By: Kaylah Magdic – Senior at Sparta High School & Marketing Student at KCTC
My initial reaction to the Inventioneer’s and their idea of the SMART wheel was not what one would normally expect from a teenager. I actually thought the SMART wheel was a very good idea, however, as they continued to talk about their product, I felt myself starting to tune out. The Inventioneer’s is a group of six kids aged 12 to 18 that spend their free time inventing. They came into the Tank asking for $100,000 in exchange for 15% of their company and first product, the SMART wheel, which is essentially a steering wheel cover made to help solve distracted driving, especially in teenagers. The SMART wheel can detect three unsafe hand positions, and beeps and flashes red when one of these positions is detected. The SMART wheel can then instantly send a record of this information to a third party, such as parents or law enforcement, who can subsequently monitor the driver’s safety.
To kick off their pitch, the Inventioneer’s attempted to simulate an accident. In other words, they had the Sharks close their eyes and then simulated a loud bang. Although at first I didn't even realize what it was that they were trying to do, I believe they were going for an emotional fear approach which could have been much better executed. After the simulation, they cited a statistic, claiming that “18 teenagers die every day in car accidents in the US”. They then mentioned with visual proof that President Obama invited them to The White House, and that Mr. Obama said that he would purchase a SMART wheel for his daughters once they come to driving age. This endorsement was certainly good leverage and possibly the highlight of their pitch.
As a senior in high school and a teenager myself, I think the SMART wheel concept is good, but that some things need to be changed. For starters, Barbara said that they should not have the wheel report to parents when unsafe hand positions are detected. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree. Parents already have to deal with the stress of having their teenager on the road to begin with, and do not need to be informed every moment their teenager is doing something that some device considers to be unsafe! Additionally, it was unclear if the product features some kind of a time limit, but if it doesn’t, there definitely needs to be one. I mean what if a person is trying to change the radio station, or is looking for something at a stoplight and the beep goes off and just doesn’t stop? Frankly, I would find this quite annoying. Furthermore, I think that the lights would be very distracting during night driving. I also believe that teenagers would find methods to get around the SMART wheel technology, as they could travel in other vehicles, find a way to turn off the beeper, take the device cover off the wheel, or even tape gloves to the wheel! However, while I don’t feel so confident in the SMART wheel being used in personal vehicles at home, I do see an opportunity for the SMART wheel to be sold to driving schools in an attempt to proactively develop good driving habits in teens.
Overall, I have to agree with one main statement made from Robert Herjavec, which is that they should sell the invention, not the product. I think the Inventioneer’s are just what their name states – inventors – and they should focus on inventing ideas to sell to other people or businesses who are more established developers. The SMART wheel is a great idea, but there are definitely a number of complications with the product.