Monday, March 17, 2008

Polaroid's Sunset (and Sunrise)

Sunday's column was about the seeds of Polaroid: interesting companies relying on people, equipment, or ideas from the fading Polaroid Corporation.

Polaroid, once one of Massachusetts' great engines of innovation, is now basically a licensing operation, allowing Asian electronics companies to stamp an intrinsically American brand on DVD players, digital cameras, TVs, etc. The company, I'm told, has no true internal R&D function left. The current owner of Polaroid, Petters Group Worldwide, refused to disclose to me how many employees are left. (The peak was about 15,000, in the 1970s.)

One reader wrote in to me after the column ran and said that he'd inquired about buying Polaroid's instant film business, which Petters decided to shut down last month. The company hasn't returned his calls.

Here's this week's video -- a demo given to me last week by Wendy Caswell, chief executive of Polaroid spin-off ZINK Imaging.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 8, 2008

The End of an Era: No More Polaroid Film or Cameras

The Globe's Hiawatha Bray reports that Polaroid is closing all its film-manufacturing plants this year, including two in Massachusetts. Hiawatha writes:

    In the years following World War II, Polaroid's instant photography products established the company as one of Massachusetts' leading industrial concerns, and made its brand name famous worldwide. But in the late 1980s the company went deeply into debt to fend off a hostile takeover. It invested heavily in products that failed and was unprepared for the surging popularity of digital cameras. By 2001, Polaroid was forced into bankruptcy; privately held Petters Group Worldwide of Minnetonka, Minn., bought the company's remaining assets in 2005.

    ...The company will retain about 150 executive and administrative employees at its headquarters in Concord and a smaller office in Waltham. "We'll continue to have a strong presence in Massachusetts for the next 30 or 40 years," said [Polaroid COO Tom] Beaudoin. But Polaroid will now focus on flat-panel TVs and digital photography gear.

Here's another Globe piece, from 2006, about Polaroid's history. And FundingUniverse offers more history on the once-great company.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mini-Printer Co. Gets $25 Million

Zink stands for "zero ink," and the company is developing technology for tiny portable color printers, which would work with handheld devices and phones. It is run by Polaroid alum Wendy Frey Caswell, and the technology came out of Polaroid's R&D labs. Zink plans to manufacture the special paper required for its printers, and have other electronics companies make the printers.

Sharp guy Dan Primack e-mails to let me know that Zink just closed a $25 million VC round -- about a year after a $70 million round led by Polaris fell apart. His blog post is here. Will Polaris one day regret passing? We'll see....

Labels: , , , ,