The Most Successful Product On Amazon Was Created By An Unemployed Computer Engineer

I love stories about how cool, everyday products come to life. For example, Flaming Hot Cheetos were invented by Richard Montanez, a Frito-Lay janitor in 1976, changing the course of snack food history forever. He rose through Frito-Lay ranks and is now a motivational speaker.

The Instant Pot — a game-changing device for home cooking — is the most-selling item on Amazon. Millions and millions of high-tech pressure cookers have been sold — And for good reason: The Instant Pot makes absolutely delicious Beef Burgundy, amongst other things. Evangelists swear by it as one of the best kitchen appliances of all time, with many editions on Amazon under $100.

In the meantime, the origins story of the Instant Pot are pretty inspiring. It’s the brainchild of a down-on-his-luck computer engineer who happened to strike gold, according to a New York Times profile on the inventor:

Mr. Wang, 53, did not set out to be a kitchen mogul. An engineering whiz who grew up in Harbin, China, as the son of two professors, he earned a Ph.D. in computer science and intended to develop artificial intelligence systems for a living. After a series of telecom and tech jobs, he was laid off from his dot-com position in 2008, just as the global financial crisis hit.

After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to start his own tech company, Mr. Wang turned his attention to kitchen appliances, a market that hadn’t yet been visited by the tech industry’s disruption fairies. A lapsed home cook whose busy schedule rarely allowed him to make healthy meals for his wife and two children, Mr. Wang recruited two other engineers and spent 18 months and $350,000 of his savings developing a high-tech device that would combine pressure-cooking, slow-cooking, sautéing and other common cooking functions in a single appliance. In a news release announcing his invention in 2013, he called it the “iPot” — an Apple homage that his trademark lawyer soon nixed.

Clearly the guy had the smarts to know how to develop something. But still, badass that he chased the dream and changed modern cooking-as-we-know-it rather than just going to drone away as a cubicle monkey for some computer company.

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