CUPERTINO, Calif. -- Calling itself "the world's first broad-based intellectual capital exchange" for technical problems, HelloBrain opened for business this week with an Internet-based virtual exchange that trades in technical ideas and engineering solutions, including -- but not limited to -- semiconductor intellectual property.
Some of the areas of know-how that HelloBrain are digital signal processor algorithms, application software, embedded memory design, Internet security, microprocessor design, network protocols, and systems integration.
"Traditional product development is hitting a wall," said Bharat Sastri, president and CEO of HelloBrain. "Modern technology products are so complex that it is now impossible for any one company to own or develop all of the intellectual property necessary to design its new products in Internet time."
The solution, said Sastri is to bring together in a common marketplace access to the vast amounts of intellectual capital in the high-tech industries, and trade it just as a stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Using the intellectual capital exchange, companies or entrepreneurs working on a complex product design will post on the exchange the technical problems that they need to have solved, or the nature of intellectual property they want to acquire or have developed. Others who have that "intellectual capital" -- either a ready-made solution, or the ability to create one -- will bid for the right to provide the solution. Once buyer and seller have agreed on terms, the existing or engineered technical solution -- and the agreed payment - is brokered electronically through the exchange. In addition, samples, testing of intermediate and final solutions, quality assurance, and collaboration are all accommodated by the exchange.
In the vein of popular auction sites on the World Wide Web, HelloBrain whimsically calls this concept "eBay for high technology." It can be found on the Web at www.hellobrain.com.
According to Sastri, HelloBrain addresses the fact that companies can no longer afford to develop all their technology themselves. "People - with some admiration- - call Dell Computer a 'virtual company' because they outsource everything," he said.
He cited research indicating that over $2 billion will paid in 2001 for acquired intellectual property in the semiconductor industry alone. But at least half the good product ideas go unbuilt for the lack of specific intellectual capital, he added.
Brian L. Halla, chairman, president and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp., said he sees this as a way to expand productivity by as much as 1,000 times within five years, and a million-fold by the end of the coming decade.
"What HelloBrain has accomplished is a way for the brightest talent in the world to contribute their unique intellectual capital in the solution of huge intellectual problems," said Halla. "HelloBrain's intellectual capital exchange actually makes this million-fold expansion in productivity possible. It's a light year's leap in engineering productivity."
All of the classical components of a market exchange are provided by HelloBrain: buyers and sellers, liquidity, a transaction infrastructure, pricing mechanisms, information for risk management, and security. In addition, HelloBrain has provided specific mechanisms unique to the electronic trading of intellectual capital: online collaboration, evaluation, verification, and delivery; security; protection of the intellectual property; and on-line community.
"This is one of those big ideas that is going to literally change the structures of companies worldwide," said John Walecka, a partner at Redpoint Ventures, of Menlo Park, Calif., HelloBrain's major investor. "Products of the future will be predominantly created by teams of people -- from all over the world -- who never meet."
The exchange has been trading for several months "after hours" in a "beta" format amo ng a limited group of buyers and sellers. HelloBrain is funded by transaction fees, in the manner of a stock exchange. Fees vary by market, and by project or solution.
"One of our early traders posted his urgent need for a Dolby Digital Decoder running on a MIPS [Technologies Inc.] platform, and shortly thereafter, an entrepreneur electronically transferred his solution, and earned $18,000 in the process," Sastri said.