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From Hollywood to the Factory


Eric Golden's Imagility repurposes film gear for industrial applications

In 2002, Eric Golden got a call from Panavision. His old boss, billionaire financier Ronald Perelman, had just become majority shareholder of the ailing movie camera maker. Would Golden, then corporate counsel at the Washington Redskins, help push the nearly 50-year-old business into the Digital Age? Golden said yes and spent the next three years pursuing dozens of possible tech acquisitions. Along the way, he saw another opportunity: Some of the technology Hollywood spent millions developing had commercial potential outside showbiz. In 2005, armed with his Harvard law degree and zero engineering credentials, Golden quit Panavision and launched Imagility, a privately held holding company that specializes in repurposing movie tech for other industries.

The first company Imagility has invested in is Luminys Systems, which makes lighting systems used to simulate flash effects on film sets. That equipment is now used by Saab, Tata Motors (TTM), and others needing powerful lights to capture crash tests on video. The second: Actua Systems, which makes a compact, portable telescoping lift used by filmmakers to put cameras in hard-to-reach places. The U.S. Army is using them to mount surveillance equipment on Humvees.

Golden's latest bet is Equipois, which created zeroG, a mechanical arm for factory workers who operate heavy tools. It uses gyroscope-like technology developed for the Steadicam, the rig cameramen use to get dolly-steady shots while walking. The system looks like a piece of exercise equipment crossed with a Terminator prop and is anchored to a wall, ceiling, or chair. The business end holds any tool that weighs up to 36 lb. In an aircraft factory—Boeing (BA) and Airbus are customers—the arm might hold a rivet gun. Normally, productivity would be limited by the worker's stamina; the Equipois arm makes the tool seem weightless, while allowing complete freedom of movement. "The technology doesn't replace people," says the 42-year-old Golden. "It makes them stronger."

The Washington (D.C.) native expects revenue at his 22-employee company to triple this year, to around $4 million, and says it will be profitable by 2013. The arm comes in $5,000 and $10,000 versions; in June Golden plans to ship a smaller $2,500 model meant for dentists, surgeons, and others who work long periods with arms outstretched.

James Mallon, an Ann Arbor (Mich.) industrial ergonomics consultant, says Equipois may make factories safer. U.S. businesses spend more than $15 billion a year in workers' compensation related to overexertion and repetitive-motion injuries, according to Liberty Mutual. "We don't want to endorse any one product," says Mallon. "But it's certainly the one where we say, 'You've got to take a look at this.'"

ACADEMICS

Law degree from Harvard; undergrad at Brown

PREVIOUS GIGS

Lawyer at MacAndrews & Forbes, and Washington Redskins

LATEST BET

A mechanical arm based on Steadicam technology

Leiber is Small Business editor for Businessweek.com, Entrepreneurs editor for Bloomberg.com, and covers small business for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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