By Robin Abcarian
Los Angeles Times.
This is a story about the new patent office that opened here on Thursday. But to understand why this is momentous, you first need to hear Michelle Fisher’s story.
Fisher, founder and chief executive of Blaze Mobile, is a 40-something tech entrepreneur, the kind of woman who makes Silicon Valley proud of itself.
She grew up in East San Jose, and was chosen to be in a special after-school program for kids who showed promise in science, engineering and math. She earned degrees from Berkeley and Stanford, and spent nearly a decade at Microsoft, where she became one of the company’s many millionaires, thanks to six stock splits during her tenure.
In Redmond, Wash., at a pitch meeting, she was once almost laughed out of a room by Microsoft executives after telling them her proposed product would generate $100 million over five years. “They really gave me a hard time,” she told me. “They said, ‘Look, Michelle, don’t come back till you have a billion-dollar idea.'”
In 2005, a year after Fisher left Microsoft, she was fumbling for a loyalty card at Montclair Beauty Center in the Oakland Hills when she came up with what may be her billion-dollar idea: Wouldn’t it be great to have this kind of stuff on your phone? And for your phone to wirelessly communicate that information to a store’s computers?
This was two years before the first iPhone was released, before there was ever an app store. Fisher was undaunted. It was an article of faith for her that someone would eventually create the hardware for her software idea.
“I told my team, don’t worry that the Motorola Razr or the Blackberry Pearl has limited computing capacity because there will come a day when we can run a really rich application on your mobile device,” she said. “This concept of being able to pay with your cellphone in hand, store receipts, loyalty cards, coupons, credit cards — it was a non-issue in my mind.”