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College dropout helps General Mills with technological breakthrough

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General Mills is reaping the benefits of a new invention after adding a community college dropout to its mix.

The Business Journal says Golden Valley-based company hired Mark King, 21, of Bellingham, Washington, at $250-an-hour to design a granola-texture analyzer following an open call initiative for inventors.

King, who was unemployed prior to his General Mills gig, reportedly discovered the opportunity to work for the food maker after doing online research for "inventor-friendly companies."

The New York Times says King happened upon a website in 2011 addressing General Mills' solicitation for ideas for a granola bar texture machine. The company was seeking "a quantitative method of analyzing the texture of a chewy granola bar to assess differences in bar texture."

After an email from the company and a conference call, the inventor said he sent an elaborate computer design to General Mills. He immediately heard back from the company, which offered him $250-an-hour to build a prototype.

"I was outside myself," King told the Times. "I was going from making things out of Super Glue and bubble gum to making an analytical device for a multibillion-dollar company."

General Mills continues to use the prototype King built, a company representative tells the Times. King, meanwhile, has moved on to start a company of his own.

Details of the granola-texture analyzer are scant because General Mills is seeking a patent on the device.

King nervously tells the Times that he signed an agreement not to discuss the invention that "was as thick as my thumb."

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