Way then hit the road, crisscrossing the country interviewing buyers for True Value, Home Depot, Kmart and several others. The reaction was favorable, and Way jotted down notes and quotes from his interviews so he could show them later to prospective investors. Way then drafted a 100-page business plan, and in October, 1992, he formed Diamond Light.
Way had planned to produce the flashlights in Asia, but during a cocktail meeting he ran into an executive at Cimco. Eventually, Way met Russ Gilbert, Cimco's chairman. Gilbert, a former mechanical engineer at Hughes Aircraft, was familiar with optics and says he was taken by Diamond Light's technology. "It's probably the first major breakthrough applicable to flashlights," Gilbert says.
Way declined to identify his company's other investors, saying only that it was a "group of rugged individuals." But both Way and Pelka, the physicist, have a stake in the company. Pelka, who now runs TIR Technologies, a research and development firm in Costa Mesa, says he has an equity interest in Diamond Light plus an agreement to receive royalties.
Way says his investment in the company has been mainly "sweat, tears and sleep," or lack of it. "We basically feel we've cleared most of the hurdles to bring it to the market," he says.
Diamond Light Industries Inc.
* Founded: October, 1992
* Headquarters: Costa Mesa
* Chief executive officer: Lowell Way
* Employees: 20 full-time and contract employees
* Product: High-powered flashlights
Source: Diamond Light Industries Inc.;
Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times