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Nate Alder says the stereotype fits him like a snug glove.
"I'd definitely say I'm a mad inventor," says Alder, who happily admits to having attention deficit disorder, a condition that affects more than 8 million adults.
"I guess I've always been tinkering with things, pulling things apart, looking at the world in a different way. ADD allows me to read and hear and see things in a different way than most people would," Alder said Thursday.
Alder, 29, is CEO of Klymit, an outdoor products company established in 2008 by the San Diego native and BYU graduate. On Thursday, Ogden-based Klymit won first place in the annual Invented in Utah contest, a competition that pitted five finalists out of a field of 85 inventors for the right to claim $61,000 worth of professional services that will help their ideas get to market.
His company won for developing a pressurized sleeping pad that weighs only 9.1 ounces and packs down to the size of a soda can.
"It quite literally fits in your back pocket,"Alder said.
The skeletonlike pad is said to be perfect for high-altitude bivouacking. It needs only two to four breaths to inflate, and in colder weather, the pad can be blown up with insulating argon gas, he said.
Second place went to Jess Colton, an Orem man who invented TykeToter, a front-mounted seat that puts toddlers between the peddler and handlebars of a bicycle.
Carl VanDyke, also of Orem, took third place for developing Fulvic Bloom, a plant fertilizer derived from composted materials.
Like Alder, Colton and VanDyke also fit the stereotype of the eccentric inventor, said Tim Rush, who handled publicity for the contest.
"The other two are your garage-type of entrepreneur. These are guys who truly felt the need to invent something," Rush said.
The Invented in Utah contest is only 3 years old. But Alder and Klymit quickly have come to dominate the event. In 2008, Klymit bested the competition by developing a prototype insulation system for outdoor clothing using noble gases such as argon, which divers had already been using to keep warm in dry suits.
The company went on to develop a line of outdoor clothing products, notably an argon-filled vest that Backpacker magazine said reflected body heat like no other jacket it had ever tried.
Today, Klymit has six employees, 15 sales representatives around the U.S. and six distributors around the world. It has raised $2.3 million, mostly from Level 4 Group, a New York-based venture capital group that specializes in defense, security and public safety products.
Klymit isn't the only success story to emerge from the Invented in Utah competition.
Last year's first-place winner, Veritract, a medical device startup in Salt Lake City, has received $150,000 in grant money and completed a seed-round investment of $50,000 to develop a feeding tube that can be moved into position by doctors with help from a built-in camera.
A portable helicopter landing system invented by Chris Eyring was the second-place winner in 2008. The system, which can be carried in the back of a patrol car, was purchased by Skaggs Public Safety Equipment and Uniforms, said Michael Horito, director of Rocketship Inc., a Provo design and development firm that co-sponsored the contest.
The top 3
Klymit • Ogden, lightweight sleeping pad
Jess Colton • Orem, front-mounted toddlers' bicycle seat
Cal VanDyke • Orem, plant food derived from composted materials