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Lessons for CleanTech Entrepreneurs: Raychem CEO Paul Cook (Part 2)

Posted on Saturday, Aug 11th 2007

[This part of the story is written by Paul Cook himself]

Late in 1956, I rented a building in Redwood City, bought some used office furniture and arranged to acquire the world’s first commercial electron beam generator from the General Electric Company. I moved in on New Year’s Day 1957. I hired a handful of people in January, Jim Meikle joined as a cofounder in February, and Dick Muchmore as the other cofounder in March. We were in business under the name Raytherm Corporation, but changed the name to Raychem Corporation after Raytheon complained that the name Raytherm might be confusing to many in the industry.

The idea behind the company was to use high energy ionizing radiation to cross link polymers, imparting the capability to withstand high temperatures better and to impart other beneficial properties. I had done research at the Stanford Research Institute sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission and learned that commercial products made by exposure to radiation might well be feasible. It was my hope that the new GE unit would enable a safe and economic process for irradiating many products. The first product we attempted to develop was a specially compounded electrical insulation extruded on copper conductors and exposed to the electron radiation.

We constructed a beam cell to house the electron beam generator (EBG) with a reinforced wooden structure with sand filling separations of the structure for shielding, a very inexpensive way to provide safety from the radiation inside the beam cell.

We received financial backing from Ed Heller, a well know Atherton financier who had supported startup companies before. Ed was a key predecessor of the Venture Capital world in Silicon Valley.

The EBG was delivered in March, we delivered samples of the wire products to prospective customers in May, received our first orders in June and starting shipping product in July. August was a profitable month. Bob Halperin and Bill Fritz joined the company on the first of September.

The first commercial products we developed were electronic hook up wire and miniature coaxial cable that would withstand the higher temperatures particularly present in high speed aircraft and missiles.

(to be continued)

[Part 1]

This segment is part 2 in the series : Lessons for CleanTech Entrepreneurs: Raychem CEO Paul Cook
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