Sep 18, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
It all started with a practical issue. As a high school wide receiver, biomedical engineer Mike Pullen wanted a way to protect his arms while simultaneously increasing ball security. It turns out the common polyester compression sleeves on the market are very slick when they meet the ball, increasing the chance of fumbling. Fast forward several years, Mike and his roommate, fellow biomedical engineer Mat Quon, decided to take MSE 3300-Materials Science & Engineering of Sports. This class was founded and taught by Dr. Jud Ready, MSE adjunct professor and principal research engineer, GTRI. Dr. Ready founded this class to educate students on the vast field of sports technology and to get them thinking about “Creating the Next”. This course required a project where teams of students must propose, devise, and potentially prototype a rules-compliant extension to a current material used in one or more common sports. Mike decided this would be a great opportunity to further his sleeve idea. This class spring boarded what was once just an idea, to a prototype, and eventually a company.
The key difference from other compression sleeves is their patent-pending grip enhancing technology within the inner hemisphere of the sleeve, generating friction, and helping the user carry whatever may be in their arms (footballs, cardboard boxes, etc.). To further the technology Mike and Mat partnered with NexTex Innovations, a CODA based tech company founded with the goal to bring textile advances to market. They began incorporating NexTex’s new TurboDry™ technology into their sleeves, a moisture wicking fabric that transports moisture away from the wearer’s skin through the principles of biomimicry.
The product had such promise, they were chosen to participate in Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X Startup Launch accelerator program. The program provides a grant, pro bono legal services, mentorship, and more, aimed to help startups get off the ground. After the 12-week summer program, Startup Launch culminated in Demo Day, a trade-show type event where the start-ups interact with attendees from Georgia Tech, local start-ups, industry, and the Atlanta investment community. In past years, Demo Day was held at the Fox Theater, but was held online in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions.
While Pullen and Quon originally envisioned athletic use for the LZRD sleeve, they soon realized the industrial potential. Sectors such as uniform supply, warehouse, package delivery, construction, landscaping and more have jumped on the opportunity to get their hands on the LZRD Sleeve. This novel technology has garnered the attention of some of the most recognizable brands in the world and multiple Fortune 500 companies. Although neither planned on being entrepreneurs, MSE 3300 and the LZRD sleeve has changed the trajectory of their lives. Pullen is still at Georgia Tech and manages LZRD full time as the CEO. Quon, who graduated in December 2019 is currently living and working in Wisconsin, though he plans to move back to Atlanta and take his role of COO full time. To learn more, check out their website at www.lzrdtech.com.