An Entrepreneur For the Ages

Posted by: Stacy Perman on January 27, 2009

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.”

Reader Comments

Bob Ramos

July 1, 2009 2:34 PM

Kudos to Mr. Patel. As a fellow "oldster", I will be 71 in 2/2009, I own and operate a small business that specializes in furnishing repair and production documentation services to aviation repair facilities. We also have a contract to provide technical data library serices to the US Army and operate another library for the USAF.

In the coming months, we will be making presentations to a helicopter repair conference in Mexico City and have been invited to make another one to a large business which will be located in OKC.

As long as you take care of your body, remain inquisitive, take care of your employees and your customers, you will do all right.

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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