Chapter 19 : A Project Takes Shape
Completing the call, Dusk returned to where Luke was standing. She saw that everyone was actually waiting for her to return.
“Daniel, now that Dusk has finished her call, lets talk about it. Dusk has a problem in her Hardware Course. She is learning chip architecture, but the 3D design system is very costly. Few of the students can afford them. Learning from the normal books does not help as much and the 3D books are expensive.”
“Oh, I can buy her those books. It’s not a problem! I remember those things, pretty expensive.”
Dusk immediately raised her hands in protest. “No! I cannot allow you to do that. You have done enough already.”
Daniel looked confused, “So what do you want to do? You want to lose part of your studies or delay learning just because you don’t have the right tools. That is stupid.”
“Actually, I can make the 3D images and walk-through myself from the books and designs. I am good with algorithm. I have to learn imaging algorithms anyway. The problem is that there isn’t enough spare computing power available at the university. What is available is expensive and has to be paid for. Luke suggested … we may be able to use some spare systems at your office.” She replied hesitantly.
Daniel agreed immediately, “Sure, no problem at all. We have lots of computers, powerful ones. You can always check for spare capacity and use them. You can come here at night. But what you are trying to do is not easy work. It’s a lot of efforts.”
“Daniel Sir, I am willing to put in efforts to any extent required.”
“Just a minute. If I understand this discussion correctly, Dusk, you are saying that your learning is suffering because you do not have the proper textbooks? How is that? The university is supposed to have all of that.” Rosemary interjected.
“Princess, the university has textbooks. It has design specifications, design diagrams. But some students are using 3D images of the same things we have in textbooks. It makes the learning so much better and easier. Seeing it there in VR is so much better than trying to imagine it in the books. But those 3D VR images are very expensive. I can’t afford it.”
Rosemary thought for a few minutes and then replied, “So if I understand, there must be many other students whose learning is affected by this. Some may even give up the subject because they cannot understand it. Right?”
Dusk nodded her head and both Daniel and Luke agreed that this was a problem at times. Teaching aids would improve if 3D images were more widely available instead of current textbooks.
“And Dusk, you can make these, just what is missing is computing power?” Rosemary asked again.
“It’s not that simple actually. Yes, huge computing power is required. That is why few people can do it. The ones who do it then sell it for a high price because its… rare. But at the same time, design and walkthrough algorithms need to be written, which is also very difficult. Then the actual imaging is not easy either. It needs high end scanners and imagers, unless you make it manually from the scratch.” Daniel explained.
“Suppose, Ms. Hale, the computing power was made available, and if you got guidance from your professors and from Daniel’s team here, can you do it?” Rosemary asked a third time.
“I need a few other equipment like some very good Imaging Scanners that Luke… Mr Jones… talked of… But yes, given these things, I can do it.”
Rosemary turned to Luke, “What would be the cost of all these? Including the cost of this girl’s efforts and Daniel’s men who will do the algorithm and whatmayoucallit?”
Daniel and Luke both looked at each other. It was a difficult question. Daniel spoke first, “If you were to do it differently, and make VR engine that can take the scans and convert them into 3D images and walkthrough, it would make more sense. All told, with equipment time and computing time-costed instead of being bought, time for algorithms, etc, I would say about $1.75 million.
“But, once the algorithms are written for the walkthrough, especially if they are written parameterised so that they can be re-used, we can do subsequent images at a very small cost. So, if you want to do only 1 diagram, it’s a waste of money. If you want to do for all books in the Tech Courses, it’s very viable…Princess Rosemary, what’s in your mind?”
She looked at the 3 of them and took a deep breath, “I will fund the $1.75 million, let Dusk do the work. I want to make the diagramming system available to all universities across the country. We need more students to access these tools so that we have more highly trained tech graduates.”
Dusk’s head was muddled with the numbers that were being thrown around. She felt everything had gone crazy. How could this project cost $1.75 million? And on that, this lady just said she will pay it, like she was talking of paying for the pizza in the eatery. She felt she had fallen into some crazy dream world. Was she really a Princess, like daughter of the Emperor? But she was Luke Jone’s cousin, so probably not.
Daniel considered the proposition carefully and then said, “Actually, Lady Rosemary, I see this as a profitable venture, even if you intend to sell this at a low price to students. I will put in half of the investment. I can’t let you walk away with this! I am the tech guy here!”
“Can this technology be extended to things other tiny chips?” Said a deep voice from behind them. Dusk looked up to see a General standing with them, accompanied by Brigadier Thompson.
Daniel, seeing a chance to work with the high spending Military turned with a bright smile, “Yes General, what do you want to convert to 3D then?”
“Battle Tanks, for example. I believe Ms. Hale was to work with our Military Teams for developing something like this in VR anyway. With you providing the tech and trained skillsets, it will save us a lot of trouble.”
Daniel nodded, “Yes, it can be extended. The basics of the algorithm is the same, the image scanners we can develop by adopting something we are already working on.”
“The Military will pay for use of what you develop. In exchange we want our team members to be a part of the development to learn from it. We can contribute to capital expenditure.”
“Come on, Sister. This is profitable and a good plan. You are going to turn out to be a blooming business genius, much to the dismay of your mom who thinks you can do nothing. But why exactly are you doing this?” Luke asked.
Rosemary stood for a few seconds more glaring at Luke and grinding her teeth.
“Ok, look. I am not a businessperson. But it is a problem related to education. Which is Dad’s domain. If I solve it, give him something thousands of students around our country can use as learning tools, I can show my father I can do something other than spend my allowance. So, yeah.”
Luke desperately wondered how he could be a part of Dusk’s project without revealing much of himself. That way he could spend more time with her and she couldn’t avoid him. He could have funded the project and much more. Except for the small fact that Dusk did not know he had money. She thought that he was from a middle-class family with comfortable income, spending inheritance to get better educated, that is all. And he was not ready to break that illusion.
He put his arms around Dusk’s waist and said, “Why don’t we sit and discuss this after dinner? General, Brigadier, please join us, you too, Susco.”
Dinner was lavish, as she had expected. While they were talking about the project, the hotel staff had set up large round dinner tables and chairs. Dusk had not noticed them as she was busy hearing Luke and his sister fight over something.
Rosemary took charge of Dusk and lead her to the food display. Immediately, 2 assistants came behind them with plates. As Rosemary walked past the food items, she pointed out to what she wanted, the assistant put it on her plate. Dusk offered to take the plate, but Rosemary hushed her and said that she should follow the protocol as her guest.
They reached back to the table with everyone having plate full of different items of food. Couple of assistants stood ready to get anything that was needed at the table. To Dusk this was a wasteful and opulent display of power and wealth to have service staff follow them around and get the food for them in a buffet meal.
Throughout the meal, other guests came to their table to meet and talk to them. Many of them wanted to meet Dusk while others were there to meet Daniel, Princess Rosemary or the General. But in each case, Dusk was forced to stand up and greet them since they were introduced to her. She was wondering if she was going to be able to complete her meal. With the number of people coming over, they did not talk of the project.
Dusk had her 4th glass of the bubbly drink when they were toasting to various successes. Susco was getting a little worried about her. She was also worried about how they would go back home. But Luke had other ideas.
Immediately after the dinner was over, Daniel took them over to the Micro-Mega office in the next building. They lit up one of the conference rooms and sat around it.
“So, what’s the final deal?” Luke asked as they sat down and Susco got coffee for all of them from the dispenser in the room.
“We need $1.75 million for the project. We both fund it equally and share the profits equally.” Daniel replied.
“The Military can accumulate knowledge for their own use from the team they are putting in here. They can develop further future technology on it, but cannot duplicate this one, or use it without royalty. We will execute your projects at standard costs that you pay to any other contractor, with a 10% discount on the standard margins for your assistance, if you wish.”
“That is acceptable to us.” The General replied.
“And what does Dusk Hale get for her efforts? I will not let you exploit her for your profits.” Luke stopped him immediately.
Daniel looked at Princess Rosemary. She nodded to show that she agreed with Luke that Dusk should get something for her efforts.
“I propose that we give 10% of the profit to Dusk Hale. In fact, she can have a 10% stake in common capital. We don’t need her to contribute to capital in the form of money, of course.” Danial offered. Luke looked a little unsure, but Rosemary seemed to be satisfied.
“So, I will have my lawyers draft the agreement tomorrow and send to you both. If you agree, I will have the business entity set up on 1st Day, next week.” Daniel said.
“Excuse me,” After a lot of internal debate, Susco spoke up. “None of you have taken the opinion of Dusk Hale. She is the one who has to do the work, give up her free time to work on this, may be even delay some of her coursework. You all decided what she will do, her share, and everything, basically without her approval. Neither have you told her how many hours she will put in and what she gets for it. I am not sure if she has understood the project itself.”
Everyone turned to look at Susco and then at Dusk.
“You do not have any right to interfere in this matter, Ms. Susco,” Luke said casually.
“I disagree … I am her student counsellor, I am her chaperone for this outing, I am supposed to see she is not adversely affected.”
“How long do you think you will be there to advise her?”
Susco became silent as she felt a chill run down her spine. Luke had just issued a lightly veiled was a threat. Everyone here is the room actually outranked Susco. If she offended them, she would definitely be out of a job. But, at the same time, Dusk was too naïve and understood nothing. They were taking decisions for her and she had not uttered a word.
The General broke the tension in the room by erupting with laughter. “Oh My! It’s refreshing to see dedicated University Counsellors, who are ready to take on even the Royalty when they think their charges are being wronged. Counsellor has a right to step in and protect a student from being coerced into any agreement… I hope you agree, Princess.”
“Yes, I do. It’s wrong of us not to consult Ms. Hale. My mistake, I thought I was taking the decision in her best interest, but Ms. Susco is right. We need Dusk Hale’s approval.” Rosemary replied.
Luke smiled. “My apologies Ms. Susco. I hope this does not affect my grades.”
Susco made a face. Everyone in the room knew there was no way Susco could affect his grades, or that she would dare if she could…
Susco looked at Dusk who had already put her head down on the table and appeared to be asleep. But she was not really oblivious of what was happening. She had drunk 4 glasses of alcohol that evening, her head was a little muddled. She was caught by surprise, badgered by the newspersons and then landed in the middle of a long discussion, having lost the rationality of it all somewhere. All she had asked was some computer time to be able to process her imaging system. She had no idea how Luke complicated the whole thing.
Susco put her hand on Dusk’s back and gently aroused her. Dusk reluctantly looked up and then seeing all eyes on her, sat up quickly.
“Dusk, did you understand what was being discussed here?” Susco asked gently. When Dusk shook her head, Susco looked at Luke. However, Daniel spoke up instead.
“Ms. Hale, you wanted some computer time to process a 3D image of a chip you needed to learn properly in class. However, that is not going to solve any problem. You need much more. Which is why people don’t do this. But you have shown us that there is a critical gap in Edu-Tech tools available, which Princess Rosemary wants to solve.
“Now, the cost of doing this far higher than what you thought. Why? Because, your method will only create a few ‘books’ that you want for your own course, the cost of it is very high and does not help anyone who has even a slightly different requirement. On the other hand, if we create framework into which anyone can put an image and make it into a 3D rendering and allow VR engines to show it, a lot of people benefit from it.
“Like what you did with the HRT… You did not make it for a single VR training but created an engine which can be applied to any situation. We want to do the same. Create a framework that can be used repeatedly for as many chip modules as anyone may need. In addition, the usefulness of the 3D will be highly enhanced if we can have an algorithm to allow someone to walk through the diagram. It can later be used to build fresh chip design in a VR instead of in a paper-diagrams.
“Now that you have unwittingly dropped the opportunity in our lap, a chance to solve a problem, make the learning tools better and available to a number of students who couldn’t otherwise afford it. I see it as an opportunity to make money, the General sees it as a way to get an engine that enhances his VR programs, and we all get to enhance skills of our teams.”
He paused and looked around for concurrence to his explanation. He looked at Susco.
“Now, Ms. Susco, please confirm with your charge that she understood and is willing to work with us on this.”
Susco and Dusk looked at each other. Dusk nodded and Susco turned to the group, gulped another cup of her coffee, steadied her nerves, and nodded to the group accepting the basic proposal and confirmed Dusk’s willingness to work with the team.
“Now, this project will be executed in a new company. Dusk will own 10% and Daniel and I 45% each. I suggest we compensate Dusk with a consulting fee because the profit will come much later. We can adjust the consulting fee from her profits… Since this is short term project, profits will count after we recover all capex. Then, Dusk gets her 10% share only after we make profit of $1.7 million. Is that clear and acceptable?” Rosemary asked.
“You mean, I am going to get 10% of the profit? For only asking computing time for my course work, not even for coming up with the idea, which was actually from Princess Rosemary. I think you people are, all mad.” Dusk managed to say, shaking her head again.
“Only after we cross profit of $1.75 million…” Daniel clarified.
“That’s ridiculous too.” Dusk commented. The drinks had removed inhibitions she may otherwise have in speaking her mind before such a group. “Current books are at less than $1,000. The Princess wants the price lowered. So even if they are at $500 each, you will need to sell 3,500 copies. Who wants that many? Also, Sales is not profit… Even I know that.”
Daniel laughed. “Ah! See Ms. Susco, Dusk Hale is neither drunk nor naïve as you think. She is very rational in her thinking. She didn’t bother till now because she believes we are talking rubbish because the project can’t make that kind of money.” Daniel said with a laugh. “Ok, Ms. Hale, do you know how many students are studying chip tech? Forget $500 each. I will price them at $25 each. You don’t think we can sell 60,000 images? Remember, they all need multiple chip design run-throughs each year. Your first book will have 20 designs. That means if 50,000 students across the country want it, You are talking of $25 million.
“Once the framework is done, we will offer it to others. You want to make your own chip walk-through? Come here, use our equipment and technology, we charge you for making the walk-through and we charge a royalty if you sell the walk-through. Every university in the country will be here asking for time on our machines to do it. Some from outside the country will be on the next flight to negotiate.”
The General added, “Ms. Hale, if your design is extended to walkthrough for larger things, like say a battle-tank, or a fighter-planes, the Military will easily pay $50,000 or even $100,000 for each design.”
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