet inventor/entrepreneur Karl Jacob at a rare moment of relaxation at the family’s Lake Michigan home.
Karl Jacob, life-long summer resident, was first interviewed by The White Lake Beacon in the summer of 2001 when he had just launched Keen, Inc., a problem solution source for real people, with financial backing other entrepreneurs would have died for.
Only 33-years-old at the time, he already had had three successful dot-com start-ups.
While Jacob’s university, inventive and business career is on the West Coast – San Francisco and Silicon Valley – an important part of his personal life is at White Lake.
“My father, also Karl, worked as a young man for Harry Pillinger at his White Lake marinas. He returned every summer he could from his medical practice in St. Louis, our family initially staying at Lakeside Inn. Then he bought Sea Fever on Lake Michigan, now our long-time summer home, (occasionally even for winter stays).”
While the area has always called to the entire Jacob family, another important aspect is the many friends and memories over the years have become integral to their lives. Karl explains it as “the people we know here are our best friends. Nobody cares about what you do, they care for you as a person. The connections remain from summer to summer, and remain a strong bond in our lives.”
Interestingly, in the last paragraph of the 2001 interview, Jacob is quoted as “Probably it will be my last start-up.” Laughing at that, he says that “since that time, I have had three other start-up companies that I sold.”
In contrast to Steve Jobs and others whose ideas are translated into a singular purpose, Jacobs has his own explanation for those companies in the past that he starts and sells, rather than staying and taking them public to the big board. “Early in my career, I had both ideas that appealed to the general public, and the contacts to raise money. One investor was with me three times. The validity of the idea was its success, and then from a good job, I wanted to do it again. My interest, for that part of my career, has been on ‘What’s next.’”
What has been “next,” were those three start-ups (including Cloudmark a security company to block Spam messages), and, now, his latest Coveroo. Just as the name implies, there is a huge data base of designs that then can be imprinted on for the vast array of electronic devices. “Imprinting” is the operative word here because electronic signals are translated into the “hard copy” of the designs which the micro-manufacturing arm of the company prints and sends the orders out.
A White Lake interesting note here is that Jacob’s long-time friend, James (Jamie) Chapman, is in charge of Coveroo.
As if generating his own idea-based companies were not enough, Jacob now has become an advising “angel” for other fledgling entrepreneurs. One of his most famous recent efforts was as an advisor to Facebook. “Just as with my own case of starting in a room, Facebook was six kids in a house in Palo Alto. I love the beginnings. This is where the crucial moments live. It is a thrill to be there then. I love the figuring it out, and breaking new ground.”
It was the Facebook involvement with its focus on people that appears to have regenerated Jacobs’ interest in the social impacts and uses of the electronic media.
This is doubly challenging to Jacob because “now ideas are less unique and implementation harder which means that multiple ideas greatly improve new products. “Angels,” advisors and/or investors are now lauded because they can cross-fertilize ideas across companies. We trade our knowledge of building to advancements. This is critical with technology moving at a speed of light. Well, maybe a little slower.”
From this cross-fertilization, Jacob stresses that “execution of ideas is the key and critical to the entire project. You must have speed in getting the right answer quickly and make copying impossible because courts are not set up to protect intellectual property, especially with improvements appearing seemingly overnight.”
The Facebook experience appears to have marked a change of focus for Jacob. “Hanging out with Facebook team in that explosion was an eye-opener. While my drive to learn has always pushed my interest to the next level, the social networking of the internet, early realized in Keen, has re-emerged.”
While Jacob feels “lucky to have been at the dawn of the internet and was part of that huge transformation, I find the social networking possibilities of Facebook, Twitter, etc. give incredible power to the consumer through the internet.”
To that end, Jacob’s latest concept is designed to humanize the internet through electronic capabilities by organizing the data that is out there and using it to empower the individual. It puts the individual in the driver’s seat, so to speak, because it enables the individual to make the choices from the vast capabilities of the internet. This concept is not yet on the market, but close to launch.
With the latest “idea” about to go to the public, Jacob says, “Now I am more interested in a longer investment.” For a man who breathes ideas, we will see.