Name: Sean Westcott.
'Foolish' Idea: A light over a bus stop sign.
Start-up Capital: Unknown.
How Idea was Launched: Sean sketched his idea, and took it to Western Electronics. They helped him patent the idea. Setting up a marketing business, TransSignal, in Boise, Idaho, they began developing Sean's light. They named it Pharos after the world's first lighthouse.
Sales: Transit officials in Portland, Oregon, have installed 13 of the devices to test the idea. Other cities' officials interested in trying them out, California, Washington DC, Baltimore and Las Vegas. Also interest from Australia and Europe.
Earnings: Royalties expected to make him a millionaire in a few years.
Sean Westcott, a Gulf War veteran, had left his native Indiana for a sheet metal job in Oregon. However, his car broke down and by the time he reached Oregon, the job was gone. He didn't know anybody and rather than ask for charity, both he and his wife moved into the woods and survived by catching fish and the occasional deer. They bought supplies with the money Sean earned from carving trinkets and selling them at a farmers' market.
They moved into a homeless camp in a country park with about eighty-five other people. The future looked bleak - then Sean had his idea. 'I was standing in the rain at a dark bus stop. The driver didn't see me and drove right by. It was the last bus of the night and I had a long wet hike into town. I thought 'I should have had a light to tell him I was there!' And I thought about those little jogger's lights and how easy it would be to fit the bus stop poles with them.'
After sketching his idea, Sean approached Western Electronics. 'We decided this was an obvious winner,' said applications engineer, Glen Cook.
Western Electronics set up a marketing arm, TransSignal and began developing Sean's light. They called it Pharos after the world's first lighthouse. TransSignal's general manager, Ryan Scott, said, 'We put a small blue bulb on top of a bus stop pole and a lithium battery inside the pole, and ran the wires to a button four feet from the ground. When a rider sees the bus approaching, they push the button and the light goes on for a minute or longer.
In dark or foggy conditions, the light can be seen three quarters of a mile away, telling drivers there's someone waiting. This light means people who are hearing-impaired and can't hear the bus coming, or people with sight problems who have difficulty seeing it coming, can send a clear signal.'
TransSignal gave Sean a $36,000 a year job and agreed to pay royalties which should make him a millionaire in a few years.
Sean Westcott already knows what he wants to do with the money, 'My ambition is to buy property and set up a facility to help street people. I've been there - and I know sometimes you just need a hand to get off the streets to help yourself.'
From being homeless, just one idea gave Sean Westcott a home, a car and a $36,000 a year job with a bright future ahead of receiving millions in royalties.