Windcatcher Before Shark Tank
The ingenuity of some people can leave us mere mortals breathless with admiration, but Ryan Frayne from Portland, Oregon invented Windcatcher, a clever gadget that helps users avoid getting breathless in the first place.
Ryan’s moment of inspiration came during a family outing to the beach. He was watching his brother try, and mainly fail, to inflate a bed and he thought that there must be an easier way to inflate something. Ryan went home and began experimenting with different types of valves and eventually he came across a phenomenon called air entrainment, that he could use to make inflating things far more effective.
Air entrainment works due to differences in air pressure, and Ryan discovered that although it was a long-established technology, no other companies were yet producing inflatables that made use of it, at least not for commercial applications. He developed a prototype of an inflatable he called an Air Bag, it could be inflated with minimum effort using a valve that allowed air entrainment, but Ryan had invented a unique valve, that also allowed the airbag to be deflated in seconds.
Ryan followed a tried and trusted route for inventors hoping to turn their ideas into actual products, he turned to the crowdfunding community at Kickstarter and launched a campaign in May 2013. He set a goal of $50,000 for the month-long project, mainly to pay for the set-up costs of the manufacturing process, and the response from backers at Kickstarter could not have been more positive. When the month-long campaign had finished Ryan had achieved backing of almost $150,000, nearly three times the amount he had been seeking, but Ryan had big plans for the future and knew that in order to make the millions he was sure his invention was worth, he needed the help and contacts that a business expert could provide. With that aim in mind, he applied for Shark Tank and appeared on the show in October 2015.
Windcatcher On Shark Tank
Ryan hoped to gain an investment of $200,000, and a shark partner, in exchange for an 8% stake in the Windcatcher business when he appeared on the show. He began his pitch by telling the sharks that inflating objects had always been a huge pain, the process could take forever and it involved putting your mouth on a valve that might be covered in germs, but the Windcatcher airbag was different, because of the valve that Ryan had invented.
The entrepreneur unrolled a man size air bed across the carpet and demonstrated how easily it could be inflated. A few breaths later and it was fully pumped up. The sharks were impressed, Mark Cuban seemed to be disbelieving his own eyes and considering the possibility that he had just witnessed a magic trick, but the performance wasn’t over yet. Ryan revealed that the bag had been designed to be easily folded into three layers, and just like that it was transformed into a comfy seat.
All the sharks were caught up in the magic of the moment, but Ryan had, even more, benefits of the Windcatcher business for them to consider. He told them that the valve he had designed was capable of allowing the airbag to be deflated in seconds and the practical applications of the Windcatcher technology were virtually endless. He finished up the pitch by asking the sharks which one of them was ready to help him ‘Blow away the competition’.
Likeable Ryan had made a good solid pitch, and the quick demonstration of the airbag had been highly impressive. Robert Herjavec was quick to commend his professionalism, but Kevin O’Leary was still puzzling over the speed of the inflation of the airbag, ‘You’re going to tell us how it works right?’ he asked Ryan
Ryan explained briefly about the phenomenon of air entrainment, and without getting too technical, informed the sharks that it was caused by differences in air pressure, and it could be used to inflate the airbag ten times faster, just by using his unique valve. Kevin inquired how much the Windcatcher airbag cost and Ryan revealed that it retailed for $99.
Guest shark Chris Sacca wanted to know if the airbag itself was special in any way, or if only the valve was unique. Ryan told him that the valve itself was the unique thing about his airbag, but the ability to fold it up was an original design.
Lori Greiner asked if Ryan had a patent for his product, and he confirmed he had been awarded a utility patent for the device. He was asked by Chris if he had an engineering background, and quite surprisingly, it turned out he didn’t, but he told the sharks that he had been interested in inventing things for a long time. At that revelation Mark Cuban gave him a silent look of admiration, Ryan was an unusual applicant, and the sharks liked his style.
Kevin O’Leary wanted to know what Ryan’s strategy for the future of the business was, did he want to license the technology out to manufacturers of other products, or did he want to design his own range of products using the technology? Ryan told him he wanted to pursue both avenues as there were plenty of applications for the valve that was yet to be developed.
Kevin could see that Ryan was ‘A very inventive guy’, but he cautioned the entrepreneur that building a business required a very different skill set. He asked how much Ryan ‘coveted’ his equity. Ryan replied predictably that it was extremely valuable to him. Kevin then announced that he had a suitably inventive offer for the inventive entrepreneur. He would supply the $200,000, but not as an investment, as a venture debt. He explained that he would recoup the money, with a 6% royalty on sales, until he had been repaid $800,000, and then he would receive 3% equity in the business.
Ryan seemed less than enthusiastic about the offer. Kevin told him that he would only lose 3% of the business, but Ryan had a problem with paying back the loan immediately and was unhappy about the 400% repayment level. Kevin suggested he make a counteroffer, but Ryan’s inventiveness deserted him as he seemed unable to decide on an alternative deal.
Eventually, Lori Greiner gave Ryan an alternative. She offered $200,000 investment, in exchange for 15% equity. ‘Ouch, that sounds expensive’ remarked Kevin, but Lori continued. She told Ryan that she was greatly experienced in launching new products and achieving high levels of sales on those products.
Chris Sacca offered to join Lori on her deal, and she was happy to include him in the proposal, as he could provide lots of value to the marketing side of things, but she announced that in order for both her and Chris to get a reasonable level of equity, Ryan would need to give up 20% of the business.
‘Ouch, I wouldn’t do that Ryan’ advised Kevin, although Ryan seemed completely disinterested in his deal. Robert Herjavec had a third offer for Ryan to consider, he proposed a $200,000 investment in exchange for just 10% equity, and with that, the Shark Tank erupted into a frenzy as the sharks all fought to gain a deal with the inventive entrepreneur from Portland.
Lori improved her joint deal with Chris to $200,000 for 15% equity, Chris seemed slightly taken aback by the fact she hadn’t consulted with him, but he went along with her suggestion anyway.
Ryan was looking pleased with the wealth of offers open to him, but also slightly overwhelmed by the vying sharks. He asked Robert if he would include a $10 million line of credit in the deal, to fund purchase orders.
Kevin interrupted before Robert could reply, he revised his offer so that he would only receive 2% equity of the business once the loan had been repaid. Robert answered the previous inquiry. He wouldn’t offer $10 million in credit, but he would fund the purchase orders.
Mark Cuban was the only Shark without an offer for Ryan, but he made it a full house now. He offered $200,000, in exchange for only 8% equity, and he would also fund the purchase orders.
Robert quickly improved his own offer to only 6.5% equity, and Kevin said he would accept just 1% of the company, Ryan looked astounded at the events in the tank, but Lori Greiner was about to pull the most brutal move of all, and on guest shark Chris Sacca too.
She told Ryan she would give him the $200,000 in exchange for just 5% equity, on her own without Chris, she would also fund the purchase orders, but Ryan had to accept her offer now.
‘Left at the alter’ remarked Chris, who had just learned a valuable Shark lesson, never trust the other sharks. Ryan laughed at Chris’s comment, and suddenly realized that Lori’s offer was far better than the one he had originally been seeking, he quickly accepted it, and Lori pumped her fists in celebration.
Windcatcher Now in 2024 – The After Shark Tank Update
The Windcatcher company landed a deal with Lori but it never happened as they were in lengthy litigation over various claims. Basically, a company called Cascade Designs had made a knock-off of the product using their technology. It wasn’t until other companies started notifying and congratulating Ryan for the ‘licensing deal’ that he found out.
In the end, it resulted in a legal battle. Cascade had filed a complaint against Windcatcher for false advertising and unfair competition, among other claims, despite the fact that they were the ones who made the knock-off. While Windcatcher was awarded the full patent for the Windcatcher valve in the end (the technology that the other company had copied), the whole situation had cost them a lot of money. They had to use most of the revenue that they had earned over the years to pay their legal bills, which put them back into square one.
The same month Cascade filed the lawsuit, Ryan was also diagnosed with terminal pancreatic and liver cancer. 32 years old at the time, he began making plans for the company that might outlive him. He also moved from Portland to Brooklyn, New York, to begin chemotherapy. Even while he was too weak to hold a pencil, he continued inventing. In the hospital, he conceptualized an IV stand that would automatically plug itself into the wall to charge. However, he would not have a chance to make them come true. He passed away on June 5, 2018, at the age of 35.
Prior to his death, he had planned to show his recent work to Lori, who had encouraged him to get in touch once the legal matters were resolved. He also handed control of the company to his wife, Geneve Nguyen, and his childhood friend, Oren Hanson.
In 2019, the two tried to reignite sales with an IndieGoGo campaign but it wasn’t very successful (they had wanted to produce a longer, wider mattress pad that inflates faster than the original); they only managed to raise $6,572 out of their $75,000 goal. As a result, they weren’t able to pull funds from the campaign (all backers were refunded).
Their social media accounts are also inactive. Their official Facebook page (@wincatchergear) hasn’t been updated since 2019 and the same goes for their Instagram. Their website is also inactive as of March 2024 so we can only presume that they are no longer in business. In fact, his wife Geneve had previously said in an interview that she planned on stepping back from the start-up if the campaign didn’t succeed so that’s likely what happened.