Living on the edge of “Start-UP”

It has been five years since the vision first hit me and I was propelled to do something about it.

The vision was something that only an idealist would succumb to. I had no experience and no money, but had to make the pursuit regardless. My family had all but left out of frustration for my entrepreneurial ways and need to follow dreams. I had vowed to accept a regular job and move back into the regular grind. Our credit was already shot from misadventure and trials and I was not getting any younger. But then, I was struck (again).

On my way home on evening, I had a revelation about a new energy technology and how our relationship with energy would change. Just as I found myself getting excited, my thoughts thumbed past a folder that read: “You made a commitment to your family not to get off track again – but to be normal with a normal job.”

I quickly surmised that surely someone else, some company with resources were already pursuing this idea because it was so plainly obvious. So I kept walking toward home in the waning light, rationalizing that some company has already done this and it would surely hit the markets soon. I was too late and maybe I could at least eventually find a job with one of those companies instead.

But as I walked, another voice boomed: “But what if nobody IS developing this form of renewable energy? What if you are the only one right now in this moment that has come to this awareness and must push it out there?”

“Oh Great!” I thought. That was the last thing I needed weighing on my mind. Surely, my inaction would mean the ultimate degradation of our power grid and no electricity to our homes leaving our society in ruins and my children would pay for it all because I decided to go take a normal job.

There had to be a balance. There had to be a way to string these things together. I would move slowly on this one and make it my life path instead of a quick fix for the sake of wealth and fame. I breathed this new thought process into place and starting walking again – slowly, carefully. I would not compromise my family again – but would set in motion and position things to also research and develop this new technology – or new application of an old technology.

It has been five years. I have been fortunate and not-so-fortunate. We ultimately moved back to what I consider home in central Oregon to be closer to my father who passed away last year. I ended up working in the Solar industry and so got a little closer to my passions. But we also had some disappointments where I got an incorporated only to have the limited funds stolen by a desperate partner during hard economic times – or the Great Recession.

But things have persevered and some have dropped out of the cycle of trying to push this technology into becoming a viable company. The vision I have had remains contagious – but with debt looming and job security uncertain – I can’t help but begin another phase of research and pull myself up to continue pushing this forward.

As it stands, the device has been completely redesigned with a new set of engineers. (We never really had engineers working on this project previously) and so some of the reverse engineering process that I went through on a licensed design fell short. However – it only fell short because it failed to yield the reliability that it needed to yield – which was finally qualified from some pretty sharp guys that are bona fide engineers. The only problem is that this insight came after about 3 years of research and trials and $200K. This is enough to shut down most pursuits.

However, there is a completely new design – one that is much more interesting and seemingly reliable with a smaller cost of ownership potential and it is also has the potential benefit of a scalable power source that can be adapted to either a residential or commercial application – that is off-grid or grid-tied.

I got laid off from my excellent job with the solar company at Christmas when the company was acquired by another much larger and public company. This has forced me to take a job in Portland leaving my family 3 hours behind while I live in a sparse week to week apartment and see them on the weekends. Ironically, the same engineers that qualified the first iteration of design as being unreliable are located here in Portland, OR and so I am able to be engaged.

The only problem is that the current funding partner does not want to really capitalize things and only wants to invest enough to get the design into a viable state. Looming is a real test of my commitment whereas I am going to have to sell this into success without the proper salary backing me yet still support my domestic needs.

This brings me to a peculiar point and one that is delicate. I have found myself waffling over the idea (once again) of moving on to take a solid long term career position with a good company where I would earn a nice wage or get creative and figure out how to move this thing once and for all to where it can go.

Many questions are on the table and for now – my income is good – even if much of it going to pay people back and try to clean up a tainted credit as a result of my persistence. But, it is certainly amazing that I am still faced with the same opportunity and that this vision remains.

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