Services & Software

What the kids are building: Brain retractors and throat mics

Smart students with amazing technologies school the grownups here at Demo

I'm sitting in the audience at DemoFall listening to organizer Chris Shipley interview three young entrepreneurs (Emile Petrone, 22; Michale Callahan, 24; Arash Sabet, 25) about their innovations. The technology they're talking about is fascinating: Sabet, for example, designs surgical equipment, including a brain retractor he's developed in his work with neurosurgeons. Callahan showed off his Audeo throat mic that reads silent, pre-vocal utterances and converts them into computer input or audible speech. Petrone is working on Knowble, which looks like a social network for researchers.

How do these young guys do what they do? They're smart, but Shipley is digging in to find that they are not loners. These inventors seek out and work with smart teams and with mentors. They don't even like being called "inventors," since it connotes a solo stereotype they're trying to move beyond.

They are not from Silicon Valley, either. They have to work harder for the money. Callahan is "pro-California" though. It's clear he'd rather invent than scramble for money. All of them are idealists. And why not? At this point in their lives they can afford to be.

L to R: Chris Shipley of Demo, Arash Sabet, Emile Petrone, Michael Callahan Rafe Needleman / CNET

All you angel investors, do us all a favor: Take that money you were going to give to your next me-too Web 2.0 startup and shunt it over to people like these.