Dayton entrepreneur Nick Ripplinger marks one year since launching Battle Sight Technologies
One year ago, Nick Ripplinger was introduced to the tech that would become the world’s first (and only) reusable infrared marker.
Today, Nick and his Battle Sight Technologies biz partner Bennett Tanton have plotted 54 products they want to prototype by the end of 2019, all based around the same core technology.
It has been a supercool, humbling, rewarding journey, Nick said.
“We knew we had a supercool technology, but we didn’t realize how big the potential was,” he said.
The device works when microcapsules in the marker break and release a chemical that reacts with other chemicals in the marker’s wax. When Scott Koorndyk from The Entrepreneurs Center first showed him the tech, the military veteran zoned out halfway through the meeting and started jotting down ideas for how to use it on a battlefield, Nick admitted with a laugh.
They secured the license for the tech through the Air Force Research Labs Materials and Manufacturing Directorate in November 2017 and debuted the marker at a special ops command meeting in March.
Their go-to target market was special ops, due to Nick’s background — he served in the military until a leg injury in Iraq ended that career in 2009 — but individuals at all levels of the military have shown interest, from special ops down to the National Guards, he said.
And everybody has their own twist — while the device was designed for close-quarter combat, medics, pilots and corrections officers have all had suggestions on new ways to tweak or use the tech.
“We’re dealing with the very best customer base this country has to offer,” Nick said. “We’re not trying to improve the product to sell more, but to save lives, to make our guys more lethal. There’s no better mission in the world than supporting our warfighters.”
Nick and Bennet hope that 12 to 15 of the prototypes they have planned make it all the way to market. They’ll be up to seven full-time employees by the end of 2018 — and any veteran who applies will get an interview, Nick said.
“Our veterans are wildly talented and intelligent, but that doesn’t always translate on a resume,” he said. “If you apply, we will talk with you, and see where it leads.”
They’re also evaluating new spaces for manufacturing as they look to scale up production to meet some of the larger orders starting to roll in. But don’t worry, they’re definitely not leaving the Dayton region, Nick said.
“There’s so much cool stuff right here in Dayton,” including $5 billion per year in new research, Nick said. “You don’t have to be the next great inventor to have a supercool tech company and bring research out of those labs to build a successful startup.”
Dayton also has a great network of people & organizations who support the makers and biz owners, and Nick’s first piece of advice to new & aspiring entrepreneurs is simple — “Get involved in everything you can.”
A Chamber of Commerce mentorship program could connect you with someone who becomes a regular customer. An interview opportunity on a podcast could evolve into a business partnership. (Both happened for Nick.)
“You just never know where that one conversation could go,” he said. “But you can’t have the conversation if you’re not being an active participant.”
Nick’s second piece of advice? “Fall in love with the journey.”
“We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said. “You have to go and experience it, and be able to laugh it off when something blows up in your face, and be able to move on to plan C or D or whatever letter you end up on.”
Being a business owner is a 24/7 job — when the Office of the Secretary of Defense calls at 10:30pm during your one-year anniversary party, you don’t let that call go to voicemail, he said with a laugh. You’ll feel guilty for missing soccer practice, but you can find ways to pull your family into the business, the mission, he said.
“My 6-year-old can probably give a better elevator pitch for the company than I can,” Nick said. “It’s so cool when it seems like they understand the sacrifices are to have a larger impact.”
His last piece of advice — celebrate the successes.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I never really took enough time to sit back and enjoy the successes,” Nick said. “I beat myself up for mistakes, but we’ve come so far in one year. I’m really thank for the mentors, the community, for being here in Dayton with the right people around us — It’s so humbling.”