The winning team produced Maqion, a cloud-connected lock that confirms safety certification before enabling access to heavy equipment. Photo by Mike Nichols
The 5th annual Startup Weekend wasn’t only a testament to West Michigan entrepreneurs, collaboration and hard work.
It was also a testament to how the talent that comes out of GR Makers just plain gets stuff done.
This year’s annual pitch and build startup competition, hosted by The Factory space in downtown Grand Rapids, echoed last year’s event. The winning team once again turned out to be made up of people who already were efficient at working together — although this time it wasn’t Kendall College of Art and Design students.
Four of this year’s six-person, first-place team attend GR Makers, an open community lab that combines elements of a machine shop, a workshop and a design studio inside a 3,200-square-foot space at 401 Hall St. SW.
GR Makers, which runs a free social gathering from 8 p.m.-midnight every Wednesday, is also where the winning idea first came into existence.
“A large portion of us from GR Makers … have a need to lock down our tools and make sure the right people have access to them,” said Samuel Bowles, who served as the team’s business strategist. “So it’s out of the conversations of how to do that, that this idea was born.”
The team developed its idea into a product it calls Maqion, a cloud-connected lock that confirms safety certification before enabling access to heavy equipment and possibly dangerous power tools. Using Instant Lock technology — a type of file security software that locks data — Maqion, a play on the Spanish word for “machine,” allows users to manage machine lockdowns based on safety concerns such as certification, fatigue times, time of day, or employment changes.
The Maqion team was comprised of Bowles, who handled business strategy; Rich Evenhouse, who handled marketing and branding; Abigail McClung, who handled website and interface design; Mark Farver, who handled electronics and embedded software; Mark Van Holstyn, who handled the web app, site and business strategy; and Ryan Quellet, who handled 3D CAD modeling, renderings and created the physical prototype.
Quellet said the product, made using 3D printing and acrylic, was created in both The Factory and GR Makers’ space.
After a long weekend of developing, marketing, creating and using the lock system, the Maqion team took its place that Sunday before the event’s seven judges: Rick DeVos, founder of Start Garden; Sheila Eddy, Smith Haughey attorney; Laura Vaughn, founder of Sitting in a Tree; Felip Ballesteros, GR Current marketing manager; Terri Shapiro, executive director, brand media relations at Deluxe Corp.; Erik Hall, manager of coLab and president of Lee Shore Ventures; and Michael Marsiglia, vice president of Atomic Object.
The judges voted the team the winner of the $1,000 first prize and for having the Best Business Model, an additional prize of $500.
What’s next for the team involves sleep and more discussions about their product. McClung and Evenhouse, who were the only members of the team who hadn’t attended GR Makers, said they would like to so in the future.
“We came in with an idea to solve a problem that we had. Now that we’re done with this and we’ve gotten the interest that we have, we’re confronted with the reality that we may just have a business,” Bowles said. “So we need to figure out how to do that.”
Aaron Schaap, leader of The Factory and host of the event, praised the team’s efforts, reflecting on the fact that the event was starting to see more physical products as part of the pitches.
“One of the trends we’re starting to see beyond software apps is it’s starting to creep into the physical products,” he said. “I think we had a really good turnout last year with Kendall College winning for U-Turn, and this year with Maqion.”
Startup Weekend at The Factory has grown every year, but it might need to be capped at 150 in attendance, which it reached this year, Schaap said.
“What we might find ourselves doing, potentially, is more startup weekends throughout the year around certain verticals,” he said. “So we might have Startup Weekend: Health Care, or Startup Weekend: Education, or a Startup Weekend just for (students) focused on a specific initiative.”