Nokero inventor Stephen Katsaros’ career is centered around innovation—ranging from product development to intellectual property. These activities have enabled Stephen to license inventions to sports companies (such as Dynastar Skis, K2, HaberVision, etc.) and build a transportation product company (RevoPower — a motorized wheel for bicycles that gets 200 MPG at 20 MPH). He enjoys developing products and making dreams into reality. Stephen earned a Bachelors of Science Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Purdue University in 1996 and was a non-degree seeking student at the Bard Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado from 1998-1999. As a recognized leader in innovation, Stephen received a B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award in 1995. He is a patent agent registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, which has issued several patents for his inventions. Prior Press Coverage includes the Wall Street Journal, Denver Post, C-Spann, Popular Science, Gizmodo, Engadget, T3, Slashdot.org, Discovery, and CNN.
[quote style=”boxed”]Less talk, more action. So many ideas die in a boardroom, in endless meetings, or on a dry erase board. Talking through the company’s future is important, but you can’t let it drag on. Once a decision is made you’ve got to be fearless and move it forward. It may fail. If it does, you wipe off the dust and go out there and fail again. Keep going until you succeed.[/quote]
What are you working on right now?
As Founder of Nokero International, I am building a better, longer lasting, solar light bulb for use by the 1.6 billion people worldwide who live without electricity. We are also developing a full line of solar products that are “designed for the other 90%”
What does your typical day look like?
Crazy … the people we talk to and have met from all over the world are amazing. One day we might be phone conferencing with Didier Drogba, the next moment we will be working with foreign governments to establish a humanitarian program. Product development begins in the field – in Kenya or Pakistan – and ends on a factory floor in Asia.
3 trends that excite you?
- Social Entrepreneurship – For a long time the “right” way to help people was to give them things for free. Now, a new generation of entrepreneurs are building sustainable, long-lasting economies around the idea that micro-business and micro-lending can help lift the world’s poor to a higher standard of living, all while making for a cleaner planet. If it’s done right, social entrepreneurship can become the lasting legacy of our generation.
- Solar panel efficiency – I remember when 20% efficiency for a solar panel was mind-blowing … now we are using 22.5% efficiency panels in our new incarnation of the Nokero N200 solar light bulb. It’s amazing.
- Flat Earth – With a good idea, some hard work, and good people around you, almost anyone can take an idea to market using the internet … and they can almost instantly reach a global audience.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Less talk, more action. So many ideas die in a boardroom, in endless meetings, or on a dry erase board. Talking through the company’s future is important, but you can’t let it drag on. Once a decision is made you’ve got to be fearless and move it forward. It may fail. If it does, you wipe off the dust and go out there and fail again. Keep going until you succeed.
What inspires you?
When I was in Pakistan I visited a village that was using our solar powered light bulbs. They hadn’t bought a single candle or kerosene bottle since they’d arrived. Each person living there was safer, each little kid was breathing cleaner air, and each family was saving dollars a week. This type of scenario is repeating itself all over the world every day because of what Nokero – and the other companies in our industry – are doing. That’s what inspires all of us at Nokero.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Just one? There are too many to remember! My previous project, Revopower, required large capital investment and was centered around an extremely complex piece of motorized equipment. I learned some hard lessons, so with Nokero, I went into it with the idea that it would be relatively simple in mechanical terms, I would fund it myself and bootstrap the company up on its feet, and we would succeed or fail quickly.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Make sure you really care about what you’re doing, make sure you’re really doing something useful, and stay human about it all. Then put a really good person in charge of taking that story to the public through media, the web, and marketing.
What do you read every day, and why?
The World Energy Outlook 2010. It’s a huge book, and it will take all year to read it bit by bit. But when I’m done I’ll know what’s happening in the world energy market and how our company fits in.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
Out of Poverty by Paul Polak, because it defines the social entrepreneurship movement.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
Snag-it helps me grab my screen to show people what’s happening on my desktop, and Skype keeps me connected to our international clients.
Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
Paul Polak OutofPoverty, Andrew Romanoff, and Solar_Sister … because they are leaders in the Solar Energy movement.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.
At the office we always have a few dogs around, and just the other day, out of nowhere, one of our chocolate labs (who weighs about 80 lbs) came bolting into the room jumped up on my lap and started nibbling my ear.
What’s the toughest thing about being an entrepreneur?
Take all the hard work, some serious sleep deprivation, and mix it with a whole lot of uncertainty. It adds up to a few days here and there that are really tough to get through. But those times are more rare than the good times – when things are going well, and you know you’re doing something good for your customers and the world in general.
What’s something from your past most people don’t know about you?
I was a downhill ski racer, climbing the ranks and travelling around the Rockies going from ski race to ski race.
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