Startup Aggieland client Lynx Toys has announced a licensing deal with Swimways, the world’s number one pool toy company. Lynx Cofounders Madison Jones, Jared Knowles and Matt Kinsel, former students at Texas A&M University are Young Entrepreneurs-in-Residence at Startup Aggieland, powered by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE). The three entrepreneurs have helped out around Startup Aggieland while continuing to work on their venture.
For the past few months, they also have traveled out-of-state for several meetings with prospective manufacturers and distributors. Ultimately, Lynx opted to license Lynx Toys to Swimways, which has products in nearly 50,000 retail stores nationwide, including Walmart, Target and Toys R Us. Swimways will manufacture, retail and develop the Lynx product line for distribution to major retailers by 2017.
“We were so impressed with the professionalism and creativity of the Lynx Toys team that we knew we had to license their product from them. The fact that they came to us with a major sporting goods retailer already on board really sealed the deal. We look forward to working with Team Lynx for many years to come,” said Monica Jones, vice president of marketing, Swimways Corporation.
Swimways is a leader in the outdoor recreational category with offices in Hong Kong, Virginia Beach and Tarbooro, NC. The privately-owned company has an exclusive partnership with Disney and Marvel to feature classic characters. Swimways was also named “Vendor of the Year” by Toys R Us and Target.
“We owe so much to the leaders of CNVE and Startup Aggieland, as well as our mentors Shelly Brenckman, T. Getterman, Burl Haigwood, Kelli Hollinger, Justin Burgdorff, Russell White and Harlie Frost,” said Matt Kinsel of Lynx Toys. “The guidance we received and relationships we made as students at Texas A&M have proven invaluable to our journey as entrepreneurs. We are honored to partner with such a successful and reputable company as Swimways, and we look forward to watching the growth of Lynx Toys.”
From kiosk to commercialization
Less than a year ago, Lynx occupied a free retail space in Post Oak Mall – generating national headlines for participating in a pilot collaboration between CBL Management in Waco, Mays Center for Retailing Studies and Startup Aggieland. The “UPC” or University/Post Oak Mall Collaboratory gave Team Lynx an opportunity to validate their market at a free kiosk last summer that became a popular attraction for young children who played while their parents shopped.
Lynx is a subsidiary of Defy Matter, a limited liability company launched last year by Kinsel, Knowles and Jones with the goal of commercializing patented technologies. Defy Matter currently owns two patented products: Lynx and MultiRag.
“Through our IP commercialization company, Defy Matter, we will continue to help inventors bring products to market,” added Knowles. “We have several projects in the pipeline, and we look forward to evaluating more in the near future.”
CNVE Executive Director Richard Lester and recently retired Academy Sports + Outdoors CEO Rodney Faldyn facilitated introductions to Swimways for Lynx Toys. Faldyn was a frequent speaker last year in Lester’s graduate management classes and at Startup Living Learning Community’s MGMT 289 class for freshmen.
“I am excited to see the innovation and future success of the Lynx Toys brand come to market as they enter into a licensing agreement with Swimways,” Faldyn said. “The agreement will allow access to a vast array of retail to get the product to market quicker and into the hands of families for some family fun.”
Professor Don Lewis, assistant director of Startup Aggieland, has had a strong influence on the young founders through his business advice and by making sure they participated in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that supported them by representing the business accelerator and CNVE. He provided them with speaking opportunities on campus, as well as at meetings of the Federation of A&M Mothers Clubs and A&M Clubs statewide. Professor Lewis allowed the team to remain in their office after graduation.
Retired Supercuts Southwest CFO T. Getterman has served as an advisory CPA for Lynx and has been instrumental in getting the team’s financial reporting in order. Lynx Toys’ Lead Mentor is Startup Aggieland Marketing Coordinator Shelly Brenckman, who brought the team together in summer 2014 and arranged funding for their company’s patents, travel and EIR appointments. The team also was coached in 2014-2015 by former mentors Burl Haigwood and Justin Burgdorff; and assisted by Kelli Hollinger, executive director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School.
Hollinger and David Wesson, founding chairman of Aggie Angel Network, made it possible for the three Lynx founders to travel to and participate in the National Retail Federation Conference in Seattle. Financial investments from Russell White, Harlie Frost and David Heath greatly contributed to the team’s success.
“We’ve been in the loop and trying to provide a little guidance and assistance all along. The guys did a great job and they learned a lot,” said White. “Harlie and I are glad the experiment was so successful for A&M, provided such a wonderful opportunity for the students and gave Startup Aggieland a great story to tell its’ stakeholders and prospective students.”
Other important advisers include Chris Westfall, official pitch coach for Startup Aggieland; and Startup Aggieland Associate Chris Valletta, an Aggie 100 member and Cofounder of Mission Athlete Care. Aggie IP Attorney Kevin Klughart with the Law Firm of Carstens & Cahoon and Bryan Bulte of Seed Sumo.
In all, 15 of Startup Aggieland’s mentors worked with Defy Matter over the course of two years to help the cofounders with their two patented products – Lynx Toys and MultiRag. Lynx Toys will be sold in 214 Academy Sports + Outdoors stores by summer 2017. MultiRag is ready to go into production.
“This has set us on a path we are very excited about,” noted Madison Jones, inventor of MultiRag and several other inventions that Defy Matter is working on from their office in Startup Aggieland. “None of this would be possible without the advice and encouragement we received through Startup Aggieland.”