Watching his start-up grow into the nation's premier maker of flat-panel color liquid-crystal displays during the 1980s taught Zvi Yaniv a bitter lesson. "I built Optical Imaging Systems from air and sand," says the founder, who holds degrees in physics, math, and electro-optics, "and I never had an equity position. I was stupid." After OIS was acquired by a large glass manufacturer, in late 1991, Yaniv vowed to find a way to make technology pay off for entrepreneurs and inventors, particularly those who lack the business sophistication needed to survive in today's marketplace. In early 1992 he launched Advanced Technology Incubator (ATI), in Farmington Hills, Mich., with $50,000 of personal funds. Part incubator, part venture network, and part consulting firm, ATI is devoted to identifying interesting products and technologies with commercial potential and bringing them to market as quickly as possible. "Bring me great ideas, and I will create a company," says the scientist, who plans to fund the new ventures with private as well as venture capital, and to have ATI take equity positions in the companies it grows.
-- Alessandra Bianchi