Steamboat’s Shark Tank: Steamboat entrepreneurs get a grip on video games
December 4, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When the owners of one of Steamboat's newest start-ups brought their business plan to the local college's version of "Shark Tank," a few statistics really stood out for the judges — a $109 billion industry worldwide, with 100 million potential customers in the United States alone.
"Their product has an incredible upside," said Randy Rudasics, who manages the Yampa Valley Entrepreneurship Center at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs .
The product is a stick-on, rubbery grip fitted for video game controllers for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch.
"We started doing research and thought wow, this industry is huge," said Adam Spector, co-founder of Steamboat's own GamLokR. "There are 100 million consoles in the U.S. There are two to four controllers for every console. That's 200 to 400 million game controllers."
Apparently GamLokR owners Adam Spector and partners Gillian and Mike Morris believed serious gamers would be a lot happier with a better, more comfortable grip on their plastic controllers. After all, gamers are prone to getting their controllers sticky or slippery depending on what food and drinks are lying around, not to mention the user who is looking for any leg up on his or her gaming ability.
The Morrises were already running a different type of "grip" business, Talon Grips, which supplies easy peel-off and stick-on grips for gun owners and law enforcement agencies across the nation.
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"We came up with the (video game controller) prototype and then we sent them out to avid gamers and collected feedback. We got an incredibly positive response," Spector said.
The testing, along with a serious business plan that covered all the bases, earned GamLokR second place and $5,000 in the sixth annual business plan contest sponsored and funded by CMC, Steamboat Springs and Alpine Bank.
"I think (GamLokR) saw a need in the market place that clearly nobody else has at this point," said Kemp Bohlen, one of the judges.
"I have to admit I didn't know about the gaming industry, but they made a very convincing argument that someone younger would buy it ,and it was worth the money they were charging, which, by the way, was very reasonable," said Bohlen, a volunteer mentor for SCORE — Service Corps of Retired Executives — and a retired Hewlett Packard executive.
Co-owner Mike Morris said the Entrepreneurship Center and the business plan contest helped GamLokR razor focus on its plans, and he encourages other start-ups and entrepreneurs to lean on SCORE and CMC's entrepreneurship center.
"They had great questions and made us think on our feet," said Morris. "The most valuable feedback we received was they made us look at pricing. We were going to offer a discount but they persuaded us that it wasn't necessary. We had a new product and it's the holiday season, so why offer a discount?"
Judges also liked GamLokR's marketing plan focusing on social media in the gaming world.
"Because our demographic is so tech-savvy, they're tuned into social media,” Spector said. “We're aligning with social media influencers like YouTube and Instagram in the gaming realm."
For example, GamLokR is sending out their grips to "influencers" or people who have huge followings and will often post videos of themselves trying new gaming supplies, like the GamLokR grips.
"One guy (influencer) has 58 million people that subscribe to his channel," Spector said.
With design and utility patent protection in the United States, GamLokR should have a firm grip on the American market for quite awhile. And better yet, the product is made here in Steamboat Springs with some material sourced out of the Midwest.
"We've been a part of other start-ups. This is something that has the ability to grow and be successful," Spector added.