MALACCA: As a university student, he worked as a janitor to earn some pocket money.
Dr Gabriel Walter, 37, who studied electrical engineering at an American university, now holds about 100 patents in electronic and electrical innovations.
The Kelabit boy from Bario, Sarawak, wants to break the monopoly of foreign brands selling their products at exorbitant prices.
For example, he has introduced a big screen light emitting diode (LED) television, which includes all connecting gadgets, and priced at about RM6,000 compared to popular foreign brands that can cost almost RM20,000.
There is also a smartphone application, costing just a few hundred ringgit, that can integrate home appliances with just a cyberspace connectivity.
“I am determined to make available quality, feature-perfect appliances that can communicate with any other devices in an ad hoc network with a single connectivity.
“All these wonders are packaged and assembled here and sold at affordable prices. It is a Malaysian invention,” he said in an interview.
Dr Walter, who was a Mara scholar, studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a doctorate.
He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor from 2003 to 2009 at the university, where he was also once a senior research scientist.
Despite his long list of achievements, Dr Walter has not forgotten his humble beginnings where his father used to live in a longhouse.
At a tender age, he started selling groundnuts to help supplement the family income.
“Life was hard then. I used to work as a janitor when I was studying in the United States as the scholarship was only adequate to cover my education,” he said.
Several months ago, Dr Walter returned to Malaysia for good after receiving a government grant of RM2mil for research and development before setting up his own manufacturing plant in Batu Berendam.
“I must thank former Chief Minister Tan Sri Ali Rustam who was persistent that I should set up a plant in Malacca when he first met me in 2006 during a bio-tech conference in the United States,” he said.
Dr Walter established Quantum Electro Opto Systems Sdn Bhd (QEOS) and launched its first commercial product based on its patented high-speed light-emitting technology known as tilted charge dynamics in 2013.
QEOS is based here with an office in the Silicon Valley, California, where Dr Walter is the chief executive officer.
His university mentors – professors Nick Holonyak Jr and Milton Feng – are part of his team.
The QEOS website stated that Prof Nick Holonyak Jr is widely regarded as the inventor of LED.
The company, it said, wanted to “pioneer the commercial development of high speed, low-cost and power efficient fiber optics communication solutions”.