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An Entrepreneur For the Ages

Proving that you’re never too old to launch a startup, the Los Angeles Times reports on the remarkable story of 70-year-old entrepreneur C. Kumar N. Patel, the inventor of the carbon dioxide laser, the holder of 38 patents, and the former head of the physics and engineering departments at Bell Labs. Patel shunned retirement ten years ago and instead launched Pranalytica Inc. “I had a midlife crisis at 60,” he told the paper.

Initially, Patel’s Santa Monica start-up developed sensors that could analyze human breath for disease. Currently, the company is making small lasers to destroy antiaircraft missiles. After numerous challenges, stretched resources, shifts in product development, and changing market conditions, in 2004 Patel received a Department of Defense grant for $13 million. Today, the company reports earning $6 million in sales.

“One thing I learned is that a small company has to be very agile with respect to market opportunities. You can’t create new science all of a sudden, but you can fill in the gaps in terms of where the needs are.”

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