Innovator of the Year Award Winner
Felix Ejeckam, Co-Founder/CEO
Group4 Labs Inc.
Menlo Park, CA
FROM THE BOTTOM UP
What Ejeckam says it takes to grow organically:
1] A strong business model
2] Acquiring top talent
3] Choosing work strategically
You don’t have that sense of entrepreneurship being risky if your parents were already doing it,” observes Felix Ejeckam.
Though he may have followed a family tradition, what Ejeckam does is definitely the future. Launched in 2003, his Menlo Park, California-based company, Group4Labs Inc. (www.group4labs.com), builds energy-efficient diamond-based semiconductors for wireless products.
Clients immediately bought into the idea, with funding coming from corporate and government clients such as the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. The company also received grants ranging from $100,000 to $750,000 through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. Though it may seem like everything simply fell into place, Ejeckam says perseverance was as vital then as it is now. “You’ve got to hang in there and stick to it,” the 38-year-old urges other entrepreneurs. “Be a good listener, but don’t be drowned by other people’s dogma.”
Last year, the 12-person firm had revenues of $1.25 million. And while Ejeckam does not rule out raising money through venture capital in the future, he credits the company’s ability to grow organically as a testament to its strong business model. “The nature of our growth has been entirely about money made the old-fashioned way,” he says.
Because of this, the company has learned to work within its means so to speak. “Developing two technologies at the same time was too expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable for a very tiny startup of five,” recalls Ejeckam. “We needed to step back and rebuild the core elements of our business plan. Along the way, we found out that one idea lacked one key ingredient that the other did have—a sustainable cash flow—which is a positive business model for a small company. We elected to leave that product idea for another, larger company. Had we not invested in the strategic planning process early on, we would have learned some very expensive lessons rather late.”
—T. E. H.
The Innovator of the Year Award is given to a business flourishing in an innovative industry or approaching business/entrepreneurship in a groundbreaking manner via their products and/or services.