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John Kao

John Kao

Chairman, Midnight Oil Collective and Yale Entrepreneur-In-Residence
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Dubbed “Mr. Creativity” and a “Serial Innovator” by The Economist, John has been active in the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship for four decades. His unique perspective draws from an eclectic body of experiences as a serial entrepreneur, former business academic, musician, author and Tony-nominated producer of film and stage.  He is a graduate of Yale College (1972), Yale Medical School (1977) and Harvard Business School (1982).  Career highlights include:

  • Co-founder and chairman – ThayerMahan, Inc. – Industry leader in the field of maritime intelligence.  Also co-founder of FarPlay, Inc., Million Doors, Inc. and Biosurface Technology, Inc.
  • Faculty, Harvard Business School (1982-1996), offering courses on innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Advisory Board, Global Innovation Index, WIPO
  • Past chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Innovation Council
  • Advisor to companies such as BASF, American Express, Bass Brothers Enterprises and Equinor
  • Innovation policy advisor to the governments of Singapore, Finland, Australia and the United States, among others
  • contributor
  • Author of the bestseller Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, about what leaders can learn from jazz, as well as Innovation Nation, which documents America’s growing innovation challenge


  • Coverage from media outlets including The New York Times, The Economist, CNN, and The Colbert Report.
  • Apprentice to rock legend Frank Zappa in the summer of 1969