Just because someone is a highly qualified engineer and companies claim there is a shortage of engineering talent doesn’t mean such people will escape layoffs.

Just ask Stephen Bozzone.

But rather than continue to look for work after being laid off recently by iRobot in Durham, Bozzone has turned to creativity, invention and entrepreneurship to litterally kick-start a new career.

Bozzone used his engineering skills honed by years of work at Motorola and Sony-Ericsson to invent a lapdesk for tablet computers. Now he’s seeking to raise funds through crowdsourcing at Kickstarter to help turn his invention into a new career.

Tech mogul, perhaps?

The device is called the TabLetGo, and it came about when Bozzon received a tablet as a gift. Frustration in using the device led to his invention, which he is seeking to protect with a patent.

So how did Bozzone come to is decision to become an entrepreneur – and how has he dealt so far with the many challenges any startup executive faces? 

“It’s really tough when you work for 20 years and have a great resume and you find yourself out of work,” Bozzon told The Skinny.

“Out of a job for the third time in 5 years was a bit much. It just seems like the recession is not over and keeps dragging on. Companies have to adjust staffing to stay in business–I get that. It’s not personal,it’s business. I want to take action to have a bit more control over my future and build a safety net with additional income. If things go well I may be creating some jobs.”

The Skinny’s conversation with Bozzone:

What did you do at iRobot?

I was hired as a Sr. Quality Engineer and was promoted to Quality Manager. I was Quality Manager when the layoff hit.

What were your previous positions?

Before iRobot I was at Sony Ericsson for 13 months in RTP working as a Staff Engineer when I got laid off from there in 2008. Before that I was at Motorola for 13 years. When I was laid off from Motorola in 2007 I was an Engineering Manager.

Why have you stayed with a high-tech career given the recent tough times? I

really enjoy engineering and problem solving. I like learning about new technologies so tech companies have always attracted me. High tech companies tend to pay a bit more as well. Eventually I would like to teach innovation and entrepreneurship at a university. Experience is a great teacher.

Had you ever considered your self an entrepreneur before starting this venture and creating the lap reader? What factors motivated you to strike out on your own?

I really never thought of myself an an entrepreneur until recently. At Motorola I was in an “intrapreneur” role where I was developing new product categories within the larger company. The factors that motivated me now are platforms like Kickstarter where you can test the market and build a customer base with less risk and out of pocket cash. I also have a lot of friends that have ventures “on the side”. It’s kind of a hobby for a lot of us. It fills the gaps in our day jobs where for me I was not doing much design work. In my spare time I use computer aided design tools to create new things.

You set an amount and time limit on the Kickstarter campaign – why those two limits?

Kickstarter recommends 30 days for a campaign. I wanted to wait until after Christmas to launch and Jan 31 is the end of the month. The funding goal is based on the minimum money I would need to raise to pay for an injection molding tool an order the minimum quantity of materials. It’s a break even target so I hope to exceed the goal. My goal is to sell 1,000 units and my stretch goal is 10,000 so I can pay off my mortgage.

Did you reach out to a lawyer for advice on how to protect your idea?

Not for this particular project. I have seven issued patents so I know my way around IP. I filed my own patent application to be patent pending status.

Did CED or any other entrepreneur or group encourage you and help you figure out how to get to where you are with the new venture?

No, I looked into CED. They may be an option for other projects down the road.

Why go Kickstarter route to raise money?

Kickstarter has the name recognition in the crowdfunding arena. Indiegogo and FundaGeek are others. I like Kickstarter because I don’t dilute the equity. Backers get a reward but no ownership in the venture.

If you don’t hit your target, what’s your next step?

I will most likely explore licensing with either an “As Seen on TV” entity or a company that is in the lap desk/iPad accessory business.

What drove you to pick the desk reader idea?

It was really out of necessity. I have a Netflix subscription and hold the tablet to watch a movie was very tiring. I found that if I lie flat on the bed, the screen needed to be tilted towards my face. I also like to sit and read on my tablet with a cup of coffee. With my invention I can read or watch video hands free so no spilled coffee.

Your advice to others striking out on their own would be?

Find a mentor. You need someone to help you navigate all the twists and turns. I thought I knew a lot after 20 years of product development but I am still learning. I can be contacted at sbozzone@gmail.com.