Startup develops outdoor smartphone remote
The overall winner of Startup Weekend Grand Rapids has secured an initial round of seed funding.
Start Garden, the $15-million early stage venture capital fund in Grand Rapids, said last month that it will make an initial investment in the prototype-stage company Everest and its product Hex.
Hex is a weather resistant, wireless and Bluetooth-enabled outdoor remote that allows users to access their smartphones or electronic devices.
Hex is dodecagonal shaped and designed with large rubber buttons to help the user to find the correct button while wearing outdoor gear, such as gloves while skiing or snowboarding.
With a built-in vibrating motor, microphone and rechargeable battery, Hex allows access to music controls and receiving text messages and phone calls.
Although Hex is originally designed to be worn on the arm or wrist, Troiani said there would be a number of backing mounts for the device to expand its range of applications.
Due to its compatibility with any Bluetooth-enabled electronic device, the remote would have several other potential uses: a mechanic working the garage, snowmobiling, boating in the summer and more.
“Really, the target market is anyone who does any sort of outdoor activities,” said Sergio Troiani, founder, Everest. “There is going to be a variety of different backs for the remote itself that will have suction cups and magnetic mounts. It is fully water resistant and rugged enough. We basically came up with a ton of applications, so it is really for anyone who likes listening to music while doing almost anything.”
Pricing for the device has not been determined, but will fall within a $40-to-$150 range based on the model and features included.
Troiani said the rugged remote addresses a problem with accessing a smartphone’s controls while participating in outdoor activities.
“I was on a ski trip, and I enjoy listening to music while I snowboard,” Troiani said. “The best way to do that right now is to have the Apple ear buds in your ears underneath your helmet and control it using the little controller on the headphones. The problem with that is you can’t really access it with gloves on, so when you are doing any sort of winter activity, you have to pull your gloves off and find that tiny little button control.”
Startup Weekend prototype
With several sketches and a rough idea in mind, Troiani pitched his idea at the 2015 Startup Weekend Grand Rapids competition.
Troiani and his team had a working prototype and a viable business strategy for Hex by the conclusion of the weekend. The team was made up of five other members: Tyler Gorczyca, Tyler Beckas, Ryan Peningar, Zach Williams and Alison O’Shea.
“Over the course of basically a day and half worth of work, we formulated a business strategy plan, market research, and I created the fully functioning prototype, which we demonstrated,” Troiani said.
The team also developed a working website and a promotional video, including video interviews as the team tested how responsive people would be to the idea.
Everest will use the Start Garden funds for further prototyping, additional market research, manufacturing inquiries and connecting Hex with a fund to help the startup along.
Troiani also anticipates launching a Kickstarter campaign to gain financial pledges for the Bluetooth remote.
Troiani previously received funding from Start Garden on March 6, 2014 for Kloque, an all aluminum and reception-friendly iPhone case. Since then, the idea has turned into a functioning company and is still running today.
“I had a successful Kickstarter project with that prior to approaching Start Garden,” said Troiani, referring to Kloque, which received more than $34,000 in pledges. “I am quite familiar with Kickstarter, so I definitely want to go that route again with this project.”