What do an ear swab, a smartphone accessory and a math app have in common?
They are all inventions conceived by Falls Church area residents, all of whom have raised money for their products through crowdfunding. (Crowdfunding is the practice of raising money for a project from many people, typically via the Internet.)
Nami Khadem, 42, of Nami Design in Falls Church, spent more than a year obtaining a trademark and patent for his Smart Swab, a disposable medical device designed to safely and efficiently remove ear wax, unlike cotton swabs which advise on their boxes that they are unsafe for ear wax removal since they can irritate the ear canal and push ear wax further back in the ear.
Seeking to build “brand awareness,” Khadem, a 14-year Falls Church resident, has spent years in research developing health care products with his uncle and other partners.
For his Smart Swab he uses a medical grade absorbent foam which is safer than a regular cotton swab for the ears since it “captures excessive ear wax and safely removes it,” he said.
The creation of Smart Swab stemmed from a visit to his doctor who told Khadem to never use a cotton swab to remove ear wax since it is unsafe for that purpose.
In Pittsburgh last year Khadem won the juried gold medal for medical products in the competition of 850 global innovators at the annual Invention and New Product Exposition. He is working with a Chinese manufacturer to produce his product and expects delivery this year.
James Rogers, 28, a Falls Church native, was reached at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where he and his partner, Scott Bauer, 29, also of Fairfax County, were on a mission to meet buyers, manufacturers and distributors for OnYou, a mobile device with lightweight magnets (soon to become one magnet) and a compression sleeve to attach to arms, legs, backpacks, inside purses and more, to hold smartphones.
When he was out bike riding, Rogers needed something comfortable to hold his smartphone securely since it kept falling out of his pocket. Voila! A product idea is born.
Rogers enlisted his friend for 10 years, Bauer, in developing OnYou which weighs less than a smartphone, he said. The two are taking pre-orders online for $50 at rightonyou.com.
Unless you have a medical implant, OnYou is “perfectly safe,” Bauer said.
Rogers attended Northern Virginia Community College and worked for a law firm for three years, thinking he’d become a lawyer before deciding against it. He’s played in the World Series of Poker, too, and worked for a software firm.
When the News-Press caught up with him, Link Starbureiy was in Florida on a promotion and design trip, and meeting with Hillsborough County school officials to sell them on his math app, Apple Dapple.
It’s designed primarily for home and classroom use, for children ages 4 – 7 and 12 – 15, ”wherever there’s a classroom,” Starbureiy, 35, said.
The app uses a single teacher from preschool through middle school, focusing on 2D and 3D origami for younger children with a concentration on economics for older students, and it should be ready for market this spring.
Starbureiy says Apple Dapple is like a math supplement to Reading Rainbow and Mr. Wizard.
Believing that math is the most important part of a student’s curriculum, he has designed 80 development modules which contain comprehensive lesson plans with videos and instruction sheets “to accentuate the pedagogy of origami and economics.”
Starbureiy travels between Falls Church and Missoula, Mont. to meet with programmers and partners. He said he attended Fairfax County public schools and attended Ohio State University where he studied astronomy.
Customers may place orders for Apple Dapple for $20 each at edu.uuelco.me.
Unlike Rogers and Starbureiy who have used crowdfunding successfully, Khadem said he abandoned the concept since it was “a lot of work” which he did not find “very helpful.”
“Lots of social media” was required, he said. “It’s much more complicated than what you think.”
Over six weeks he raised less than five percent of his original goal of $40,000 on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, but now Khadem has a major investor and is seeking more investors and distributors for his Smart Swab.
On Kickstarter, Rogers and Bauer exceeded their crowd funding goal of $20,000 by $555 for OnYou in about 45 days.
Starbureiy’s goal for his math app is $2 million by March 31 and his crowdfunding campaign is “coming along smoothly,” he said. To expand the time to raise money, he created his own crowdfunding source at his website.
Reading Rainbow attracted $5 million in 30 days, Starbureiy said, and he believes he can reach his goal using its model.