First Place Doesn't Always Win the Race
In 1973, a British mathematician and cryptographer by the name of Clifford Cocks devised a brilliant algorithm. This algorithm forms the basis for modern internet security. Today it's primarily known as RSA, an initialization of the surnames of three MIT researchers (Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman), who discovered the algorithm independently three years later.
If you're pondering the disparity between the namesake and the first inventor, you've come to the crux of the issue.
Making a Splash in the Valley
I was recently on the market for a new job, and, in my search, I spent a significant amount of time gathering advice from an uncle of mine. He's a smart man with a wealth of experience in the business world, but what really caught my attention was his general knowledge about careers. The detail and certainty with which he was able to describe a successful career development made it seem as though it's more than just "part of life", it's a craft. And like all crafts, it can be reworked, over and over, to asymptotically approach perfection. While I can't say there was one particular piece of advice that I found most useful, there was a nugget that has been stuck in my head for the last few weeks. To quote my uncle directly, "You have to ship sh**".
Rephrased, you might say: a product on the shelves is worth infinitely more than one in the closet. It is not often that a consumer will make a purchase sight unseen. An idea has little value until it has an interface to the world. Proof of concept is the unofficial seal of approval in the valley.
Back in 1973, Mr. Cocks was under the employ of the British government. His earth shattering cryptosystem, classified*. Meanwhile, at MIT, the three young researchers were able to release their intractable Hydra out into the world, garnering the fame and fortune it warranted.
In the world of technology, the only accomplishments that matter are the ones that bear the burden of proof. If a tree falls in the woods...
*Nearly twenty-five years after his breakthrough, in 1997, the British government declassified Cocks' work, hopefully giving him a modicum of the respect he deserves.