Economic Development and Small Business & Startups

Start Garden invests in 're-invented' bike wheel, vintage campers and 'smart' back brace

February 4, 2013
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Start Garden invests in 're-invented' bike wheel, vintage campers and 'smart' back brace
The Bike Light Clip accessory can be used for safety and self-expression. Photo via startgarden.com

Three is the new two at Start Garden.

Normally, Start Garden, Rick DeVos’ $15 million seed fund, puts $10,000 into two ideas every week: $5,000 goes to an idea selected by the Start Garden team, and $5,000 goes to an idea selected by the public.

However, the Start Garden team was so impressed with two of the submitted ideas last week that it decided to invest in both of them, bringing the week’s total investments to $15,000.

The first idea selected by the Start Garden team is Bike Light Clip. The idea involves a luminous wire that customers can attach around their bike wheel — allowing drivers to see them in the dark.

“It attaches to the spoke nipple as opposed to the spoke, making it transferable from bike to bike,” idea creator John Ferguson writes on his Start Garden page. “It is light and small and does not interfere with cycling performance. It is a safety device and a method of expression. We have, in a way, re-invented the wheel.”

The second idea selected by the Start Garden team is Exo Dynamics, a specialized back brace that allows for a greater range of mobility, as well as pain relief.

Start Garden team members picked the idea out of nine ideas pitched to them at an event through University of Michigan's 1,000 Pitches program.

“Our idea is an adaptive, electromechanically controlled back brace,” idea creator Jorge Sanz-Guerrero writes on his Start Garden page. “This smart brace can move and adapt with wearer motion and maintain support through a wide variety of postures, thus, substantially reducing the strain on the lower back muscles and spine. We call this ‘motion-following’ technology.”

The idea selected by Start Garden’s web visitors is Retro Rentals, a camper trailer rental business, specializing in a glamorous or “glamping” travel experience.

Each camper is designed with a theme, including Motown Motel, a 1955 Detroiter, My Blue Heaven, a 1958 Tour-A-Home, and the Travelin’ Tortoise, a 1940s Teardrop.

“We are different in that we would rent vintage campers," idea creator Shelley Bard Austin writes on her Start Garden page. "We offer a unique experience in camping with a very different niche in the rental business. We hope to restore and rent 10-20 different campers and also offer them for sale. We can also restore campers people may already own. We also would like to expand to other states eventually.”

Start Garden’s next Update Night is Thursday, Feb. 28. 

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