A Detroit Entrepreneur Transforms Personal Tragedy Into Life-Saving Inventions

7/3/13Follow @XconomyDET

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years ago—though this time it didn’t involve his family. A house in his neighborhood caught fire, and two children died as a result. His son, who was six at the time, said to him, “Dad, you’re an inventor. You should invent something so this doesn’t happen to any more kids.”

Robinson took his son’s words to heart and started investigating the cause of house fires. Forty-six percent of them, he discovered, are the result of unattended cooking. He talked to fire fighters, who verified that his research was correct. “My son and I started to figure, why can’t a smoke alarm shut off the stove? The solution came to me while I was sleeping.”

That solution is called Igniteless, and Robinson says he began putting all of his energy and time into getting the word out about his potentially life-saving product. If a stove begins to smoke, it trips a radio transmitter on the Igniteless device and sends a signal to a unit on the stove, which then shuts the stove off.

Robinson has established a company called D&D Innovations to sell Igniteless. The name of the company comes from his late fiancée, Dionyell, and Princess Diana. “When Princess Diana died, Dionyell was in front of the TV, crying,” he says, explaining that his fiancée felt a connection to Diana because of their mutual passion for social work. “It’s ironic that Dionyell then died in a car accident.”

Through D&D Innovations, Robinson is reaching out to insurance companies to try to persuade them to offer their customers policy discounts for using his product the same way they offer discounts for smoke alarms. He launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the money to get Igniteless into the hands of consumers and in places like college dorms, assisted living facilities, and hotel suites, but he suspended the campaign last month after he got a call back from the TV show “Shark Tank.” (He says he’s waiting to see the outcome of his “Shark Tank” auditions before he relaunches the crowdfunding campaign.)

“We’re beyond the prototype stage—we’re ready to manufacture,” Robinson says. All he needs is a bit of funding and the FCC to issue him a license for Igniteless’s radio transmitters, and then he says he’s ready to begin manufacturing his product in Detroit. His research has determined that there are 250 million stoves in American homes. If he’s able to sell Igniteless at $150 each to just 5 percent of the market, he estimates it would generate $3 billion.

But, Robinson is quick to point out, for him  it’s not really about money. “I’m, like, living the dream,” he says. “To solve a problem with an idea in my head is like giving birth. That’s all a product is, is a thought. It’s a blank space, and you create matter.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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