Meet employee number one at E Ink: Pete Valianatos.
Since joining E Ink in 1998, the world of technology has grown tremendously. It has changed the way we process information and interact with each other and our surroundings. Having been through the major breakthroughs of technology – from the dotcom bubble to globalization to megatech boom, Pete shares his experience working at E Ink and how ePaper technology has evolved under these macro environments.
BMW Project Leads
Credit: E Ink
You’ve been with E Ink since 1998. How has your role evolved as E Ink grows and expands as a company?
I was one of the first engineers hired at E Ink. As a coating engineer at the time, my role was to get the machines and equipment running to coat the ink. Over the first 20 years of my Inker life, I learned the parts and processes needed to create an E Ink film that you see today – from making the particles to the capsules to the adhesives. I led our process development engineering team and provided them the training and coaching they needed to advance their careers.
In 2019, I moved into the role of Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives. This role requires me to think outside the traditional industries where E Ink plays in (like consumer devices and retail) and explore additional opportunities for E Ink displays – like the BMW concept car everyone saw at this year’s CES. If I were to summarize my job in one sentence, I would say: my job is to educate people what the possibilities are with E Ink ePaper technology and bring awareness and exposure to our brand.
What has been the greatest moment of your career?
This is a very hard question because I have so many good memories working on different projects at E Ink. Asking me to pick one specific moment or project is like asking me to pick a favorite child. But if I had to choose, three moments come to my mind. The first project was when we rolled out an E Ink signage at a JCPenney store in 1999. The second moment has to be when the Kindle was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Hundreds of thousands of devices were sold out in the span of a couple of hours, and that experience was truly surreal.
"Anyone who knows me knows I'm really not a gadget person at all, but I have fallen in love with this little baby," said Oprah Winfrey.
Our partnership with BMW on the color-changing concept car was another highlight in my career. It really showcases what’s possible with smart surfaces in automotive featuring ePaper technology.
Stella Clarke, Project Lead BMW iX Flow featuring E Ink and Dirk Müller-Stolz, Head of BMW i Exterior Design with the BMW iX Flow
It’s hard to answer this question because without the early successes, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today as a company – and we have more exciting projects coming up!
What goes into a successful partnership? For example, how did E Ink and BMW decide to partner for the concept cars at this year and last year’s CES?
This may sound like a cliche, but having a team that would not take “no” for an answer is really important. There were lots of sleepless nights getting the concept car on the main stage at CES. We worked closely and instructed BMW on ways to work with the film, program it, and make connections. Another key element to a successful partnership is the people. Both the E Ink and BMW team have incredibly creative and solutions-driven technologists who were able to think outside the box beyond traditional methods.
Which industry would you like to see more of E Ink?
Let me spin this question slightly and tell you something I’m quite surprised about because it’s a really interesting observation. I’m surprised about the amount of interest we have from the fashion and design industry in E Ink. Brands are exploring ways to leverage smart surfaces to add a level of personalization to clothing, fabrics, leather goods, and more. The blend of printed electronics technology and fashion is fascinating – and it’s definitely an area I’m keeping an eye out for.
A color-changing dress featuring E Ink ePaper technology showcased at CES 2018.
Credit: Daily Mail
Where do you see the display industry going next?
The need for information isn't going away, but the need for sustainable information is picking up. With the rise of energy prices and the focus on climate action, we are seeing the trend beginning to take shape. Given E Ink’s ePaper technology is inherently low power and green, we can get critical information in front of people in a more sustainable way. This unique attribute of the technology allows us to bring E Ink to broader markets and expand our company footprint.