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Western Washington UniversityCommunications and Marketing
DATE: October 26, 2012 1:51:45 PM PDT
Western Washington University Grad to Pitch Self-Balancing Unicycle Tonight on ‘Shark Tank’

Contact: Mary Doherty, Western Alumni Association, at mary.doherty@wwu.edu

BELLINGHAM – Western Washington University alumnus David Martschinske (’08, Plastics Engineering Technology) will appear with the co-owner of Focus Designs, Daniel Wood, on tonight’s episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” in the hopes of securing an investment deal for their invention.

Western Washington University alumnus David Martschinske will appear with the co-owner of Focus Designs, Daniel Wood, on tonight’s episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” in the hopes of securing an investment deal for their invention, the SBU V3 (self-balancing unicycle, version 3).

The SBU V3 (self-balancing unicycle, version 3) is the latest iteration of Focus Designs’ “products for the last mile” – or personal transportation systems that help people get from the bus or train to their home, work or other destination.

“It’s uses have proven to be much more practical than we originally imagined and our customers are loving the new design,” Martschinske said. “It’s portable – easy to carry at 27 pounds – and is small enough to store out of the way at home or the office. You can’t do that with a Segway.”

Having grown up in Camas, and being a Western grad, it’s not surprising Martschinske’s company developed an environmentally-friendly product to encourage people to use public and alternative methods of transportation.

“In a nutshell, we’re a small group of tech nerds (self-dubbed the ‘N3RD H3RD’) who have a passion for creating things.  We have grown and adapted our business model to enable this passion.  We manage all sales [via the Focus Designs website], distribution channels, and are very hands-on with quality control over manufacturing,” he said, adding the SBU V3’s largest markets are the European nations and California. “In the future, we’ll be designing and licensing a variety of new cool products from recreational equipment to personal transportation.” 

Martschinske added, “Due to the uniqueness of our product we get requests from other companies needing our design capabilities… and a small consulting market has grown as well.”

Martschinske and Wood plan to capitalize on their engineering and design expertise to include a variety of motion-control devices. They are also looking to hire qualified people who want to work on these types of projects.

The partners met while working at U.S. Digital in Vancouver, Wash., (where Martschinske completed two internships as a Western student) and decided to join Wood in his entrepreneurial adventure to build an electric unicycle in 2009. Focus Designs was launched in Martschinske’s nearby hometown of Camas.  In 2011, they had their first angel investor and are now looking to build on that with a Shark Tank investor.

“We have an overabundance of resellers who want to sell them, but we have a delay in meeting the demand on the production end,” Martschinske said. “We’re dealing with growing pains – which is a good problem to have – and Shark Tank will be really good for us.”

The duo spent five days of early July in Los Angeles to film the Shark Tank episode that appears tonight. It was the week before Martschinske got married to Allison Budzier (’09 Humanities and Social Sciences), who he met while at Western. In addition to marrying a Viking, his little sister, Rachel, is a current freshman at Western.

Vancouver, Wash. Viewing Party for Shark Tank

  • When: 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26
  • Where: Big Al’s in Vancouver
  • Cost: Room is reserved, no-host bar and food

Martschinske earned a Presidential scholarship to attend Western and was a local youth group pastor. He said his favorite professor is now-retired Steven Dillman.

“If I could only take one class, it would be his Design of Experiments class,” he said. “The logic from that class has made me successful in the way I think about everything – I question everything.”

Martschinske is the second Western grad to appear on the show. Stephan Aarstol ('96), founder of Tower Paddle Boards, appeared on Shark Tank in March. He earned the backing of billionaire Mark Cuban, who struck a deal in which he invested $150,000 for a 30 percent stake in Tower Paddle Boards, plus right of first refusal on investing in any business Aarstol does in the future (a first ever offer on Shark Tank).

The Focus Designs team invites anyone in the Vancouver, Wash., area from the Western community to join them for a special viewing party at Big Al’s tonight.

If you can’t make it to the viewing party, tune in at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. Central Time) for ABC’s Shark Tank.

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