Crowd has spoken: Local man's Micro Phone Lens a go

Olympia inventor’s 2nd Kickstarter drive yields $111,000 for phone microscope lens

rboone@theolympian.comApril 22, 2014 

Olympia inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Larson has done it again, raising for the second time far more money than he had originally sought for his product on the fundraising website Kickstarter.

Larson, 23, who studied mechanical engineering at the University of Washington, has developed a product that turns your cellphone into a microscope.

His business is called Cell Focus, and the product is the Micro Phone Lens 150x, a tiny piece of plastic that has optical qualities similar to glass. It fits on a smartphone camera lens, transforming it into a 150 times-magnification microscope.

His latest fundraising campaign on Kickstarter raised $111,645 from more than 2,000 people. He had originally sought $50,000, surpassing that total within days of launching the 30-day campaign.

That was the same reaction he received with his first product: a lens with 15 times magnification, enough power to please the avid coin or stamp collector.

He had sought $5,000 for that product and wound up raising $91,000 from more than 5,000 people.

Larson has received feedback from students, teachers and doctors about his product, he said Monday.

“I’m really excited to see that it fulfills a need,” Larson said, adding that through his website and Amazon.com, he averages about 10 orders a day for the 15-times magnification lens.

The money from Larson’s latest Kickstarter campaign will be used to purchase, among other things, manufacturing equipment, packaging design and a better website for his company, he said. He expects to ship orders for the 150 times magnification lens in July and August.

Eleanor Nagai, a retired microbiologist living in Clackamas, Ore., said she contributed funds to both campaigns.

She met Larson last summer during a camping trip and was immediately impressed with what he had developed, so she helped get the word out about the product.

Based on her own experience, Nagai thinks there are scientific and educational applications for both lenses.

She recalled volunteering to teach microbiology at a Montessori school, but there were only a limited number of microscopes for the class.

Teaching the class would’ve been much easier with Larson’s product, she said.

Nagai also thinks there is the potential for the lens to view white blood cells or other characteristics of bacterial infection, which would help doctors diagnose and treat ailments.

“I can’t wait to see how the final one works out,” she said about Larson’s latest lens.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

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