Start Garden invests $40K more in longboard wheels and baby teether


Sweet Spot Wheels gives 10 percent of all purchases to its Wheels for Wells foundation. Photo via

Update Night is the monthly event where Start Garden, Rick DeVos’ $15 million seed fund, decides which ideas stay in the funding cycle and which are cut loose.

Of the nine ideas that returned to Start Garden’s Update Night Thursday, two — Nawgum and Sweet Spot Wheels — received additional support by reaching the $20,000 level of funding.

“While these entrepreneurs did not receive the next level of funding, we are encouraged by their desire to take risks and tinker with an idea,” DeVos said. “We encourage each one of them to help us continue to build West Michigan’s startup ecosystem by becoming a Start Garden member and utilizing our networks of sponsors and advisors.”

Nawgum is baby teething device made from seamless silicon, designed to soothe a baby during oral development.

Nawgum, which received the initial $5,000 Start Garden funding in January, has since used the money to create molds for custom tooling of the product.

“Along with the purposely created design, the FDA compliant, non-porous seamless silicon grade offers a safe feeling to the parent/caregiver,” writes idea creator Sue Kellogg on her Start Garden page. “This BPA-free material also allows for easy cleaning and dishwasher sterilization.”

Sweet Spot Wheels is a company with a two-tiered mission to serve both the skateboard community and impoverished communities in Africa.

The company will make high-quality longboard wheels and donate 10 percent of all sales to fund its Wheels for Wells foundation, which would build wells in Africa.

The Sweet Spot Wheels team used its initial $5,000 Start Garden funding, also received in January, to do research and develop marketing and packaging materials.

“The longboard industry has grown exponentially in the last two years, and we are starting to see longboards emerge as a prominent commuting source,” writes idea creator Alex Bolen on his Start Garden page. “With skaters wearing through one or two sets of wheels a year, this allows our company room to flourish in a perpetually growing market.”

Two new ideas also received $5,000 each yesterday as part of Start Garden’s weekly investments through public endorsement and the Start Garden team's selection.

The Start Garden team picked Groovebox Studio, a Detroit based music company that uses Kickstarter funding to create a platform for independent artists to break into the music industry.

Funding is completely fan based through Kickstarter and will fund high-end audio and video production.

“Our artists pay us nothing! In fact, our Kickstarter campaigns are so successful, most artists end up making money with us,” writes idea creator Shawn Neal on his Start Garden page. “Our ‘One Band, One Room, One Take’ model has become one of the hottest experiences in independent music. Fans travel from across the country to Detroit to be part of the creative process with their favorite artists at Groovebox Studios.”

Public endorsement picked Autonomous Snow Plow, a robotic device that will clear a snow-covered driveway.

The tool, which looks like a droid straight out of Star Wars, could be sold for both personal and corporate use.

“We have designed an autonomous snow-removing robot that will clear your driveway continuously all night, triggered to start at the beginning of each snowfall. Think of a Roomba vacuum except meant for your driveway: Completely autonomous with no human interaction needed,” writes idea co-creator Matt Rybar on his Start Garden page. “Our goal is to perfect a standalone unit that can be sold in the retail market. This unit can be sold as an all-inclusive snow removal process for both personal and corporate use. We will begin with several prototypes sold to local customers, and grow into a larger customer base with online sales.”

Rybar co-created the plow with fellow engineers and Hope College students Scott Brandonisio and Phillip Hallam.

Start Garden’s next Update Night is April 25.

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