After more than three years in business, Ryno Motors has nearly finished its third and final design for a one-wheel motorcycle that’s worthy of RoboCop. It’s a sleek and sporty machine that, most importantly, stays upright and drives with ease.
Now the Vancouver start-up faces a new, more daunting challenge: funding.
“We’re stuck right now,” said founder Chris Hoffmann, a mechanical engineer with 15 years of experience in the automobile industry. “Investors love the idea but they don’t know who the market is.”
As Clark County’s economic development officials and business leaders turn to small business creation as one solution to high unemployment, Ryno’s story illustrates just how difficult that strategy will be. Finding the funds to turn innovation into solid businesses is one of the largest hurdles to job creation through small business.
Ryno faces a classic catch-22 for early-stage start-up companies, said Byron McCann, managing partner of Ascent Partners Group, a Seattle angel investment firm. Founders need funding to reach the next stage but their concept isn’t developed enough to make investors comfortable with the level of risk involved.
“A little bit clearer definition of the applications of the Ryno will help him raise money,” said McCann, who is also a co-chair of the Northwest Energy Angels and an advisor to Ryno Motors. “My sense is investors would say, ‘if you can show me you can take it one step further in ridability, then I think I’d be willing to believe there’s enough of a market that you can build a company around it.”