Not a very good ROI on civilization saving these days


Back in March, I blogged about a quote I found interesting in which the CEO of the company E Ink claimed the company was not only going to save publishing, but also was going to save civilization.

I’m just an observer of these things, but thirty years of observing these things tells me that whenever a CEO is being interviewed by Fortune magazine and he (or she) says, “we’re going to save civilization,” he’s either Steve Jobs and people believe him or he’s about to be looking for a new job. (Unfortunately, if he’s not Steve Jobs, he doesn’t get a do-over to explain his nuanced wit.)

Today brings the announcement (as relayed by that E Ink has been sold to a Taiwanese company called Prime View International (PVI). According to’s Rafat Ali, “PVI already makes the screens for Kindle and Reader, and touts itself as the largest maker of e-paper display modules. This new acquisition gives the company a lot of heft in this still nascent market; E Ink and PVI currently support nearly 20 e-book manufacturers worldwide, the companies said. In 2005, PVI acquired the e-paper business of Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG).”

Here’s some more information about the formerly “saving civilization” company: E Ink sales were $18 million in the first quarter of 2009, up 157 percent over the same quarter in 2008. E Ink will remain headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. and plans to expand its employee base from 127 to 150 people during 2009, it said. It has raised about $150 million since 1997.”

OK. Let’s do the math. It has raised $150 million in 12 years. It is selling out for $200 million.

Not a very good ROI on civilization saving, these days.