Unlimited Partners –

A venture capitalist walks into a tattoo parlor-seriously.

Adam Grosser, a GP at Foundation Capital, was in Florida four years ago when he “wandered into a tattoo parlor.” He left an hour later, 200 bucks poorer, with a “painful” tribal band around his ankle.

Most folks would have just left it at that. But Grosser is an inventor in his downtime. He has a big workshop with “every tool known to man” in San Carlos, a town north of Silicon Valley. All sorts of wacky things get built at the shop. One of his buddies built a 340-pound battle bot named “Crazy Susan.” Grosser helped out with the bot, but his main focus has been building a better tattoo gun.

Right now, tattoo artists use contraptions with sewing machine needles powered by two big electric coils. They adjust the devices with rubber bands. (If you’re squeamish, skip this next part.) The devices work by puncturing the skin and putting India ink into the holes. Lots of blood. The original patents on tattoo machines date back to 1894, Grosser says.

His solution? An inkjet-based tattoo gun. It gives an artist more control, produces less blood and it “hurts about one-tenth less” than a traditional tattoo gun. Grosser has applied “saline” tattoos to a couple of friends and they’ve returned the favor. The next step will be to get the technology into the hands of some skilled artists.

Once the finishing touches are put on the handheld device, Grosser will move on to the second part of his three-part plan-“rasterizing” the tattoo image. Theoretically, that would allow artists to create tattoos that they can’t create using current tools. The third part of the plan is to modernize ink chemistry. For instance, people could get tattoos that would “turn on and off,” he says.

Grosser has no plans to give up his venture capital gig to start a chain of high-tech tattoo parlors. If the device makes money, he would like to see it go to help the people of New Guinea, the birthplace of tattooing.

Grosser will formally unveil his inkjet tattoo gun at the invitation-only TED conference in Monterey in February.

Mitt Catches Six

It seems that both politicians and Jet-skis can serve a useful purpose. The most recent-and perhaps only-example came over July 4 weekend, when Massachusetts Gov. and former Bain Capital chief Mitt Romney helped rescue six people whose boat sunk in a New Hampshire lake.

The entire event began when six adults and one black Scottish terrier named McKenzie fell into the chilly water of Lake Winnipesaukee. Their frantic shouts were heard by two of Romney’s adult sons, who were vacationing with their pop at their lakeside home. The trio immediately leaped into action, with the governor hopping on one Jet Ski and his sons sharing the family’s other three-seater. The rescue effort included 56-year-old Romney jumping into the 75-degree water.

“‘When we got back I introduced myself,” Romney told reporters. “They said, Yeah, we know who you are.'” Before he became a celebrity governor, Romney co-founded and headed Boston’s Bain Capital.