It was early in 1981 and the caller was interested in my and my partner’s assistance with a product that he’d invented. Having been member number 41 of our venture, Co-Optics of America (the first national buying group for optometrists), I knew this man and respected his creativity. At the time, he was a columnist for 20/20 Magazine, writing about marketing for optometrists, which at the time was a controversial subject. I was honored that he reached out to this then 25 year old entrepreneur for counsel. He spoke of opportunity, a word that has always gotten my attention.
My partner Thomas Schinkel and I ventured to a hotel adjacent to LaGuardia Airport for this important meeting. Over lunch, this optometrist spoke of his invention and how he’d obtained some interest from some large retailers and catalogue houses. He spoke of his challenges in commercializing his product and how he’d sunk a bunch of money into his invention. He spoke of his, as yet, unsold inventory.
I remember the passion in his voice. And the commitment that he clearly had to his success. What I also remember was the product that he’d created. At the time, I must say, I thought the guy was “pushing the envelope.” Did he invest a pile of money and time to invent a solution to a real problem? Or was it a solution looking for a problem? I wasn’t sure. What I did know was that this young optometrist was unique. And while his invention did solve the exasperating problem many parents face with children’s shoes constantly coming untied, I concluded that this was not a venture to which I had much to contribute.
This young inventor eventually abandoned “Tie Tites” for more profitable pursuits. But what’s interesting here is not that this professional’s first invention didn’t result in commercial success, but that today that invention seems to have spawned an entire category of products sold throughout the world. Perhaps he was simply ahead of his time?
Roll the clock forward to the end of the decade. It was late March of 1989. Another call. Another opportunity. In this case, my friend had read a press-release about my activities. I had chosen to leave the firm that I had created a decade prior for pursuits as a consultant. I was, once again, striking out on an entrepreneurial adventure. And my friend was seeking assistance with his multi-location optometry practice. He was looking to take it beyond its then current level of performance to new heights. He thought I could help. And I did.
Through this gentleman’s support and willingness to help me connect with others, a company was born. Today Cleinman Performance Partners is the planet’s leading business consultancy for larger optometry practices and the industry at large. Our client list reads like a “Who’s Who” of the eyecare industry. And a significant building block of our success was that single call from Cleinman Client #1, Dr. Ron Blum.
Now an icon in our industry, Ron is the holder of over 500 patents and patent applications. He’s launched ten companies in the eyecare space and has changed an industry. He is at once an optometrist, visionary, inventor, business builder, husband, father, grandfather and friend to many. And on this 25th anniversary of the founding of Cleinman Performance Partners, I salute Ron as one of my “Individuals of Impact.”
Some have written about Ron Blum and the honors bestowed upon him are well deserved, but he deserves more. I’ve never met a man so driven. Ron has never done anything for money. His focus has always been on the success of an idea; a product; a team. He’s always seeking “the way.”
Ron knows how to launch and commercialize ideas. He’s done it for decades. Starting with shoe-laces and evolving to early developments in the in-office lens casting world, then proceeding to define and develop entire categories of products, Ron is first and foremost an idea machine. He’s willing to tackle tough challenges. He’s willing to think outside the box. He’s willing to climb mountains and swim oceans. Unlike the masses, Ron doesn’t start with the question “why?” He always lead’s with “why not?”
His success, like that of all entrepreneurs, comes not from the wins. Like others of his genre, he lives by the mantra “entrepreneurs don’t have failures, we have learning experiences.”
Now some might vilify Ron for the learning experiences he’s had; for the so-called “failures.” Some might blame him for actions which occurred long after his tenure with the products or firms that he’s launched. To do so would be the equivalent of blaming Thomas Edison for today’s challenges in the music industry or the Wright brothers for the airline industry’s bankruptcies. Having walked in Ron’s shoes, it’s very difficult to let go of one’s babies…but that’s what Ron does. He knows what he’s good at and steps aside when it’s the right time to let others develop the companies around his inventions.
Ron Blum is an eyecare industry icon whose positive impact cannot be denied. And he’s not done. As an entrepreneur, Blum has founded or been associated with founding over 10 companies in the vision care space, including Innotech and PixelOptics. He generally develops his ideas through The Egg Factory, an incubator for new optical technologies. That firm has launched, among others, High Performance Optics, which has developed selective, high energy blue light wave length filtering technology and Encore Vision, which is developing a topical ophthalmic pharmaceutical treatment for presbyopia.
Read that last sentence again. We’re talking about a potential “cure” for presbyopia. What are the implications of that? Ron Blum is not a small thinker!
Dr. Blum’s development company, The Egg Factory, is where the majority of his developments have hatched. But today, he’s turning his attention in a new direction. One might call it his legacy. Today, Ron is all about helping other inventors.
Ron’s newest adventure is called VisionCareInventing.com (VCI). Blum serves as its president and CEO and described VCI as “an interactive knowledge exchange dedicated to identifying, supporting and promoting today’s and tomorrow’s most innovative and impactful eyecare inventions and inventors.”
VCI is a comprehensive resource designed to connect companies, inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers and consultants with experienced professionals who can offer advice and an assortment of specialized services. Among those services is idea assessment and development, communications, market research, product development, business planning and launch, talent acquisition, funding introduction and exit assistance, legal and intellectual property. The site will also host a “featured inventor” podcast and an “Invention of the Month” section.
Blum’s expertise extends beyond the development of technology to the financial arena. He’s been involved in the raising of over $250 million of capital for startup companies. And he’s harnessing all of his own expertise and that of some of the industry’s brightest leaders within VisionCareInventing.com to help others develop and commercialize their ideas.
“The thing I worry about is some guy in his garage
inventing something I haven’t thought of.” Bill Gates
Ron and his Vision Care Inventing enterprise are poised to help continue to change our industry. And, for this, he deserves accolades.
Dr. Ron Blum; friend, client, advisor, supporter; is one of my personal “Individuals of Impact.” I can think of no individual who has ever entered my world who has had more to do with my success. Ron, on this Twenty-Fifth anniversary of Cleinman Performance Partners, I honor you. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve done for me, for the eyecare industry world-wide, and for those whom you’ll assist in the future.
Happy Anniversary and Thank you!