Barrett Comiskey, MBA ’04: Alum Looks to Expand His Humanist Impact

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Barrett Comiskey, MBA ’04: Alum Looks to Expand His Humanist Impact

One of the fathers of e-ink came to Stanford GSB to learn how to take his ambitions for change to a much larger scale.
November 27, 2017
Barrett Comiskey, MBA ’04 | Photo provided by Migo, Inc.

By the time he attended Stanford Graduate School of Business, Barrett Comiskey, MBA ’04, was already an innovator. He had played a key role in inventing a product you’ve used if you’ve ever held a Kindle: electronic ink.

E-ink — the microencapsulated electrophoretic display — transformed the publishing industry when Kindles birthed the e-book market in the mid-2000s. Comiskey developed the technology with fellow MIT undergrad JD Albert and their professor Joseph M. Jacobson, for which they were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2016; the three helped co-found E Ink Corp. soon thereafter.

After building E-Ink, Comiskey, a New York City native, enrolled at Stanford GSB in 2002.

“I felt I was missing a set of technical skills,” says Comiskey. “What I found was that, in addition to equipping me with useful technical knowledge and skills, Stanford GSB proved to be a place that exceeded my expectations — where I could study how to pursue my ambitions for impact on a much greater scale.”

Many lessons came from Comiskey’s campus role model, Joel C. Peterson, the Robert L. Joss Adjunct Professor of Management. Peterson had students engage in role-playing exercises aimed at preparing them for real-world business situations.

“He brought out the best in all of us,” Comiskey recalls.

The common thread, and my North Star — which led me on my journey to Stanford GSB and beyond — is being a curious soul, seeking beauty, seeking truth.
Barrett Comiskey, MBA ’04

Comiskey’s experiences at Stanford GSB also brought him back to the Asian markets he had frequented while building E Ink in the late ’90s. During a school Global Study Trip to China, he was able to study an economy and social structure that was undergoing rapid transformation. The young entrepreneur pursued the opportunity he saw there: Since graduating in 2004, Comiskey has lived in Shanghai (where he co-founded Nicobar Group), and now shuttles between Taipei, Taiwan, and Manila, Philippines — the locations of his current business, Migo Entertainment Inc.

Comiskey founded Migo in Southeast Asia to make the digital products and services that have revolutionized life in developed countries available to everyone.

“Even the most basic forms of stories and ideas are out of reach for the masses,” Comiskey says. “Migo is reimagining proven consumer services, like entertainment and education, to make them available at 5% of the cost, so they’re actually affordable for the majority of the planet’s population.”

Take the Long View

In keeping with the new scale of ambitions he nurtured at Stanford GSB, Comiskey considers Migo’s vision “multi-decade.”

“When you take the long view, you aren’t tempted to imperil your principles or take myopic shortcuts,” he says. Given that Migo has a vision to bring entertainment and education to everyone, “it’s a multi-decade mission, which demands the clarity and constancy that the long view affords.”

The entrepreneur encourages his team to transcend labels and categorization. “My heroes are the philosopher-engineers from the past few centuries, who danced across disciplines, gliding from guild to guild: thinker-doers,” Comiskey says.

To share the wisdom of his heroes, Comiskey relies on books, which he curates, annotates, and lends to members of his team.

“The common thread, and my North Star — which led me on my journey to Stanford GSB and beyond — is being a curious soul, seeking beauty, seeking truth,” Comiskey says.

— Jenny Luna

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