Finding extraordinary engineers for exceptional clients

Allison Sawyer: Engineering Student Superhero

October 10th, 2012

Allison Sawyer built a mechanical engineering start up while still at college at Leeds University in England. Sawyer is the CEO and co-founder of Rebellion Photonics—a company that invented and manages snapshot hyper-spectral imaging technology used for real-time chemical imaging. The images can identify any chemical material with additional photos or video.  Biological research, safety and security industries are just some of the clients for the organization.

Building Sawyer’s company didn’t come without challenges. She didn’t become one of Inc. Magazine’s 30 under 30: America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs of 2012 overnight. She not only received an MSc in Nanoscale Physics, but an MBA from Rice University, and before Rebellion Photonics, worked at the Houston Technology Center—a large technology start-up incubator.

Sawyer knew she wanted to become an entrepreneur when meeting the inventors and researchers at Rice University. They had just published a paper on the invention of a fluorescent imaging camera that could “see” chemicals. She saw that the camera could not just be used for bio medical research, but also oil and rig safety and quality control. There were a great number of applications that could be reached for chemical imaging. Now companies like the U.S. Air Force and BP want to use this technology.

Sawyer notes that you must have patience to bring something to market and become an entrepreneur. Sawyer and her group were able to incubate their technology while students, so they did not look to start their company until a prototype was created. After the creation they were able to start making sales within six months after the formation of the company.

Rebellion is targeting the medical research, drone camera and oil markets. Their camera can identify hazardous oil leaks on rigs, something that could save lots of lives and product. The oil companies are actively looking for these technologies and they are willing to pay to have them.

Sawyer believes engineers make great entrepreneurs. She notes that before you start a company with a fantastic product that you love and believe in, go and talk to potential future customers. Not just a few, but dozens. Talk to companies large and small. You may love the technology and possibilities of your product, but you have to make sure others will as well. You need to figure out why they will want it—which is much different from why you built it.

Contact The Talley Group to explore different options for engineering positions.

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