Person

Eric Michelman

Eric Michelman is a computer scientist and angel investor who is also a left-of-center activist. Michelman is the creator of the Climate Change Education Project and the More Than Scientists organization and project.

Michelman is a former employee of Microsoft and Apple. While working at Microsoft, Michelman is best known for his role in inventing the zoom wheel on a computer mouse. He also has several patents for other computer technology.

Since leaving Microsoft, Michelman has become an angel investor. Michelman has drawn publicity for his work and investment activity. [1]

Michelman is also a noted Democratic donor, donating money to the Presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Michelman is also a climate change activist, founding a climate change advocacy organization and publicly supporting a carbon tax. [2]

Early Life

Eric Michelman received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He received as master’s degree from UC Berkeley and an MBA from MIT. [3]

Work At Apple

After college, Michelman went to work at Apple. Michelman was at Apple since before its initial public offering in 1980. Michelman eventually left Apple to found his own software company, Analytica. Analytica was eventually acquired by Borland. [4]

Work At Microsoft

In 1991, Michelman went to work for Microsoft. He was assigned to work as project manager on Excel. During his work on Excel, he noticed that users had problems moving around on large spreadsheets. He found that it was difficult to jump around and find different sections. [5]

In 1993, Michelman created a zoom lever that was a joystick looking device that was intended to be used by the non-mouse hand. The joystick would would zoom out when you pushed the joystick away from you and it would zoom in once you pushed the joystick towards you. [6]

Michelman presented it to the Microsoft hardware team; the team was not amenable to Michelman’s idea. The hardware team believed that the zoom stick was too much of a 2D device. It could help users zoom in or zoom out on something such as graphics or a spreadsheets. Eventually, Michelman added panning to his joystick which made it possible to scroll through Excel. [7]

Meanwhile, the Microsoft hardware team decided to add a wheel on top of the computer mouse. But they had no idea what that button would do. Michelman rallied to get the support of the rest of the teams working on Office and eventually got their support to make that button support document navigation. The various Microsoft teams argued over whether to use the button for zooming or panning. Eventually, it was decided that if you roll the button like a wheel, it would be use for zooming. But it was also decided that when you press the button on the mouse, it would be used for panning. [8]

Michelman left Microsoft in 2003. He was looking for a life that was not so involved with tech. [9]

Angel Investor

Michelman then entered a period of semi-retirement, working as an angel investor. He sits on the board of the Alliance of Angels, a group of angel investors in the Seattle area. [10]

One of the reasons why Michelman got into angel investing was the fact he could make a lot of money. “You can make a lot of money. When it works, the returns are quite good. Moreover, when you invest in a company you have really smart, really motivated people — the entrepreneurs — working their asses off to get you a good return. It’s amazing how hard these people work (and yes I used to be one of them) all in the interest of making the company you invested in successful. It’s great to watch.” said Michelman in an interview. [11]

He also sees angel investing as a way to help the community. “Yes, it is very much a social good. It adds to a vibrant economy, supports new companies, creates new jobs, brings new products and services to life. But having said that, you can’t approach it as a social cause. It doesn’t make sense to engage in it except as a business proposition – finding companies that you believe will be good investments for you and making those investments. If your goal is to support social causes it would be fair cheaper and more efficient to do that directly with nonprofits.” said Michelman in another interview. [12]

Climate Change Activism

Michelman is an environmentalist and supporter of climate change activism. In 2014, he founded the Climate Change Education Project.

In 2015, he unveiled the More Than Scientists project, urging scientists to make videos describing what effects climate change have on them and what motivates them to study climate change. Michelman did have the scientists make the videos to report on the science but “to say what it will mean for people, what effect climate change will have on our children and grandchildren, and to urge that we take it seriously and act. In short, to talk as fellow parents and concerned citizens, making more of a personal connection with the people who need to hear their message.” [13]

The organization has grown with more and more scientists participating in the project. The project also has a sizable presence on social media and Michelman serves as the director of the project.

While commenting on the Facebook page of the project, Michelman came out in favor of a carbon tax while replying to a comment. Michelman said that implementing a carbon tax is the “single action” that would reduce climate change because the economic system would change the behavior towards low carbon tech. [14]

Political Activities

Michelman is a Democratic Party donor. In 2004, he donated $5,000 to the Democratic National Committee. In 2006, he donated $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and $2,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). In 2008, he gave the funded both major-party Presidential campaigns and gave $10,000 to the DSCC. In 2012, he gave the maximum individual donation to President Obama’s reelection campaign. In 2016, he gave $2,000 to the campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden. [15]

References

  1.    Cook, John. 2012. “Angel Spotlight: Apple Vet Eric Michelman On Why He Avoids Entrepreneurs With ‘Blustery Confidence’”. Geekwire. https://www.geekwire.com/2012/angel-spotlight-eric-michelman/. ^
  2. “More Than Scientists”. 2018. Facebook. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1767162716672624&id=744411245614448. ^
  3. Cook, John. 2012. “Angel Spotlight: Apple Vet Eric Michelman On Why He Avoids Entrepreneurs With ‘Blustery Confidence’”. Geekwire. https://www.geekwire.com/2012/angel-spotlight-eric-michelman/. ^
  4. Cook, John. 2012. “Angel Spotlight: Apple Vet Eric Michelman On Why He Avoids Entrepreneurs With ‘Blustery Confidence’”. Geekwire. https://www.geekwire.com/2012/angel-spotlight-eric-michelman/. ^
  5.               “The History Of The Scroll Wheel”. 2019. Internet Archive. Accessed October 28. https://web.archive.org/web/20170509133647/http://www.ericmic.com/history%20of%20the%20scroll%20wheel.htm. ^
  6. “The History Of The Scroll Wheel”. 2019. Internet Archive. Accessed October 28. https://web.archive.org/web/20170509133647/http://www.ericmic.com/history%20of%20the%20scroll%20wheel.htm. ^
  7. “The History Of The Scroll Wheel”. 2019. Internet Archive. Accessed October 28. https://web.archive.org/web/20170509133647/http://www.ericmic.com/history%20of%20the%20scroll%20wheel.htm. ^
  8. “The History Of The Scroll Wheel”. 2019. Internet Archive. Accessed October 28. https://web.archive.org/web/20170509133647/http://www.ericmic.com/history%20of%20the%20scroll%20wheel.htm. ^
  9. “ANGELS AMONG US: ERIC MICHELMAN”. 2019. Microsoft Alumni Network. Accessed October 28. https://www.microsoftalumni.com/s/1769/19/interior.aspx?sid=1769&gid=2&pgid=1170&sparam=Search&scontid=0. ^
  10.         “ANGELS AMONG US: ERIC MICHELMAN”. 2019. Microsoft Alumni Network. Accessed October 28. https://www.microsoftalumni.com/s/1769/19/interior.aspx?sid=1769&gid=2&pgid=1170&sparam=Search&scontid=0. ^
  11. Cook, John. 2012. “Angel Spotlight: Apple Vet Eric Michelman On Why He Avoids Entrepreneurs With ‘Blustery Confidence’”. Geekwire. https://www.geekwire.com/2012/angel-spotlight-eric-michelman/. ^
  12. Cook, John. 2012. “Angel Spotlight: Apple Vet Eric Michelman On Why He Avoids Entrepreneurs With ‘Blustery Confidence’”. Geekwire. https://www.geekwire.com/2012/angel-spotlight-eric-michelman/. ^
  13. “ANGELS AMONG US: ERIC MICHELMAN”. 2019. Microsoft Alumni Network. Accessed October 28. https://www.microsoftalumni.com/s/1769/19/interior.aspx?sid=1769&gid=2&pgid=1170&sparam=Search&scontid=0. ^
  14. “More Than Scientists”. 2018. Facebook. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1767162716672624&id=744411245614448. ^
  15. “Browse Individual Contributions”. 2019. Federal Election Commission. Accessed October 28. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?contributor_name=Eric%20Michelman. ^
  See an error? Let us know!