It wasn’t until 2006, when Jeff Chamberlain joined Argonne National Laboratory, that NMC research began to make more progress. Chamberlain is large, muscular, relaxed, well-mannered, confident without being pretentious. In meetings, his voice always attracts everyone’s attention. Whenever there is a big fight in the venue, he usually has the advantage with his unique bass. Whenever he starts preaching, his voice is hard to fall on deaf ears. He has complained about “anti-intellectualism among officials” and how Americans are “grateful to those who produce oil.” If anyone is willing to listen, Chamberlain will continue to complain: “The United States is a coal power, we have nuclear power. We should seek independence in coal, solar, wind, nuclear and other energy sources, and then use these energy sources to drive electric vehicles. Everything uses electricity instead of oil. How can we achieve this goal? “
He’s good at moving people, and he’s well-liked by rank-and-file scientists who are indifferent to the battery war rhetoric, but get excited when they hear the topic of reducing oil imports from the Middle East. They were even more excited to hear the idea that batteries could help stop the progress of climate change. Chamberlain has said that in the next few years, if consumers are as enthusiastic about electric vehicles as President Obama and Secretary Wan Gang envision, and those electric vehicles are powered by natural gas, then oil reserves will be less important. They all believed it to be true. At that point, oil prices will fall, and oil revenues will shrink for Russia and OPEC members, especially those without natural gas. Domestic air quality will improve further as China’s demand for oil from abroad declines and its use of clean energy increases. In summary, global carbon emissions will be greatly reduced. Why not do it? Chamberlain knew that his support for clean energy not only gave the laboratory a sense of mission, but also helped him realize the grand blueprint of big energy.
Chamberlain grew up in the small town of Longwood, near Orlando, Florida. His father, Jack, sold marine engines, and his grandfather and uncle both worked at Ford Motors, so the family kept talking about cars. Chamberlain remembers when he was a child pushing his “Red Rider” car, going door to door recycling old newspapers. He and his father packed newspapers into 11kg bundles and sold them to recycling centers for 20 or 25 cents. Jack Chamberlain explains to his son the business chain: idea, execution, revenue, personal profit. The son also took trombone training courses and was able to perform in the brass quintet by high school. In addition to Chamberlain’s trombone, there are two trumpets, a French horn and a saxophone. Soon after, the band qualified for the statewide competition and were invited to perform at the Disney World Resort in Orlando. By the senior year, members of the school’s band and choir unanimously elected Chamberlain as class president. Chamberlain’s rival was the school’s quarterback, but Chamberlain was eventually elected unexpectedly, making it an unforgettable experience at Longwood.
He also received a full scholarship to Wake Forest University. After graduating from college, he went to Georgia Tech to earn a Ph.D. Chamberlain had hoped to pursue a teaching career. In 1993, he started looking for a job as a college teacher, but found that the situation was very different from when he was in college.
Back in 1982, a federal judge ordered the breakup of AT&T, the telecom monopoly. Bell Labs has always been a research organization under AT&T. After being split according to the decree, Bell eventually fell apart. By the early 1990s, the lab had shrunk further. Other research centers in the United States have followed the same development path – GE, RCA, and Xerox have also “shrunk” their basic research institutions, and thousands of seasoned researchers have flooded the job market after being fired or ordered to retire. With so many top scientists looking for jobs, the chances for a young Ph.D. like Chamberlain are slim.
Of course, if you are willing to enter unpopular industries, there are still employment opportunities. Chamberlain went to several mining and chemical companies successively to extract gold and copper from rocks and develop new semiconductors. It wasn’t long before his employer discovered that he had a gift — an extraordinary ability to talk to anyone on an equal footing. To these employers, this shows that Chamberlain has the potential to sell. But if he is to be more valuable than a lab in sales, his natural talent will have to be honed. In his first sales role, Chamberlain learned from his boss how to “decipher” the customer’s wishes and subconscious wants and needs. Later, Chamberlain often recalled these contents.
Chamberlain’s closest friend over the years was Dave Schroeder. Schroeder is an Illinois native, very smart, funny, and a big talker. The two had worked together at a microprocessor company called Capote Industries. Capote’s management didn’t like the two men, thinking they were always causing trouble. The company’s managers fostered a “competitive culture,” which Chamberlain and Schroeder felt was overkill. They felt that the two might be more successful in their own business. So they go to work during the day and try their own ideas in their spare time.
Their first product was the brainchild of Chamberlain. It has fantasy baseball at its core. Fantasy sports is a multi-billion dollar industry. Participants choose imaginary athletes that correspond to real sports teams, record scores based on athlete personal data, and profit most of the time. Chamberlain designed a piece of software to help participants improve their odds of winning. This software borrows the moving averages in stocks, that is, judges the averages based on the trend over a period of time. Take baseball, “a certain athlete, like Ryan Braun,” Chamberlain said. “He played for the Brewers and was the National League’s MVP. He’s 28, no, 29 this year. He’s been playing since he was 5.” Braun’s game plummeted. “The fantasy baseball player would say, ‘Oh, my God, the game average is going down; I want him to sit on the bench.'” But Chamberlain believes this is the moment to summon the courage to keep him on the field. Because Braun will be back to his average score. The only way to achieve this goal is to exceed the average score. “This approach is counterintuitive,” says Chamberlain.
One idea was to sell the software to Yahoo, which at the time had hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of fantasy sports subscriptions, each paying $10 a month for real-time monitoring data.
Chamberlain and Schroeder dubbed the invention a “trend tracker” and patented it.
One day, the two had an interview with Yahoo’s senior fantasy sports executive.
“I can’t believe we didn’t think of this,” the executive said. A young assistant continued, “Okay, if it’s a great idea, we can make it happen. Thank you for the interview.” The executive glared at the An assistant said, “Didn’t you hear them say at the beginning of the meeting that they’ve patented the software?”
He said he was ready to close the deal with Chamberlain and Schroeder. “We’re going to find ways to get there,” he said.
Two weeks later, the executive was fired for other reasons. His successor was indifferent to trend trackers.
Chamberlain and Schroeder tried another idea. At the time, a material called a dendritic polymer was highly sought after. This compound can be transformed into various products. Chamberlain and Schroeder’s concern is that it prevents the melting of silicon wafers, one of the key requirements for computers. Consumers need to remove as much metal as possible and reduce thermal energy, otherwise system performance may degrade. An inventor from New England has discovered a low-cost way to make dendritic polymers. Chamberlain and Schroeder brought the idea to Silicon Valley. They felt that the road to wealth was close at hand, but the venture capital investors they had approached were less confident. The question the pair heard most was: “Have you ever invented an invention for energy?” The key to success was timing. Savvy investors are turning their attention from chips to alternative energy.
Chamberlain and Schroeder also suffered setbacks at full-time jobs as their startups failed. Capote’s “boss” designed a new employee performance appraisal mechanism based on personal macro goals. Schroeder said the assessment is mainly about “you know, honesty and integrity”. In the group meeting, everyone discussed and selected five assessment objectives together. Chamberlain and Schroeder voted against “excellence” as a goal. Both agreed that the unmeasurable metric was “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” To illustrate the stupidity of this goal, Schroeder nominated a goal he thought was equally unquantifiable: “courage.” Chamberlain and several other colleagues voted in favor of Schroeder’s nomination. They won. A “boss” stepped forward angrily and shouted, “Do you still want to hang out here?”
So Chamberlain resigned. Soon after, Schroeder also left the company.