Take this job and scan it!

@Money September 22, 2011: 6:04 AM ET
mobile scanner startup

Gordon Nuttall, 56, Fort Collins, Colo. THEN: Software manager. NOW: Developer of a mobile scanner.

(MONEY Magazine) -- After 31 years with Hewlett-Packard, Gordon Nuttall was just one year shy of earning full retirement benefits when he was laid off in October 2008. "It was a bit of a surprise," says Nuttall, who'd worked as a software program manager. "And management wasn't willing to make an exception for me."

Not ready to retreat from the workforce anyway, Nuttall began searching for a position like the one he'd had. What he found was a saturated job market.

"Because I was networking so much, I could see there was a wealth of talent available -- people who were downsized or had decided against retirement because their 401(k) had shrunk to a 201(k)," he says.

Send The Help Desk your questions about running a startup.

After discovering kinship with a group of five other tech castoffs, however, he became convinced that together they could form a blockbuster startup team.

Nuttall, who'd been part of a group that launched several lines of business within HP (HPQ, Fortune 500), began tossing around product ideas.

The six settled on one they found particularly promising: a portable, battery-operated scanner that could store images on a flash memory card.

The technology for such a device already existed. So did the audience, they figured: Scrapbooking hobbyists -- a universe of at least 17 million -- would be likely to want such a scanner, since it would allow them to digitize photos and heirlooms when away from a home computer.

Nuttall and one of his partners worked up a business plan. Another member of the team, an expert in supply chains, arranged for them to visit manufacturers in Asia.

In January 2010, Couragent -- a name reflecting the founders' shared spunk --officially launched. By October, they introduced the Flip-Pal scanner, at a retail price of $150.

At first, Flip-Pal was sold only over its own website, but after Nuttall sent a sample to Amazon.com, the online giant agreed to carry it.

In November a segment on the Home Shopping Network resulted in sales of about 700 devices. "The network's fulfillment partner ran out of product!" says Nuttall, who is CEO. Fortunately, Couragent's staff -- one other full-timer and 24 independent contractors -- had prepared for the possibility, making sure the company had extra inventory ready to go.

This year Nuttall expects revenue to hit $2.5 million. He'll take home about $16,000, a fraction of his previous $170,000 salary. But in five years, he envisions matching his prior pay, while running a $16 million company with five products. (Couragent just announced a commercial version of Flip-Pal designed to scan full-page documents.)

"We're doing interesting work in a creative environment," says Nuttall, who owns 26% of the company. "This is exactly what I was looking for."  To top of page

CNNMoney Sponsors
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.