By D. Ray Tuttle
Courtesy of The Journal Record
TULSA – Chris Zenthoefer, a longtime cyclist and founder of the intense, three-day Tulsa Tough bicycle festival, understands the hazards associated with racing in tight quarters alongside dozens of competitors.
He also knows accidents can happen anywhere.
“I have been around and know that crashes happen, accidents happen,” Zenthoefer said.
He also knows that people who participate in individual sports like cycling, skateboarding and motorcycle or even BMX racing enjoy taking risks.
“I’ve seen enough to know these kinds of sports people are not going to stop their behavior,” Zenthoefer said. “Nothing is going to change what some people do: They will still take corners in a race at 40 miles an hour or take their skateboard along a half-pipe.”
Zenthoefer has created a backup – what he has named the ICEdot Crash Sensor – a device that allows anyone wearing it to send a signal should an accident and head trauma occur. The Crash Sensor is attached to the safety helmet of action sport participants like cyclists, skiers, snowboarders and BMX bikers.
“People are going to do these kinds of things and this will help them act responsibility,” Zenthoefer said. “This is something I would use in my own life.”
This month a pair of investment funds managed by i2E Inc. closed a $500,000 Series A investment round in Tulsa’s ICEdot. The i2E managed funds led an investment of $1.03 million, which included co-investment from Oklahoma and out-of-state parties. The i2E investment included $300,000 from its StartOK Accelerator Fund and $200,000 from its OK Angel Sidecar Fund.
The idea was attractive to i2E for many reasons, said David Thomison, senior vice president of client services. From its offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, i2E offers business expertise and funding for Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses.
“ICEdot appeared on our radar when we became aware through general publicity of their product offering and were impressed with regard to their focused market niche,” Thomison said. “We were also impressed with the validation of their technology. In other words, their technology had progressed to where they had integrated the electronic hardware and software into a combined function.”
The ICEdot Crash Sensor detects forces consistent with a head injury, Zenthoefer said. The device pairs with a Bluetooth and signals the emergency contacts of the owner’s GPS coordinates via text message from a smartphone.
“It signals that you may need assistance,” Zenthoefer said. “It is an alarm, but not designed to go off if you dropped your helmet.
“It recognizes when you suffer a spill hard enough that you probably need to get looked at – you might have a concussion or a mild head trauma,” he said. “It’s not a diagnostic, but tracks you, and if you take a hit, you might need to be checked out.”
With exclusive license to the sensor technology, ICEdot is the only service that combines health data, sensor-based detection and notification services, Zenthoefer said.
The funding has allowed ICEdot to manufacture the first batch of 5,000 Crash Sensors, Zenthoefer said.
“Transitioning from prototypes to production is exciting and we are eager to take our product to the market,” Zenthoefer said.
There is other sensor technology being done in Oklahoma, Thomison said, and i2E hopes to leverage the core competencies in the state relative to sensor evaluation.
Officials at i2E saw the pieces coming together for technology integration that was relative to their core competencies, Thomison said.
“We liked the fact that Chris (Zenthoefer) was a relatively new CEO bringing a passion and knowledge of the bicycle market niche that they were looking to move the company into,” Thomison said. “They have a strong niche market, a focused market presence and a knowledgeable, passionate CEO. So, all those pieces made it an attractive investment consideration on our part.”
The Crash Sensor will debut in June at this year’s edition of the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough. The high-speed bicycle event is June 7-9.
The StartOK Accelerator Fund and OKAngel Sidecar Fund are two of three Accelerate Oklahoma! investment vehicles created in 2011 by i2E through a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and the U.S. Treasury State Small Business Credit Initiative.
The StartOK Fund targets companies that are in the startup stage that have not yet completed a product launch. The OK Angel Sidecar Fund specifically targets opportunities to invest alongside Oklahoma angel investors.