Martine Rothblatt (J.D./MBA ’81) joined UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian this morning for a wide-ranging conversation that moved from Rothblatt’s time at UCLA and her pioneering work in satellite radio and biotechnology to her most recent work in the nascent science of cyber-consciousness creation.
Rothblatt told the Korn Convocation Hall crowd how she partnered with the late Rene Anselmo to turn her MBA field-study project (commissioned by Hughes Satellite and Communications) into satellite company PanAmSat, which was eventually sold to Hughes for $5 billion in cash and stock. She joked that one thing she didn’t learn in business school was to ask for founders stock up front. She didn’t make that mistake again when she used her experience in the satellite business to launch Sirius Satellite radio, which later merged with rival XM.
The interview later delved into how Rothblatt came to found United Therapeutics. She made the switch from satellites to medical technology to find a cure for pulmonary hypertension, an illness that affected her youngest child. Today, United Therapeutics is a publicly traded company with a market-cap of $5 billion that markets a variety of treatments for the disease, including a pump, an inhaler and, as of December 2013, a pill.
Rothblatt also discussed aspects of her personal life, including her transition from male to female and her most recent work in robotics, where she funds a nonprofit that focuses on cyber-consciousness. The project is attempting to upload the consciousness of her partner, Bina, to a robot/computer called Bina48 (see video above). Citing the work of author and futurist Ray Kurzweil, Rothblatt said the work has practical implications. “I call it a ‘mental wheelchair,’” Rothblatt said, suggesting that advances in this area might someday be used to aid those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
“Always be open-minded,” Rothblatt advised the entrepreneurs in attendance, “but also be practical. Finally don’t give up. Entrepreneurs need that burning passion. Everybody’s life is an entrepreneurial project and I encourage everyone to find what they are passionate about.”