User:Michael J. Laine

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In the fifth grade, Michael Laine was sent to the Vice Principals’ office. There, he was forced to look up ‘insubordinate’… He’s been branded a “troublemaker”, ever since. His high school GPA was 1.17, caused by skipping over 130 days. The irony of skipping often? He got suspended… Due to his poor grades, he attended summer school between his junior and senior years. During his last year, he was obligated to go full-time to the local community college – while attending full-time high school. In order to graduate (on time!), he was required to earn enough college credits to make up for the high school “F’s”. He transferred those credits back down to the high school. This did not improve his attendance. He remains convinced he learned as much out of school, as he ever could have by attending class. During his senior year, he did one other thing that helped him ‘stand out’. He worked on his girlfriends’ farm, shoveling sheep manure, digging fence postholes, picking/crushing apples into juice and roofing the barn. He earned enough for a helicopter to take both he and his date to the prom. While this made a heck of an impression on his date; the school, local neighbors (who called 911) and the kids who were borrowing their dads’ sports cars, were not amused.

It’s probably no surprise that upon getting his diploma, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. The surprise was in his earning many ribbons, badges and medals and a meritorious promotion. During the course of four years, he learned a lot. He claims that everything he knows about leadership, operational management, and organizational behavior he learned from the examples of what to do, and what not to do, that he saw every day. He taught (was actually a “throw dummy” for a more senior/experienced Marines) hand-to-hand combat and was a member of the Color Guard and Ceremonial Drill Team – and is privileged to have represented the USMC in over a dozen parades and to have buried over 50 Marines. He was recognized by the Commandant for an event commemorating Marine Raiders. He completed four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Tired of crawling through the mud in California, Japan, Korea and Virginia, he left the service with an honorable discharge and moved to Portland.

There, he worked as a personal and corporate investment adviser; licensed for investments, insurances and real estate. To that end, he immersed himself in advanced technologies, communications, infrastructure, and global investing. As the youngest person (by 20 years) at the firm, he was regularly assigned ‘scutt-work’ the partners were uninterested in doing. Using this to his advantage, he learned a great deal, quickly – about corporate finance, business structures, and tax-advantaged partnerships. He learned ratio analysis, and that he hates accounting. He learned when and how to diversify both simple and complex portfolios. He had direct authority over more than $4M in capital, and held an advisory position on an additional $40M. A skill that he didn’t know he had, but has come in handy countless times; Laine is a fearless cold-caller. Laine did this all by the time he was 25 years old.

Following that, Laine attended Boston University for business, marketing and organizational behavior. He was part of the stroke-pair while competing with the schools’ nationally ranked Crew team. At a limited and scaled-back level, he continued to manage other people’s money while in school, and shortly after.

Moving back to the Seattle-area, he built a ‘dot-com’. His company was an expert in large database management. It produced the first online grocery-store shopping system for Safeway and created a 750,000 listing “eMerchant Directory”; a search engine of companies doing business online. Concurrent to that, Laine also invested heavily in the local real estate market, buying a five-story building – at 28 years old. The property allowed for a certain level of financial independence (and offset the losses of the dot-com).

At 35, he joined as a member of a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts research project. There, he investigated the possibilities of building an Elevator to Space. From that point, everything changed. This project inspired and transformed him. It also set the course for the rest of his life.

LiftPort Group was created to pursue this vision of the future – and build the “biggest thing, ever!” At its height, LiftPort’s team was only 13 people. Yet, by careful allocation of resources, they coordinated and leveraged a community of 40+ university research groups. LiftPort was one of the first wave of companies to create carbon nanotubes. LiftPort builds robots that climb string into the sky. LiftPort created a technical roadmap that divides the ‘uber-project’ of a Space Elevator into four ‘super-projects’: 1) balloon-based station, 20mile high-altitude, manned for a year 2) beaming power from the ground to an orbiting satellite 3) deploy a 30,000kilometer, maneuverable, ribbon and robot in space 4) develop a Lunar Elevator as a precursor to the Earth system

Following on the experience of building 18 robots, 14 of which “climbed into the sky”, (and these tests were sanctioned/approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, Navy and US Airforce); he has started developing a tethered balloon and robot system that will go to six miles high. Called HALE – High Altitude, Long Endurance, it has significant commercial value.

The company motto is ‘Change the world, or go home’. Laine takes this very seriously.

Michael has an identical twin brother; they couldn’t be more different. He has never been married, and has a long list of ex-girlfriends (that mostly still like him) but is usually single – much to the disappointment of his grand-child-less mother. He is related to both Daniel Boone and (illegitimately to) Meriwether Lewis – the folk-hero pioneer from Kentucky and the Corps of Discovery expedition leader. Wanting to “know what’s over the horizon” is hard-coded into his DNA. Now, at 43, while his life has been a bit unorthodox and at times bumpy, Michael wouldn’t change a thing.

Michael continues to be a troublemaker.


Affiliations: LiftPort Group [1], International Space University [2], International Center for Nanotech Strength Applications, Noumenia Capital Partners
Location: Seattle USA
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