From the Editor: These Billings inventors may have the next big thing in eating

2013-06-01T00:00:00Z From the Editor: These Billings inventors may have the next big thing in eatingBy TOM HOWARD The Billings Gazette
June 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Now that Karl Schwartz and Kevin Scharfe have exceeded their goal of raising more than $20,000 via Kickstarter, surely it’s just a matter of time before we see them and their invention on “Shark Tank.”

The two Billings inventors chuckled when I posed that question to them a few weeks ago when we sat down for an interview. They already have their financing all lined up, but they’re not ruling out any possibilities, including making their pitch to celebrity business owners who can smell blood in the water.

Their invention is The Ripple, a detachable plate and bowl combination that can be held in one hand. The two pieces separate by a quarter-turn arbor connection that works a little bit like a camera body and lens. It provides an interesting twist to traditional eating utensils and is designed with modern lifestyles in mind.

Kickstarter helps entrepreneurs raise money through crowdfunding. You post your product or project on the Kickstarter website, and ask people to make investments ranging from $10 to $1,000 or more. In exchange, investors typically get a sample of the product or other rewards. One thing that’s unique about Kickstarter is that it’s all or nothing. If the fundraising goal falls short, nobody has to pay.

Kickstarter launched in 2009, and the Ripple is among a small handful of Billings-based projects that have been funded. Earlier this year James Bolenbaugh successfully raised $7,761 to fund the Beringer Guitars interactive museum, which features instruments made by his late grandfather, Ted Beringer.

In case you haven’t seen it, “Shark Tank” is an ABC reality-based TV show that matches famous business owners — NBA owner Mark Cuban is the best known of the bunch — with entrepreneurs who are searching for venture capital.

It’s one of the more intriguing reality shows on TV because it features real people who need help to develop an invention or a business concept. Of course the Sharks are looking for return on their investment. They bombard the entrepreneurs with questions about annual sales, margins, profits, distribution networks, all the kinds of questions one would expect from a venture capitalist.

It’s fun watching the inventors go through agonizing mental calculations when Cuban or Kevin O’Leary dashes their dreams with a lowball offer.

But people’s crazy ideas remain the most intriguing aspect of “Shark Tank.” One guy invented a belt buckle that doubled as a beer holder. Somebody tried to sell the Sharks on the idea of cupcakes in a jar. Another guy brought in a bird feeder that deters squirrels with a remote control that delivers an electric shock to the unsuspecting critter.

So, best of luck to two young Billings investors. With luck, you'll never encounter a shark.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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