You may have seen Mark Shaw by now. On morning TV. In YouTube videos. At auto events. Explaining his proposed new auto technology in a TED Talks lecture.
Shaw is the guy who dumps mud, chocolate syrup, motor oil and paint onto the hood of a car to demonstrate how his "self-cleaning car paint" lets the mess roll off like it was never there.
In demonstrations worthy of late-night TV spots, Shaw is trying to do the same thing countless entrepreneurs have done since the days of Henry Ford -- get a foot in the door of the rich auto industry.
It can be a struggle for newcomers and unknowns to win business in an industry where suppliers are consolidating into a few, ever-larger corporations with global factory footprints. But one expert says the window of opportunity is now open a bit wider than before.
"A decade ago, there was still clearly a sense of 'not invented here' working against small startups," says Arjun Kakkar, a principal with the Cleveland office of management consulting firm Strategy&. "Today, the big auto companies are realizing that they need innovators from outside, and they're often actively looking for them. So many technologies are changing that those guys just can't do it all themselves.
"Not to mention the cost," he adds. "Why spend the money on r&d when a new venture has already done it for you?"
With automakers and many big suppliers still operating with reduced personnel after the 2008 economic crash, outside innovators may find an interested ear.