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July 11, 2006 > Invention and Innovation

Invention and Innovation

by Arnie Becker

What does a successful semiconductor materials scientist do after achieving the position of vice president of operations and technology development? If he's Benny Chan, he starts two businesses totally diverse in nature and locates both in Fremont. The two businesses are Newtonics Spectra Inc. and Golden Phoenix Fisheries, Inc. One is pure high tech, the other couldn't be any lower tech.

Chan started in high technology right out of college in 1980, joining SRI International in Palo Alto, where he spent five years. He has since worked for National Semiconductor, Spectra Physics/Xerox, and Blue Sky Research. His roles included laser diode research, product management, manufacturing processing, technology development and operations.

Formed about three years ago by Suganda Jutamula, Ph.D., Chihyen Liu and Chan, Newtonics Spectra, Inc., is located at 44360 South Grimmer Blvd., Fremont ( These three men previously worked at the same company for about six years and met during that time. Spectra Newtonics is privately funded and currently seeking investors and partners.

The company currently offers two similar products, both targeting golfers seeking to improve their putting scores. The OptoSmart Laser Putter ($120) contains, at its heart, a small laser device that allows golfers to align the putter, the ball, and the cup. Over time, as you use this simple but very accurate putter, your scores should improve. Because the putter uses a laser sheet rather than a pointer, the light can be seen on the ball, on the target and on the wall opposite the golfer. The other device is a removable OptoSmart Laser Training Module ($50). The module can be attached to any standard putter allowing a golfer to retain the feel of his own club.

Chan's second business, challenging yet so different, is Golden Phoenix Fisheries, ( Founded in 1988, Golden Phoenix Fisheries is run by Chan and his wife Rowena. They currently have two employees, both in Fremont. This is a wholesale distributor of exotic tropical fish, fancy goldfish and koi, imported from various countries in Asia and distributed throughout North America. Unlike the high tech field, these fish are alive and only have value if they are handled properly. There are health and customs policies and procedures, far removed from dealings with inanimate objects. Keeping fish healthy for sale is no small task and presents a large learning curve for a semiconductor scientist.

Ever the inventor and innovator, Chan says "every job is a challenge" and he does the "common thing in an uncommon way." He has certainly shown that to be the case in his choice of starting a small high technology sports equipment company and a wholesale tropical fish distributorship.

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