Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 11am
Be a Tech Entrepreneur -
As a graduate of the MIT Media Laboratory Bernd Schoner cofounded ThingMagic, a tech startup focused on RFID. Ten years later the business was bought by Trimble Navigation, a multimillion dollar public technology company where he now serves as VP of Business Development. Over his ten years at ThingMagic Bernd learned all of the business lessons they don’t teach in engineering school.
Bernd Schoner grew up in a small Franconian town in Germany. Despite his passion for music, gymnastics, philosophy, and opera, Bernd went on to study engineering. He made peace with his professional decision when it allowed him to travel afar, attend inspiring schools all over the world, and ultimately become a high-tech entrepreneur.
As a research assistant at the MIT Media Laboratory, Bernd worked in Neil Gershenfeld’s Physics and Media Group and the Things-That-Think research consortium. His main research focused on machine-learning techniques to model string instruments, with the ultimate goal of building a digital Stradivarius. Bernd applied the modeling techniques in a variety of commercial and artistic applications, creating unique applications, such as a digital marching cello and a giant polyphonic floorboard for the Flying Karamazov Brothers. He has authored and coauthored numerous academic papers, articles, and patents both during and since his years at MIT.
In the fall of 2000, right at the beginning of the dot-com bust, Bernd and four of his MIT colleagues cofounded ThingMagic, LCC, in a garage not far from MIT. Initially, ThingMagic was a technology development and prototyping firm, but it soon focused on the development of RFID reader technology. As a managing partner, Bernd organized and led the initial setup of the company, managed its financials, and acquired much needed customer projects to fund the operation.
In 2005, after five years of bootstrapping, ThingMagic converted itself into a C-Corporation, hired a full-time CEO, attracted more than $20 million in venture capital investments, and completed its transformation into an RFID product company. It was fueled by mandates to use the technology in the retail supply chain. The RFID marketplace was booming, and investors, users, and vendors alike were fully expecting to make millions . . . until it became clear that few customers were actually buying RFID. ThingMagic buckled down, shrank, and survived the RFID crisis as well as the world economic crisis that followed soon thereafter. As ThingMagic’s president, Bernd managed product development, then manufacturing, and finally business development, personally traveling to over fifty countries and successfully selling the technology.
In 2010, ThingMagic sold itself to Trimble Navigation, a multibillion-dollar, multinational, public technology company. Since then, Bernd has held the role of VP of Business Development of the ThingMagic Division, focusing his efforts on applying RFID within key industry verticals, such as construction, transportation, and mobile computing.
Bernd holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Rheinisch-Westphaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany, where he was valedictorian of his class, and a degree in Industrial Engineering from Ecole Centrale de Paris, France. He received his PhD from the MIT Media Laboratory in 2000. Bernd lives with his wife and son in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City.