This year’s Venture Sharks competition started with 51 companies. A dozen were selected to participate in the preliminary rounds on April 16 and 17. Then it was down to five companies, which moved on to compete in front of a huge crowd at Wednesday afternoon’s final round at the Venture Connector monthly luncheon. All five companies took home a celebratory shark bobble head, but Gear Brake, which helps reduce rear end motorcycle collisions, took home the win.
Paul Moses, Venture Connectors chairman, emceed the event at the Muhammad Ali Center. The four judges, or “sharks,” were Bob Saunders, Lou Kelmanson, Tony Schy and surprise “celebrity” shark Dan Woods. Woods is the co-founder of Make Magazine and the CEO of TechShop. Unfortunately, Woods was filling in for an absent Dee Meynard who had a death in her family.
Chris Bailey, founder of Gear Brake, presented first among the five companies. He had a fairly serious motorcycle crash after which the driver of the car told Bailey, “I just didn’t see you.” After that he didn’t enjoy getting back on his bike. “I just felt invisible,” he said.
So he created Gear Brake, an after-market motorcycle part that attaches to the existing brake lights and blinks those lights whenever the bike decelerates– whether or not the rider is using the brakes.
The company has sold 30 units and old produced 25, so they’re on back order. The team is currently building the units themselves. They’ve identified a Southern Indiana manufacturer who can take over manufacturing once they have the capital to pay for it.
Two weeks ago, Bailey filed for a provisional patent.
Bailey held up well against the shark’s nibbles. Most of the concerns surrounded scaling up the company so the team wasn’t building the units so they could focus on sales and distribution.
Dan Woods said that it was such a good idea that he was concerned that a larger company that could scale faster would get to the market faster.
The other four companies (as described by the Venture Sharks website) included:
• Louisville Fish Co., which sells live fish, fish on ice and make its own Paddle Fish Caviar. The company partners with Kentucky aquaculture producers, purveyors and distributors.
• Recovery Station, which manufactures, markets and services a kiosk that dispenses customized protein shakes in the convenience of a gym.
• YouSawMe, which has patented a retro reflective vest embedded with 60 custom-color LEDs for runners, bicyclists and anyone wanting to ensure noticeability
Gear Brake also won the audience text-in vote with 34 percent of the votes. Bailey took home $5,000 in cash and more than $6,000 in services.