Desire for Global Impact Fuels Engineer Turned Businessman

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Alex Lostetter has undergone a transformation of sorts since being named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s 2004 Forty Under 40 class.

“I viewed myself as an engineer doing business,” Lostetter said of 2004, the same year he helped Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc. land $2.5 million in federal funding. “Now I view myself as a businessperson who’s also an engineer.”

However his self-definition has changed, Lostetter’s success at APEI has stayed constant. The power electronics research, development and manufacturing company has experienced 40 percent annual revenue growth since 2007, Lostetter said, and is poised for more expansion over the next 12 to 24 months.

It’s all quite impressive considering Lostetter was working with two graduate assistants in a 100-SF office when he took the reins of APEI in 2002. By 2004, APEI had increased its footprint to 2,000 to 3,000 SF and seven employees.

Today, the company’s 40 employees occupy about 30,000 SF spread across three facilities at the University of Arkansas Research and Technology Park. Lostetter is APEI’s president and CEO.

“We’ve spent the last 10 or 12 years developing products,” he said. “Our stuff is so state-of-the-art, so leading-edge, that it’s pretty much taken 10 years to get the research to the point where we can actually build something and commercialize it.”

APEI’s primary customers at this point continue to be military entities and aerospace companies, but it also is developing a plug-in charger for the Toyota Prius and does other work with companies like Siemens.

Eventually, as in five to 10 years from now, Lostetter’s hope is that APEI will be ready to manufacture products with more everyday uses.

“We know this is way out there, in terms of what we’re thinking about and what we’re developing, so we have to plan that way,” he said. “We knew from the beginning it was going to take a long time.

“And, actually, to be honest, it’s still going to be a long time to really penetrate the commercial market and make a difference for the consumer globally.”

Lostetter, 40, envisions a time when APEI’s products and systems can help consumers “reduce energy loss up to 90 percent” in terms of the personal and household electronics. APEI does that by making electronics components smaller, lighter and more efficient. It’s that lofty long-term goal that most drives him.

“Not that we don’t make profits, because we certainly make profits,” Lostetter said, “but our drive isn’t profits. Our drive is to try to develop something that’s going to have a global impact socially.”

And even though he concedes there were “a thousand points where we could’ve given up,” Lostetter said his ultimate goal never failed to fuel him.

“I never actually thought that it wouldn’t work, and I definitely never thought it’s not worth it,” he said. “I’m doing what I love and I think everybody in this company is doing what they love.

“We set up this company so that we attract free-thinkers and creative people. We have some of the best engineers, especially in power systems, that you’ll find anywhere in the world.”

In terms of advice he might offer those facing situations similar to the ones he dealt with early in his career, Lostetter said fortitude is a must.

“Be determined and don’t let somebody tell you that you can’t do something,” he said. “But you also have to be open enough to listen to what people are saying and value the input and advice that you might get.

“The other piece of advice I would have is I think the best thing you can do is surround yourself with really good people and provide them with freedom and the incentives to do great.”

That appears to be the environment at APEI, where the employment base is about 80 percent UA grads. Lostetter’s dedication to the state, in fact, is remarkable given the fact he’d only driven through it before coming to the UA to finish work on his Ph.D. –

“What I remembered the most was along the Mississippi, the Delta and that sort of thing,” said Lostetter, who grew up in Virginia, near Washington, D.C. “Then I got here, and it didn’t seem so different. Obviously, I liked it enough to stay.”