Her Killer Idea? She Found It In A Science Lab (Inc’s 30 Under 30)
Allison Lami Sawyer teamed up with a physicist to bring a fluorescent imaging camera to market. Good move: The Air Force and BP both want it.
By Donna Fenn (Contributor, Inc)
Allison Lami Sawyer still recalls the words of her entrepreneurship professor, who took her aside after she had completed her MBA and was beginning to launch her company, Rebellion Photonics. “He told me gently, ‘You know you aren’t good enough, right? You need to get a real CEO,’” says Sawyer, who was shocked speechless. Two years later, with $2.4 million in projected revenue from military and industrial contracts, she’s proving him wrong.
Sawyer, who also has a master’s degree in nanoscale physics, was studying entrepreneurship and volunteering at a local Houston incubator when she met her co-founder, Robert Kester. Kester, now 31, was working with a team of physicists at the incubator and had invented a fluorescent imaging camera that could “see” chemicals. The camera attached to a microscope and took pictures at 30 frames per second, enabling medical researchers to shoot live video through their microscopes.
“It was a big leap forward,” says Sawyer. “They needed help writing an NIH grant, so I wrote the commercialization part.” She became fascinated with the technology, and suggested that Kester join her in starting a company to capitalize on it.
Sawyer wrote a business plan and in the spring of 2010 entered the company, Rebellion Photonics, in several competitions, including one at Rice University.
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