RALEIGH—When she was 3 years old, Quinn Riddle slipped away from her father when he briefly checked his phone in a crowded mall and was lost for more than a half-hour, leading to a shutdown of the entire mall until she was discovered hiding under a rack of clothes with her eyes closed, afraid she would be taken by a stranger.
Some 16 years later, Riddle found herself on stage last night at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theater holding the “championship belt” that went to the winner of the fourth annual RIoT Pitch Night. The now-19-year-old junior at High Point University pitched the EverSafe bracelet, an adjustable, lockable, uncuttable wristband that enables parents to track their child’s location—especially in places like busy malls.
Tuesday’s event held in front of some 400 members of the Triangle startup community capped RIoT’s inaugural Internet of Things (IoT) accelerator, a 12-week program with a first cohort of seven companies. After all seven presented to the audience and fielded a few questions from the judges, Riddle came out on top.
“It was clear that she has really done her homework,” said Lister Delgado of IDEA Fund Partners, who said he needed to do some “arm-twisting” with some fellow judges to ensure that Riddle won. “She understands her market and the competition; I love that. I thought her product was doable and practical. I could see people actually paying for it.”
Riddle came up with the idea for EverSafe last fall in an entrepreneurial class taught by Professor Troy Knauss. Says Riddle, “He asked us to think of the biggest frustrations in our life, and to come up with a solution.” Riddle thought of her experience babysitting for her three cousins, all under the age of 6: “I struggled to keep track of them because they’d all run off in different directions. They did it to spite me.”
She listed her EverSafe idea—she already had the name—under “E” as part of a brainstorming exercise to come up with a concept for each letter of the alphabet. Krauss circled EverSafe and wrote, “This is the one! Go for it!” Riddle has saved the paper, which would look good on the wall of a future EverSave HQ.
Riddle drove an hour and a half each way this summer from her home in Greensboro to the RIoT accelerator in Raleigh, but she believes the program—particularly mentors like Liz Tracy, formerly the Director of entrepreneurial community and co-working space HQ Raleigh—was worth every minute behind the wheel. She plans to begin a pilot program with parents and kids testing prototype designs within 60 days, and aims to launch to the market next summer. She estimates that she’ll need $200K of seed capital to get to launch, which was one potential benefit of publicly pitching last night.
EverSafe will go after both a B2C market, especially concerned parents, and B2B targets such as theme parks, resorts, cruise lines, and zoos. She says that Disney World, for instance, “loses” 17,600 kids a year—temporarily, thank goodness, but still terrifying for the affected parents and kids. That’s a pain point that she believes the EverSafe will solve better than the current competition, especially due to its patent-pending adjustable locking mechanism that includes bluetooth.
Riddle will continue as a fulltime student—in fact her first day of classes was yesterday—but says her professors (like Knauss, who was also a RIoT judge but abstained when Riddle’s name came up for vote) are very understanding if her business takes her to Raleigh and she needs to miss classes. She’s mostly taking classes in entrepreneurship, anyway, so she’s learning by doing. A beaming Knauss, saying, “I’ve always had confidence in her,” is certainly eager to encourage her, even if it means less time in his classroom.
Riddle also impressed Tracy, her RIoT-assigned mentor: “She’s incredibly tenacious, very driven, asks good questions. When she’s presented with an opportunity, she really executes and makes the most of it. She just eats it up.”
Now Riddle and EverSafe hope to take a bite out of the IoT market.