2006 Distinguished International AlumnusThe 2006 Distinguished International Alumni Award recipient, Don Nissanka '91, '92, is president of the U.S.-owned lithium polymer battery company, Kokam America Inc. This Lee’s Summit, MO, resident is poised to revolutionize the world’s battery industry.
Revolutionizing Battery Industry
Born in Sri Lanka and spending his high school years in Zambia, he came to the U.S. with only a suitcase and ambition. His successful career started when he was an industrial management graduate student at UCM and landed an internship with Gates Energy Products in Warrensburg.
Impressed the Right People
Nissanka impressed the right people, and his internship became a full-time job. Several career advancements and two company buyouts later (from Gates to Hawker to EnerSys), Nissanka became director of the aerospace and defense sales marketing division. He landed all major government contracts, which by 2004 had climbed beyond $100 million over a two-year period. It was a significant increase over the $250,000 in contracts gained previously in that market.
Early Success with Military
He succeeded by marketing a battery product that allowed military personnel to extend their ability to operate equipment in the silent watch mode from 30 minutes to 11 hours, greatly increasing soldiers’ safety in the field.
In the spirit of all true entrepreneurs, Nissanka continues the quest to develop and market better technology, but this time through a venture he formed with three other individuals. Kokam America is a new company with offices in Missouri and Arizona and a manufacturing facility in South Korea. The partners have plans to build a plant in Missouri, aided by $8 million in federal funding secured with the help of Senators Kit Bond and Jim Talent.
Better Battery for Everyone
If this new battery technology can benefit a tough customer like the military, other consumers can only imagine what it may do for them. From longer-lasting, battery-operated household appliances to hybrid and electric motor vehicles, if there’s an application and a market, chances are Nissanka and his colleagues are thinking about it.