College project-turned-tech startup surpasses $1M in funding
An idea that sprang from the minds of Case Western Reserve students frustrated with getting locked out of their dorm rooms is now a prominent name in the emerging technology startup culture in Northeast Ohio. On Aug. 19, Everykey Inc. announced that with the closing of its seed round of funding, the company has raised $1.1 million in funding.
Everykey Inc., led by CEO Chris Wentz, offers technology that replaces keys and passwords. Wentz and his team developed the initial concept in 2013 during a class in entrepreneurship at CWRU and kept working on the project, raising $117,054 in pre-order sales through a Kickstarter in November 2014.
The recent funding comes from a partnership with IncWell LP II, a early-stage venture firm founded by former Chrysler Group LLC CEO Tom LaSorda. Along with angel investors like Ed Cochran and SmartShape Design CEO Mike Maczuzak, Everykey raised $720,000, as well as receiving a $195,000 grant through the state of Ohio’s GLIDE Innovation Fund, a comprehensive regional innovation center, resource hub, and business incubator located on Lorain County Community College’s campus, and North Coast Opportunities Technology Fund.
Daniel Thomas, chief communications officer at Everykey, said that the excitement level there is high on all fronts. With the investment capital they now have, they can focus on further development of their product as well as manufacturing strategies to expand the growth of the company and the product itself, exploring options beyond the current wristband model designed to be the “master key” for your phone, computer, online accounts and more. The partnership with IncWell gives them inroads with the automotive industry as well, opening avenues to potential for their device to interact with vehicles down the road.
“Be strategic with who you partner with,” Thomas said of Everykey’s business relationships, a piece of advice he offers to anyone working to establish startup companies. “Raise smart money, raise relevant money — not just money for the sake of money.
With that smart money investment, Everykey’s leaders are looking ahead to the future and are proud of their roots in the region.
“We’re really happy that we were able to make it happen here (in Northeast Ohio),” Thomas said. “The resources are all there, it’s just all about follow-through. We’re happy that we can be a leader in that aspect.”
Wentz echoed the sentiment in the company’s announcement.
“We find fulfillment in providing a necessary service to people everywhere, and it feels great to see it unfold in our backyard,” Wentz said.