Idaho tech trailblazers chosen for honors

Tim Barber and Greg Carr took disparate paths to the Idaho Technology Council Hall of Fame

krodine@idahostatesman.comSeptember 3, 2013 

  • PREVIOUS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

    In its three-year history, the Idaho Technology Council Hall of Fame has honored six other technology innovators. Most are expected to attend this year’s induction ceremony Oct. 23.

    2010 — Ray Smelek and Dick Hackborn, who each brought a division of Hewlett-Packard from California to Boise in the 1970s. Smelek died last September.

    2011 — Steve Hodges, an HP engineer who launched numerous companies, including M2M Communications; and Jack Lemley, a Morrison-Knudsen engineer who went on to found Lemley and Associates and build the Chunnel, the underwater tunnel between England and France.

    2012 — Dr. Forest Bird, who invented the Bird Respirator and revolutionized medical respiration technology; and Bob Lokken, founder and CEO of White Cloud Analytics.

    Source: Jay Larsen, ITC

  • INNOVATION AWARDS TO BE ANNOUNCED

    In addition to inducting two new members of its Hall of Fame, the Idaho Technology Council will feature a presentation of the Idaho Innovation Awards in four categories at its Oct. 23 event. The categories are Commercialized Innovation of the Year, Early Stage Innovation of the Year, Innovative Company of the Year and Innovator of the Year.

    The innovation awards, now in their eighth year, are sponsored by the Stoel Rives law firm and Kickstand, a statewide support group for entrepreneurs and innovators.

    The event, set from 5:30 to 8:30 at Boise Centre, annually attracts more than 600 Idaho technology professionals. Individual tickets cost $85 for council members and $125 for nonmembers. Council members can reserve a table for 10 for $750. The nonmember table price is $900. Tickets can be purchased at www.idahotechcouncil.org/itc-hall-of-fame-2013.

One is a prolific inventor who founded Idaho’s largest privately owned technology company. The other made his fortune in technology, then turned his attention full time to philanthropy.

Both are inspirations and success stories to Idaho’s tech community, says Jay Larsen, president of the Idaho Technology Council. So they will be inducted this fall into the council’s Hall of Fame.

“That’s the beauty of this award,” Larsen said. “You go out and you find people who have made their mark and made a difference in the world, and the one thing in common is they all have strong Idaho ties.”

Greg Carr, an Idaho Falls native who co-founded early telecommunications giant Boston Technology, is an innovator who got in early on voice mail and Internet technologies, then got out at age 40 and focused his energies and millions on human rights and conservation, Larsen said. Much of the wealth he amassed has gone to Idaho projects, including the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise. His latest pursuit, reviving an immense, war-ravaged national park in Mozambique, will be reflected in a future Zoo Boise exhibit.

Larsen describes Keynetics and 2AI founder Tim Barber as “an awesome thinker” who is perpetually coming up with patents and high-tech ideas.

Barber’s most recently marketed invention is eyeglass lenses that allow doctors to spot illness and injury by changes in blood oxygen before the condition would normally be detectable. He’s also known in Boise as the man who designed and now lives in a castle on Warm Springs Avenue.

Both men will be honored at the ITC’s fourth annual Hall of Fame Celebration on Oct. 23.

“These people view the world in a very unique way that helps us solve problems and create services that are productive for society,” Larsen said.

THREE PHASES OF CARR

“My career’s had three chapters,” Greg Carr said. “First was technology, then human rights, and now I am working on conservation, trying to save species and save habitat.”

In 1986, after earning a master’s in public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Carr teamed with scientist friend Scott Jones to found Boston Technology, a telecommunications company that sold voice mail technology to telephone companies after the breakup of AT&T. Carr was CEO of the company until 1998, when it merged with Comverse Technology. Carr slowly sold off his shares.

In 1996, Carr and partners purchased early Internet provider Prodigy from IBM, and he served as chairman for two years before they sold the company to Mexican telephone company TelMex, which later sold it to SBC. About the same time, the partners purchased Africa Online, which worked to extend Internet service across Africa. In 1998, they sold the company to its African management team.

Carr, 53, said his decision to move to full-time philanthropy in the late 1990s was “no big epiphany.”

“It was more like, I’ll be helpful in the way I can be of help,” he said. “It’s the way we’re raised in this state.”

“And, let’s face it, it’s fun.”

With a personal net worth of about $200 million by the late 1990s, Carr stepped away from his business interests and plunged into human rights causes.

In 1998, he founded the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard. Closer to home, he co-founded the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls. He purchased and demolished the notorious Aryan Nations compound in North Idaho then donated the site to the North Idaho College Foundation. He helped create an Idaho Human Rights Education Center in Coeur d’Alene.

He’s particularly fond of the Anne Frank memorial he helped establish in Boise. “You can’t go through there without shedding a tear,” he said.

In 2008, Carr signed a 20-year agreement with the government of Mozambique to restore and manage the country’s flagship national park, the 1.6 million-acre Gorongosa. Once rich in wildlife and a popular tourist destination, the park had declined drastically during a civil war that lasted nearly two decades. Carr and his management team have trained a new ranger force, reintroduced species, created a biodiversity research center, re-established tourism to help create local employment and built schools and health clinics for adjacent communities.

“This is where my conservation interests and my human rights interests come together,” Carr said. “The park won’t succeed if the local humans aren’t on its side.”

“About 200,000 humans live around the park,” he said. “We employ about 400. That’s why we’re launching commercial agriculture. We will grow coffee in the rainforest.”

He now splits his time between Mozambique and Sun Valley.

Carr said he’s excited by Zoo Boise’s planned 2-acre Gorongosa exhibit. Zoo Director Steve Burns said construction on the estimated $6 million to $7 million project is expected to start in 2016, with a projected opening in 2017. Plans call for the Boise exhibit to raise perhaps $2 million for Gorongosa’s conservation efforts and to provide educational and exchange programs.

THWARTING MISCHIEF, EXPLORING THINKING

Tim Barber earned a doctorate in mathematics from Princeton University and worked for the National Security Agency for about five years, using the same Princeton lab where John Nash, inspiration for the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” had worked.

“I sometimes say, ‘I was a spy,’” said Barber, 44. “It sounds cool, but really it was a bunch of geeky guys sitting there working on algorithms.”

In 1997, he was living in California and came up with an idea to help early Internet entrepreneurs find customers online, make sales and get paid. With his wife, Eileen, and friend Geoff Hoyl, Barber founded Clickbank. California regulations kept them from having “bank” in their company name, so they established Keynetics as a parent company.

The company they came up with in the Barbers’ San Diego garage now has annual revenues of about $400 million and about 45 employees. Clickbank now serves more than 12,000 digital product vendors and processes 26,000 digital transactions a day.

The three founders moved the company to Boise in 1999, choosing the city as a good place to raise a family — and a place recommended for their headquarters by former Stanford Law School Dean Bayless Manning, who had moved to Boise in the 1980s.

In 2008, Keynetics launched a second division, Kount, which guards against identity theft and protects companies large and small from online fraud.

Here’s how he describes it on his website: “I created and deployed technology for thwarting human mischief in the anonymous realm of electronic commerce.”

Barber stepped away from day-to-day operations of Keynetics in 2011, but he still serves on the board and remains listed as “chief scientist.”

And Keynetics’ Lusk Street headquarters provide office space for Barber’s new enterprise, 2AI. He founded the artificial intelligence research lab with longtime friend Mark Changizi, a New York-based neurobiologist. Changizi is director of human cognition, and Barber is director of machine cognition.

“I get pigeonholed as a software engineer, but I’m an inventor,” Barber said. “I like understanding how things work and not something that’s strictly mechanical. If we can understand how we think better, maybe we can teach other people better.”

The partners have come up with many ideas, many of which “are not ready for the light of day yet,” he said. Last year they sent their first product to market through a spinoff company, 02 Amp. That company, owned by Barber and Changizi, makes specially crafted eyeglasses that can detect changes in health or mood, from fear to an injury that has not yet produced discolored bruising. The lenses also correct colorblindness, he said.

Thousands of pairs of the glasses have been sold, mostly for medical use, and they are being tested by local doctors and hospitals, he said.

“They’re doing pretty well,” he said. “We’re trying to use science to fund more science.”

Barber is fascinated by the human brain, its capabilities, and machines’ abilities to emulate or outwit those capabilities. Areas the partners are exploring include “the evolutionary design principles of the human face,” digital criminals and the possibility of sociopathic machines.

Barber also is interested in aquatic ecosystem conservation and has taken out patents on ocean cleanup methods.

HEADING FOR THE HALL

Barber says he is happy to be included in the Technology Council Hall of Fame but initially was a little startled because “it sounded like it was a lifetime achievement award, and … I don’t like to think I’ve peaked already.”

Carr, too, was slightly uncomfortable with the idea at first.

“When something like this happens, I’m just afraid that there’s 50 more people that are more deserving,” Carr said. “But I love the fact that when I go to this dinner I’ll meet some really interesting people. And that’s a great reason to do it.”

Kristin Rodine: 377-6447

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