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Misadventures of a Display Entrepreneur

Dr. Larry F. Weber
Retired President and CEO of Plasmaco division of Panasonic, Highland New York

Plasma displays have played an important role in the development of the flat panel display industry by stimulating other competing technologies such as LCDs and OLEDs to continuously improve in order to keep up with the leading plasma display image quality and large screen diagonals.  Much of the plasma display success can be traced to the formation of a small company in upstate New York by a young university professor with great enthusiasm for the technology but with no money and no business experience.  This new company’s first act was to purchase the world’s largest plasma display plant from IBM and to haul out 88 trailer truckloads of equipment into an abandoned apple juice factory.  But being an entrepreneur is not easy and within two months of the company formation all fund raising was halted for two years by a major stock market crash and a lawsuit from a crooked investment banker.  Eventually the major financing money was raised, the manufacturing equipment was re-assembled and the factory staffed with more than 100 employees.  However just as the neon orange computer display products were nicely rolling off the production line, the plasma display market was devastated by the competition from the newly introduced full color liquid crystal computer displays.  Investor interest in plasma evaporated almost overnight, the company was forced to downsize to 5 remaining employees and the telephone was continually ringing with angry unpaid creditors.  Through a captivating set of twists and turns they dug way out of this deep hole, creating one of the greatest entrepreneurial success stories of the display industry.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Larry F. Weber started his 45 year career in plasma displays at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a student of plasma display inventors: Profs. Bitzer and Slottow.  From 1969 to 1990 he conducted research on plasma displays at the University of Illinois Computer-based Education Research Lab, where he became director of the plasma display research group and attained the rank of Research Associate Professor.  In 1987 he became a founder of Plasmaco Inc., Highland New York, which acquired from IBM what was then the world’s largest plant for manufacturing plasma displays.  He served as the Senior Vice President and chief technology officer of Plasmaco from 1987 to 1993.  In 1993 he became President of Plasmaco.  Under his leadership Plasmaco became a wholly owned subsidiary of Panasonic in 1996.  He was the President and CEO of Plasmaco from 1996 until his retirement in 2004. From 2006 to 2008 he served as the President of the Society for Information Display.  He has published over 50 papers and holds 15 patents on plasma displays including the patents for the energy recovery sustain circuit that cuts plasma TV power by a factor of 2, and the ramp setup waveform that gives high contrast ratio to plasma TV products.

Dr. Weber is a fellow of the Society for Information Display and the IEEE.  He received two SID Special Recognition Awards for his work on plasma displays.  He received the following major awards for his work on plasma displays: the 2000 Karl Ferdinand Braun Prize from the SID, the 2009 Daniel E Noble award from the IEEE, and in 2010 the Consumer Electronics Association inducted him into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame.

October 22, 2015
6:00pm Dinner
7:00pm Presentation

414 Schapiro/CEPSR
Columbia University
530 West 120 Street, 4th floor
New York, NY
Directions to Schapiro/CEPSR and Parking Information