YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Ronnell Elkins has a vision for Youngstown – a bustling city center with bike lanes stretching from north to south and east to west for locals and tourists alike.
“How many of you have been to a large metropolitan city where people are walking around a bustling downtown with dedicated bike lanes?” Elkins asked the crowd at the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Shark Tank event Oct. 6. “You have people going into local businesses down in the city – don’t you wish that was in Youngstown?”
The crowd of 600 attendees saw his vision, and Elkins clinched the audience choice award and pocketed the $5,000 prize for his company, YoGo Bikeshare.
YoGo Bikeshare is a family owned and operated bike share business in Youngstown. Its mission is to foster healthy community interaction while providing an environmentally friendly alternative through cost effective transportation.
Elkins, company president, and his brother and business partner, Kent Wallace II, want to establish four charging station “docks” throughout the city. The electric bikes, which cost $1,500 apiece, can be taken from one docking station to another, providing the rider with an alternative form of transportation around the city.
Alternative transportation is particularly attractive to Youngstown residents currently as orange barrels and construction vehicles dominate downtown, Elkins said.
“We’re looking to launch this bike sharing program where everyone can be able to utilize bikes, especially with the construction going on downtown,” Elkins said, adding that public parking is sparse.
Winning the audience choice award was an honor, Elkins said, and he was “ecstatic. As we always say, YoGo Bikeshare was built from the community for the community. So to have the award from the audience was huge.”
The prize money will go toward establishing the docking stations. The overall concept of the stations was approved by the city’s design review committee in June, Elkins said.
Elkins was one of five startups to pitch their business plans to six “sharks” and was one of two companies to win $5,000. Cleveland-based Morgen Technology was selected as the sharks’ winner.
Morgen Technology is a subscription-based software system that employs wireless sensors to transmit data using patent-pending radio technology. The technology is used in buildings and provides owners with operational insight ideal for older, existing structures that lack infrastructure.
“We have no way to cost effectively benchmark and understand how our buildings are performing. Especially in older buildings. It’s very expensive to get reliable data,” Mike Smith, partner and co-founder of Morgen Technology, said.
The technology can monitor things like how much energy the building is using and how efficient the HVAC system is and can detect water leaks and even air quality.
Morgen Technology strives to be the future of commercial real estate technology by identifying and mitigating any issue within a building or space before it becomes a disaster.
Morgen provides building owners with insight through a two-prong solution: sensor technology and an artificial intelligence software platform that aggregates all the data.
The company is able to assess, detect, act and eliminate the risk before expensive damages can occur.
Mike Murphy, co-founder and partner, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the win. He said the money will go toward software development.
The sharks judging the competition were: Lenny Fisher, president of Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt; Ellen Tressel, board member for the Beatitude House, Mahoning Valley Historical Society, Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation and “We See Tomorrow” campaign at Youngstown State University; Tom Stabi, senior adviser at Schroedel, Scullin & Bestic LLC; Lena Esmail, CEO and owner of QuickMed Urgent Care; Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, entrepreneur and boxing legend; and Herb Washington, CEO and founder of HLW Fast Track Inc.
The other companies who competed were:
• Aura Beauty, founded by siblings Denise O’Neil and Michael Yaksich. The company uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to deliver perfect-fit reusable manicures to members every month.
• Tailored Rings, founded by Hunter Taylor, a custom hinged ring manufacturer that provides a perfect fit to anyone’s finger, not the knuckle. Each purchase goes toward a R&D campaign for Additive Manufacturing and Refractory Alloy Development.
• JuggerBot 3D, created by Zac DiVencenzo and Danny Fernback, an additive manufacturing machine builder with a hybrid additive system capable of processing thermoplastic and thermoset materials.
The event, held at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center in Boardman, was the third Shark Tank fundraiser hosted by YBI. It raised nearly $250,000, YBI CEO Barb Ewing said. The 2021 event raised $200,000.
“We came pretty close to $250,000, which is a significant increase from last year, and we had 600 people registered to attend, which was a 30% increase,” she said.
All the money raised goes back to YBI to continue funding its mission of supporting local entrepreneurs.
The main sponsors were the Leonard J. Fisher Family, Medical Mutual, Vince and Phyllis Bacon, Humtown Products, the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners, Commercial Metal Forming, Gasser Chair Company and QuickMed Urgent Care.
Pictured at top: Kent Wallace II and Ronnell Elkins of YoGo Bikeshare.