By Katie Carson
More than 100 young automotive industry innovators and entrepreneurs entered into the running for the chance to present their new product or service to a judging panel made up of industry leaders at the fifth annual SEMA Launch Pad, powered by YEN. Through this program, the grand-prize winner will receive a prize package to help launch his or her business into the next level, including a booth at next year’s SEMA Show to formally introduce their product or service to the industry and a $10,000 award to be used to benefit the winner’s business.
More than 18,000 votes are in, and the top 10 finalists have been determined. These young entrepreneurs will compete in the live event at the 2017 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Be sure to catch their pitches and see who will be named the 2017 SEMA Launch Pad Winner, Monday, October 30, from 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. in the Westgate Theater, Las Vegas.
In addition to the live competition, Show attendees can meet the contestants and ask questions about their products at the Launch Pad Corral, located in the Performance Pavilion. Each finalist will have a kiosk-style booth, where they will be on hand to dive into the details of their products or services and discuss potential partnerships.
Below are the 2017 SEMA Launch Pad Finalists:
Mike Alexander, president/owner – FLO Airride Manufacturing
Mike Alexander grew up immersed in the custom automotive culture of Southern California. He began his automotive career installing car stereos. Working his way up to Roadshop GM, this passion expanded toward automotive journalism.
Alexander joined McMullen-Argus, where he managed several newsstand publications. He later launched Slam'd Magazine, which gave way to an obsession for improving both form and function in today’s Airride markets. Thus, FLO Airride was born. Through his background in media and marketing, he has since built a word-class team with FLO Air Supply Co., and looks to expand multiple product lines in the coming years.
Carl Borkholder, owner – Gen-Y Industries
In 2001, Carl Borkholder was employed at a trailer manufacturer in Indiana, and in 2005, he purchased a tree-removal service. It was while running this company that Borkholder discovered that an innovation in the hitch industry was sorely needed, and in 2010, the GEN-Y hitch was born.
In just five years, Borkholder’s passion for innovation and customer service has led him to receive patents on a dozen different GEN-Y hitch solutions. Foremost of these is the groundbreaking GEN-Y torsion system, which has both a design and utility patent and is seen in several GEN-Y products.
Tom Burden, CEO/founder – Grypshon Industries LLC
Tom Burden is from the small town of Celina, Ohio, and is an F16 mechanic in the Air National Guard. He was frustrated by his tools sliding off the aircraft and the time he wasted searching for lost hardware. Burden began looking for a solution and wanted a simple way to secure his tools and protect the multi-million-dollar aircraft that he was assigned to service.
With the skills gained as a mechanical engineering student, Burden started prototyping a non-slip rubberized tool tray in his basement. After three years, he created what is now called the Grypmat.
Matt Corish, co-founder – V12LS.com
Matt Corish is an entrepreneur from Baltimore who has held executive roles in the manufacturing sector, along with founding automotive and technology startups.
He founded V12LS.com with his brother Shane, an accomplished engineer from Melbourne, Australia, in 2015. This is their second business venture together.
Gregor Hanuschak, founder – Smack Innovations
Gregor Hanuschak has an MBA from MIT Sloan, and engineering degrees from both Stanford and Harvard Universities. He was a founder or original employee for three other startups before this one (GetAround, Planetary Resources and DemandVille), and has a background in business development (he raised more than $2 million for NASA) and management (he managed a $17-million program and 160 people at NASA headquarters).
On the technical side, Hanuschak is a former Lockheed Martin engineer (flight software for satellites/satellite simulators), and he built the initial hardware and software for SafeConnect and the Deluxe model, which allows drumming on your steering wheel.
Ben Horst, president – Eddy Motorworks
Ben Horst graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering and chemistry before obtaining his master’s degree. He led his own research, developing software tools to simplify electric-vehicle design for smaller manufacturers, while building his own electric and hybrid vehicles on the side.
After bringing those prototype vehicles to car shows all over Georgia, Horst learned that the demand for custom, unique electric cars was much larger than the market satisfied, and with that in mind, he founded Eddy Motorworks.
Brian Pierce, CTO – Delicious Tuning
Brian Pierce is the CTO and engineer behind Delicious Tuning products. He sharpened his engineering skills in the aerospace industry while living in the Midwest, designing, building, breaking and fixing everything from small electronics to spacecraft. Parts he’s built and tested currently circle various planets and fly through the skies above. Chances are you’ve traveled in or used something he’s had a hand in building.
Prior to working in aerospace, Pierce enlisted in the Marines, where he specialized in avionics repair. During his time off in the military, Pierce got involved in working on cars and delved into car culture.
Irina Slavina, COO – HUDWAY
Irina Slavina is one of the co-founders of Hudway. She joined the company in 2014, when the two original founders, Ivan Klabukov and Alex Ostanin, transferred operations from Russia to California and established the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles.
As a licensed attorney, Slavina handles legal and compliance work for the company. She also serves as COO. Prior to joining Hudway, she worked in top law firms in Los Angeles and Chicago.
Brock Templeman, president – Savior Products Inc.
In 2011, Brock Templeman graduated with honors from the University of Kansas with a Bachelors of Science degree in finance and a Bachelors of Science degree in marketing. Currently, he is president of Savior Products Inc., which he co-founded with his dad Jon Templeman. They originally created the Savior product line for the harsh marine and boating environment, but have since crossed over into the automotive and powersports industries.
Templeman’s responsibilities include managing product lines, spearheading new-product development and overseeing sales and marketing. During his tenure, he’s been awarded three U.S. patents with another five patent-pending applications being processed.
Edward Uehling, co-founder – King Tailgates LLC
Edward Uehling is the co-founder of King Tailgates LLC, an automotive aftermarket parts company specializing in tailgates and tailgating accessories. Building and branding growing businesses are a passion for Uehling. Having spent more than a decade in management, marketing and sales, he understands what drives success: research and insight, a relentless work ethic, a passion for learning and the patience that fosters respect and collaboration.
In 2005, Uehling was recognized in the Key Bank Keynote Speaker awards in Salt Lake City. He holds a B.A. in communications from Westminster College.