The Cool Idea! Award judges are technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, instructors, and some are even past Cool Idea! Award recipients. All of our judges have a story worth sharing, so we sat down with each for a quick Q&A to help you get to know them a bit better. In our first installment, we’re talking with Chris Boyle.
Chris is a biomedical engineer and entrepreneur from Queens, New York. He founded his first company at the age of 22, which led to a license agreement with a Fortune 50 medical device company. Since then, he has launched and funded multiple startups that range from consumer electronics to apparel. His most recent endeavor is SOLOSHOT—an object-tracking camera and recipient of the Cool Idea! Award. Chris’ close ties to the startup community and experience winning the Cool Idea! Award add a unique perspective to our panel of judges.
What are you looking forward to most about being a Cool Idea! Award judge in 2017?
I really enjoy seeing the combination of scientific and entrepreneurial passion. At its core, it’s both about combining problem solving with a passionate work ethic and it’s exciting to see those two things come together very early in the process.
Tell us about your background – what’s something about your professional life that we wouldn’t necessarily know by looking at your LinkedIn profile?
I created and sold a TV show to BermanBraun about Kiteboarding in the Dominican Republic.
What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial or business advice you’ve received and how did it help you?
You will never be able to do everything yourself so focus on building the team as much as you focus on building the product. I kick myself every time I realize I am the bottleneck yet again.
What entrepreneurial or business advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs and startup companies?
Everything is 10 times harder than you think it will be but it’s actually good that you think it will be easier. If you knew how hard it would be, you might not actually jump. So if you think you can stay both optimistic and realistic, then go for it.
What companies or individuals are breaking the mold when it comes to innovation? What are they doing differently than others?
I think what Elon Musk is doing at his companies (so many!) is insane. They are changing the course of history in front of our eyes. It would be awesome if the entire population was just a little more technical so that they could really appreciate what is happening over there. The creativity and sheer force of will is mind boggling.
What are the most valuable resources available for innovators, inventors, makers, etc.?
Other people. I would still just be a kid on a beach asking someone to point a camera at me if it weren’t for people like Alex, and our COO Ryan, who agreed to jump off the cliff with me and make SOLOSHOT a reality.
What qualities will you look for in a good Cool Idea! Award applicant?
I don’t think I have a rigid criteria for identifying a good applicant. I think first of all, the elevator pitch has to be really good so they get our attention—one or two sentences or a graphic that clearly hooks us into the problem statement as much as the solution. Sometimes identifying the problem is the key part and, if you can get your audience —be it Cool Idea judges, investors, or other folks you are pitching to join you—being able to explain the problem you are solving in a way that makes them go—oh yeah, that’s gotta be solved! Once you have that part then you have them receptive to hearing about your solution.
What’s your all-time favorite product and why?
When I saw the first iPhone commercial I said out loud, “that’s exactly what I need!” but I really liked the iPhone4. I thought it was such a beautiful and well thought out product from the inside-out and back again. Even the weight of the product in your hand was just right…a little heavier than you might expect just so you could sense the value. That product felt like a jump into the future. I also really loved my 7S fish surfboard I got a long time ago. I had to sell all my boards when I was leaving the Dominican Republic to move back to the U.S. to start SOLOSHOT, but I really miss that board!
What product do you think has had the biggest positive impact on people’s lives and why?
I think the internet, especially recent widespread adoption of wireless internet, is critical to keeping mankind on the knowledge trajectory necessary to save us from ourselves and eventually thrive beyond our home planet.
What’s the most random thing you’ve ever watched all of the way through on Netflix?
Haha—I am not that patient. I find I only watch things that someone has recommended so I can stay efficient!
Stay tuned for more one-on-one discussions with the Cool Idea! Award judges. In the meantime, check out the Cool Idea! Award website to learn more about our manufacturing service grant. If you have a project you’d like to submit for consideration, apply here.