Between the Lines

Table of Contents

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the January 2, 2002

edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Building a Better Mosquito Trap: An

Entrepreneurial

Dream

Take a really pesky problem — biting insects

like mosquitoes and horseflies — and add two researchers who,

though retired from senior positions, kept on using their brains.

They came up with the Bugjammer, a device that the United States

Department

of Agriculture has said is the best fly and mosquito trap ever

devised.

Say that next spring, when you want to have a cookout, you find your

backyard is filled with mosquitoes. You don’t want to expose your

guests to the West Nile Virus. Your solution last summer was to call

in exterminators to spray the yard. Now the $150 Bugjammer device

is an alternative to aerial spraying for mosquitoes in residential

areas.

Roy Nelson and Lantz Crawley are fulfilling the quintessential

entrepreneurial

dream, to invent "the better mousetrap" (in this case, a

mosquito

trap) and bring it to market. It was not a "get-rich-quick"

endeavor, because they learned hard lessons along the way, but they

still hope to "strike it rich."

Does their story follow the "Ten Steps to Start a Business"

format, explained on the following pages? Let’s find out.

1. Decide if you are ready. Nelson, a former RCA

scientist,

used to work in the fiber optics arena at Greg Olson’s and Vladimir

Ban’s former company Epitaxx. Before he retired, Crawley had been

vice president of research at American Cyanamid, now American Home

Products. They had plenty of experience in both technical and

managerial

areas. They were more than ready.

2. Find a market. They did their homework on market share

and say the competition is paltry. "Citronella candles work,

barely,"

says Nelson, and the electronic zappers do not work at all against

mosquitoes. A device called a mosquito magnet works only against

mosquitoes

(not flies) in a foot radius. It has a blinking light and a fan that

sucks the mosquitoes into a bag. Not only does it cost from $700 to

$1,300, but it is also ineffective during the day.

3-5. Do your research and write a business plan. Nelson

and Crawley used the premise that biting flies and mosquitoes find

their juicy targets — not by their sense of smell — but by

listening for mammalian heartbeats. Nelson’s and Crawley’s work was

based on research by Dan Kline, the mosquito expert of the United

States Department of Agriculture. "There IS a visual component,

it can be up to 40 percent. But the number one thing that brings

mosquitoes

in from long distances is low frequency sound, and it carries

forever,"

says Nelson. "Our discovery is that CO2 and heat and those

chemicals

are not as much of an attractant as a landing signal that says, `this

is alive, start biting.’" They decided to make a device, the

Bugjammer,

that works with flies, mosquitoes, and gnats and has an effective

range as high as 100 to 300 yards. It looks like a camp lantern, sends

out heartbeat-like sounds on a very low frequency. The sound lures

the insects to their fate, a glue strip that can be changed once a

week.

The partners decided they could market the domestic version of this

device, powered by batteries, for $150. The commercial version, for

stables and commercial areas, is powered by CO2 cartridges and costs

$200.

"Believe it or not, mosquitoes can differentiate between birds

and mammals, and we can change the mix of insects caught by changing

the heartbeat rhythm," says Nelson. "Very few friendlies"

is his answer, when he is asked whether his device also catches

hapless

butterflies.

"We do not substitute for municipal spraying," Nelson says,

"but we can substitute for aerial spraying when you are having

a cookout."

6. Decide on your space. The Bugjammers company is

virtual.

It is owned by Nelson and Crawley plus Wayne Andrews, a field

biologist

in Massachusetts; Randy Cooke of Ringoes, who provides compliance

work and coordination; and Keith Woodruff, an engineer in

Mountainside.

7. Plan your budget. When the pair started out they

thought

they could manufacture and sell the device on their own. But while

looking for venture money or investors, they encountered multiple

disappointments. "We were strapped for cash, and venture money

was very tough to find last year — nobody was doing venture money

in agriculture. At the time if you weren’t a dotcom, they weren’t

interested. Or they wanted so much of the company we said no

thanks,"

says Crawley.

"We went to a lot of companies that turned us down, and we got

turned down by the New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology,"

says Crawley. "I was bigtime disappointed in that." He

compares

it to the time in World War II when, "the guy who came up with

the idea of the jet engine had gone to military people and could not

get it funded. It’s tough out there. We were really limping

along."

8 & 9. The next items in "Ten Steps to Start a

Business"

involve hiring an accountant (Lawrenceville-based Ira Marks) and

an attorney (Bacchus & Bacchus in Pennington did the incorporation

papers and David Leason of Manhattan-based Darby & Darby is the

corporate

attorney.)

As for 10. Get a Mentor, Crawley and Nelson didn’t need

any. "We have been through this a bunch of times," says

Nelson.

"We’re not babes in the woods."

Nelson says he gets his scientific interest from his mother’s side

of the family. He went to UCLA, graduating in 1968, and has a master’s

degree from Illinois State and a PhD from Penn State. After two years

in the U.S. Army’s materials lab at Fort Belvoir, he worked for RCA

until 1989 and then became a materials consultant, mostly for

pharmaceutical

companies. He is married and has two grown children, one grad student

at Stanford, and the other attending Wittenberg College in

Springfield,

Ohio.

Lantz Crawley, the son of a District of Columbia taxi driver, went

to American University, Class of 1967, and did research at Walter

REd Army Hospital. He earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh

and did postdoctoral work at Harvard. From 1971 to 1978 he worked

on central nervous system drugs at Lederle, then moved to the consumer

division and became director of research there in 1981.

In 1984 he began 15 years in the agricultural division as vice

president

of discovery research, working on successful herbicides for soybeans,

and an endectoside, moxidectin, that is still being used in American

Home’s ProGuard product to prevent heartworms in dogs.

Insect control has been always been a major focus in Crawley’s career,

and his work on the Combat brand roach trap was probably the best

preparation for his current venture.

Only those with strong stomachs will want to know how the Combat trap

works: "We had a food source that the roaches were interested

in, initially peanut butter with the active ingredient that is used

to kill fire ants," says Crawley, "a very slow acting and

very safe compound. Because the roaches eat each other’s feces, and

most of the compound would pass through, the roach that had eaten

the peanut butter would deposit the bait all over the place and clean

out a whole building."

To sell the trap required a significant change in consumer behavior.

At the time, people wanted to spray a bug and get it killed, and they

didn’t like the idea of trapping a bug inside a little trap. The bugs

weren’t really going to be trapped — but explaining how it really

worked was not going to win lots of buyers either.

"The marketing group didn’t think it was going to work, but we

were overwritten by the CEO," says Crawley.

So, to market these roach traps, Crawley found himself in unusual

circumstances. "We were running around in roach outfits trying

to get attention," he says. A lobster costume was modified to

look roach-like. "I took my turn, standing in front of the Piggly

Wiggly store looking like a roach."

The result of the roach shenanigans was that Combat became the number

1 household brand. Crawley and Nelson have the same hopes for

Bugjammer.

So what is the outcome of their venture?

Somehow they managed to get together enough money to get two thousand

devices manufactured in Dover, Delaware. Unfortunately they weren’t

finished in time for any meaningful sales this summer. Rosedale Mills

sold a few, and Pennington Hardware has three of the Bugjammers on

its shelves. Crawley and Nelson are trying to sell the rest of the

manufacturing run in southern states, particularly the horse market

in Florida, because the Bugjammer is reported to be "only thing

that works in an indoor situation for biting flies." But they

are almost ready to announce that they have managed to license their

patent to a major multinational company. "As of December 1, we

are no longer involved in manufacturing, and once more we are back

to doing R&D," says Nelson.

Their entrepreneurial dream has come true. From now on, the Bugjammer

will carry the label of a public firm traded on the New York Stock

Exchange. Look for the Bugjammer on shelves nationwide.

— Barbara Fox

Bugjammer.Inc, Box 81, Pennington 08534. Roy

Nelson,

vice president. 609-737-6836; fax, 609-737-7119. Home page:

www.bugjammer.com

Top Of Page
Between the Lines

Just as the New Year was about to begin, and as we were

putting the finishing touches on this annual Survival Guide issue,

we received a sobering reminder that hard work is not enough, and

that single-minded dedication does not ensure success. David Holmes,

chairman of the board of the Princeton Chamber of the Commerce, sent

out an E-mail just before Christmas to announce that Ellen Hodges,

the only president the chamber has ever had, is out after 27 years.

Hodges sent an E-mail of her own hours later. "I was totally

committed,

working many seven-day weeks and 10 to 12 hours every day. Except

for a bout with cancer, a broken foot, and one day of the flu, I have

never taken a sick day." She ended her message by saying,

"after

27 years of dedicated service, this is not a happy ending for me."

Holmes, president and executive director of the Eden Family of

Services,

freely admits that Hodges worked hard for the chamber. But the

organization

is losing members — down to about half of the 1,200 it reached

in the early 1990s — and is on shaky ground financially. He blames

stagnant membership on a chamber frozen in the past. "It has been

struggling for a decade," he says.

Holmes’ idea for revitalizing the chamber is to establish welcome

centers to tout the attractions of the greater Princeton area —

the hotels, restaurants, and cultural events. The chamber needs to

distance itself from its reputation as an "intellectual

chamber,"

he says, speaking of its heavy schedule of lectures and workshops.

It needs to engage the area’s big corporations, and its retailers

too.

Holmes says it is imperative for the chamber to establish a presence

in downtown Princeton. If it succeeds in doing so, the chamber will

have come full circle. Downtown is where the organization began its

life in the years just before the Route 1 corridor began to fill up

with corporate offices and shopping malls. In fact, Hodges enjoys

reminiscing about how she spent weekends working side-by-side with

shop owners on beautification projects.

The chamber left downtown, Holmes says, only because it could not

afford the rent. It still can’t, but he is hoping that a retailer

will be persuaded to donate space. Wouldn’t Hodges, with her

experience

in working with downtown merchants, be the perfect person to drum

up space and launch the welcome centers?

Holmes replies that "over time we have been typecast as an

intellectual

chamber. It’s very hard for people to see beyond the typecasting.

We have to do something significant. It was mutually agreed. We need

new vision, new leadership, new energies."

The very survival of the chamber is on the line, Holmes says. Whether

jettisoning Hodges will buoy the organization is still an unknown.

The certainty is that individuals and groups alike have to keep in

mind that change is indeed the only constant. Success does not

guarantee

more success. In this, our annual Survival Guide issue, we look at

ways to keep sharp, keep growing, and keep a weather eye out for both

the big unexpected changes — like the one Hodges is facing —

and the little changes that accumulate over time — like the ones

the Princeton Chamber is facing.

Top Of Page
Table of Contents

The next two articles are devoted to entrepreneurs. After that, the

articles are useful to jobseekers.


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