Bend-based WingoCase makes holding devices easier
Feb 14, 2022
Read the original article by Suzanne Roig here:
Cole McGowan had an “aha!” moment a few years ago when he saw that his dad had taped a ruler horizontally to his Kindle to ease his clenched hand.
That 12-inch ruler sparked the beginnings of a Bend-based company called WingoCase, an engineered, rotating, hands-free stand for tablets and smartphones.
“I realized there was a large gap in the market that this addressed,” said McGowan, WingoCase chief operating officer and founder. “I brought in several development/engineering types to develop an ergonomic tool to attach to these devices.”
McGowan, who now lives in Bend, thought the Central Oregon community was a good place to establish WingoCase — and he’s not alone.
Bend is fast becoming a mecca for entrepreneurs. Some say it’s because the community is so collaborative and supportive of one other’s efforts. Others say that Bend attracts like- minded people who tap into the vast array of business resources at Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University-Cascades CoLab.
“There’s resources that provide a lot of support,” said Elise Rossman, Economic Development for Central Oregon director of marketing and communications. “There are a lot of second homeowners who are semi-retired and offer their support and knowledge to these starting companies.”
The community also offers financial support. Each year the Bend Venture Conference, sponsored by the Economic Development for Central Oregon, offers new ventures a chance to pitch products and services and compete on stage with others for venture capital. WingoCase did that in 2017 and was selected an Early Stage semifinalist in the annual competition among start -up businesses developing a product or service.
In 2020, the company was featured in a monthly PubTalk put on by the economic development group, Rossman said.
WingoCase is an entrepreneurial venture that is just beginning to launch its product. It is being backed by some industry heavy hitters who act as advisers and board members. To date, WingoCase has received about $3 million in private investor funds.
It was the ingenuity that attracted Joe Abrams to invest and become a member of the board of directors. Abrams was the co-founder of the parent company that owned Myspace, a late 1990s social media platform. Over the years, Abrams said he developed and sold companies.
“If you really believe the product is right, then sometimes, your best customers are those who don’t feel they need it,” Abrams said. “I’ve always felt that consumers are really smart. If you make a great product and get it in the hands of people, they’ll tell others.
“That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Abrams said when he looks to invest in a company, he looks at the product or services and then at the people involved. “I liked the people,” said Abrams.
“I looked at the product and liked it. The best resume of a company is the product.”
WingoCase — a stand that extends beyond a phone or tablet’s perimeter and allows the user to have several holding options — is about to launch its product in the marketplace to several undisclosed companies.
Over the next year, sales are expected to hit about $9 million, swelling to about $20 million the year after, said company CEO Steve Elwell, who has been involved with four startups over the course of his career.
Over the next few weeks, WingoCase will begin to be used by airlines and health care professionals, said Elwell. The product will be shipped from Bend at The Collective Pallet but is not made locally, Elwell said. Eventually he’s hoping to have the product made in the United States.
“The whole thing with this is employees and people first,” said Elwell. “Every decision we make we do with people in mind first.”
Everyone is holding a device right now, Elwell said. WingoCase is ergonomic and uses a patented Variable Angle Stand Technology that the company calls VAST that creates a stand that can adjust to any angle without modifying the stand.
John Lewis, an early tester of the product, said the loop design helps ease hand fatigue. He said he first saw the WingoCase at a hockey game where Lewis’ and Elwell’s kids were playing. The loop is attached to a case that also protects the phone from slips and drops, said Lewis, who lives in Bend.
“The design makes the phone more ergonomic and comfortable,” said Lewis, a Bend resident. “I use it nonstop. Phones are not designed to be ergonomic. They’re designed to fit in a pocket.”