The fastest growing product design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing startup in the Southeast, Kickr Design, calls a warehouse in the Bolton neighborhood in Atlanta home.
Inside, engineers from top schools across the country are working on products, prototypes and more for major clients to hobbyists on breakout inventions with the potential to disrupt several different industries. From restaurant automation equipment to Micro C, a hand-held mobile X-ray for orthopedic surgery, to one of the first pair of force feedback gloves for virtual reality, the frontrunners at Kickr like to say they can do “just about anything” in their workshop.
Founder and CEO of Kickr Design Addison Shelton left a production engineer job with Apple in California to work on a friend’s startup in Georgia just a few years prior. The Stanford grad later branched out on his own with his mobile accessories startup TaskLab and now rides an electric skateboard to work, helping make people’s ideas into a reality at Kickr Design.
“Right now, we’re working on actively about 120 different products,” Shelton said.
Crammed in less than 100 square feet of office space during his first startup stint, Shelton and his business partner, Harold Brown, have now expanded Kickr Design to the surrounding offices in Bolton, encompassing a total of 8,000 square feet in 18 months.
“Today we’ve grown to 30 engineers and more than a half a dozen disciplines,” Shelton said.
Brown, who calls himself the “sizzle” to the Kickr steak, started guiding Shelton as a mentor with ATDC, the state’s tech business incubator, on TaskLab and later joined the team as the marketing side of the growing studio.
“I can’t think of anything we can’t make,” he said.
Some of those products are already set to break the mold of their industry, including VRgluv, an in-house startup developing force feedback gloves for virtual reality, headed by CEO Chris Taylor, a mechanical engineer and winner of the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize in 2013. After securing their worldwide patents last week, the VRgluv team will head to Silicon Valley to pitch what they say will revolutionize the world of VR to major players in the tech and gaming industry.
“It’s like the mouse to the VR world,” Brown said.
After developing the device in less than 15 months, Taylor and VRgluv’s Chief Technology Officer Derek Kearney were able to share a handshake across town using the VRgluv’s on an Oculus and HTC Vive; the technology is compatible across all VR headsets and the team hopes to enter the market at a competitive price of $400 per pair of VRgluvs.
Chief Marketing Officer Steven Fullerton said the gloves are more relatable and easier to use than handheld devices currently offered in the VR industry.
“People learn with their hands,” he said.
Not only does the tech have the capability to enhance gaming, but poses a potential for design, engineering, simulations and training across industries for workforces around the world, Taylor said.
“This is the beginning of actually getting work done in VR,” he said.
Their partnership with Kickr Design made the pace of developing VRgluv faster than anyone could have imagined, Taylor said. Instead of having to seek out engineers, team members could simply walk into the next room, ask for help from a Kickr engineer or hire them as private contractors for months on end.
“Because VRgluv had the availability use (Kickr engineers), vs. trying to hire someone, it cut their development costs by 80 percent,” Brown said.
When asked if Kickr plans to develop in-house products, Brown and Shelton said they had considered it and were even recently approached by a customer with a new prototype who suggested bringing on the company as a partner.
“We haven’t decided exactly,” Brown said. “I think that’s probably going to be the next step in our resolution…this whole ecosphere, VRglub moving it forward and these quasi partnerships with our current customers to help take them to market.”