If you were watching Shark Tank in October 2015, you probably remember Ryan Frayne's unique pitch. The founder of outdoor gear company Windcatcher listened patiently as the sharks fought over his business that boasted of investable technology -- a few breaths are all that's needed to inflate Windcatcher's AirPad. Memorably, Frayne wrote down the specifics of each offer on the palm of his hand. The genius inventor, apparently, needed neither a notepad nor to hold eye contact with the sharks in order to impress them into investing.
But it turns out that when Frayne's episode aired, his company was already embroiled in a legal battle. Lori Greiner was no longer an investor and Frayne himself was fighting a life-threatening health battle. As a new article in Inc. describes, Frayne discovered another company was apparently using the technology before his Shark Tank episode aired. During a trip to Asia to check on manufacturing after his Shark Tank appearance was taped, family and friends congratulated him on a licensing deal -- that he'd never made.
What ensued was a series of legal wranglings. At the time, Windcatcher products were not patented and another company seemed to have integrated the inflation technology into its products. Despite the lack of patents, lawsuits swirled back and forth. According to Inc., these events "nullified" the deal with Lori Greiner, leaving Frayne without a Shark Tank investor. On the program, Greiner had agreed to invest a hefty $200,000 for five percent of the company, the equivalent of a $4 million valuation.
#2015...a wild year, topped up when founder Ryan's #sharktank pitch went crazy on #reddit #windcatcherdude pic.twitter.com/yUvvhQdlC5The legal hassles were only the beginning. Frayne discovered the same day he was due to a meet with a lawyer to protect Windcatcher that he had terminal pancreatic and liver cancer. While in China, Frayne had experienced stomach issues that eventually led him to seek medical attention.
— Windcatcher (@WindcatcherGear) January 1, 2016
View our Top 2016 #Camping Gadgets, including the super fast @WindcatcherGear air mattress! https://t.co/XjArmuOwF7 pic.twitter.com/y8YEe7jV3FEventually, Windcatcher got its patents and settled with the company Frayne fought so hard against, all the while undergoing aggressive cancer treatment. Part of that settlement is a non-exclusive license to use Windcatcher's inflation technology.
— VoucherCodes.co.uk (@vouchercodesuk) August 5, 2016
As Frayne continues to fight his own health battles, he's been forced to think of a succession plan for Windcatcher. Greiner had called Frayne a "fellow inventor," when he was on the Shark Tank carpet. It's tough for a company to continue when it revolves around the ideas of one particular person, however, so Windcatcher may continue to explore the route of licensing going forward.
For the moment, the company is run by a tightly-knit group of individuals, including Frayne's childhood friend Oren Hanson, who is the Chief Operating Officer. Both of Frayne's parents have operational roles in the company. Out of necessity, Frayne's health has become his primary concern.
Although Greiner's Shark Tank deal with Windcatcher fell through, Frayne said she remained open to hearing about his future inventions. Being open to new innovations and new possibilities is at the root of some of the show's most successful deals and more memorable entrepreneurs.
[Featured Image by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]