Spring Loaded Technology of Halifax has landed a $100,000 investment from a prominent Halifax tech entrepreneur, validating not only the company’s product, but also entrepreneurship courses at the region’s universities.
John Hamblin, the president of Clarke IT Solutions, has invested in the company, accounting for one-fifth of a seed funding round with a target of $500,000. The money is helping the company protect its intellectual property and further develop its prototype.
Spring Loaded Technology is developing a knee brace that not only stabilizes the joint but also strengthens it, enhancing the strength of the user’s quadriceps. The product would grant greater mobility to people who have difficulty moving because of age, disability or obesity, or could improve athletes’ performance.
The Spring Loaded product looks like any knee brace, but when the user crouches, it stores the energy produced by the movement. Then when he or she straightens the knee, the brace releases the power, adding to the strength of the motion.
The three co-founders — Dalhousie University students Chris Cowper-Smith, Bob Garrish and Shea Kewin — developed the project in the university’s Starting Lean course, and Hamblin was in the crowd when they presented the company at the course’s demo day in December.
“Being someone with a bad knee, I saw it as being a great opportunity,” said Hamblin. “If it does even 50 per cent of what they said it would do, it will be great.”
He added he was impressed with the team, which combines Cowper-Smith, who’s completing his PhD in psychology and neuroscience; Garrish, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering; and Kewin, a high-performance athlete.
The founders intend to license the product to a maker of knee braces and hope to have an initial product on the market in mid-2014. They have recently begun patenting their knee brace, filing for two provisional patents last week.
The company has also been collecting awards. It placed second last Friday in the Pitch101 Halifax event, and won the $5,000 first prize at the Innovative Ideas Competition, part of the Students in Business Program.
What’s impressive about the Spring Loaded story is the three founders have only known each other for six months. Kewin came up with the idea after he suffered a knee injury playing hockey. He showed up at the starting lean introductory session in September, pitched his idea and Cowper-Smith and Garrish both stepped forward to work on it with him. Six months later, they have a funded company with proprietary intellectual property.
Spring Loaded is a great example of the serendipity being created at university entrepreneurship courses, but it isn’t unique. It’s not a coincidence that three of the five finalists in the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s Breakthru competition have come from the University of New Brunswick’s technology management and entrepreneurship course.
Hamblin, who is also the Halifax curator of Startup Digest, is proving to be a strong force in working with young entrepreneurs in the region. As well as his work with Spring Loaded, he was an early backer of CompCamp, the group that holds computer camps and training programs for teens.