Written by Kevin Volz.
There are systems for everything in the military, and attention to detail is key to mission success. When working on fighter jets, the stakes for precision go even higher, where one wrong move could have devastating results. As an F-16 aircraft mechanic for the Air National Guard, Tom Burden knows this firsthand. He used his experience in the field to create a non-slip, multi-purpose mat that holds tools for mechanics working on fighter jets.
“It’s really slick on top of the jet and there’s no place for setting your tools,” said Burden. “What you end up doing is taking a panel off and having to put your tools inside. Before replacing the jet’s panel, you must have every tool, nut and bolt you were working with. It’s not very efficient.”
To combat this issue, Burden founded startup Grypshon Industries in Toledo, Ohio, with mats that can be used on the entire jet’s surface and are structured to fit the different tools mechanics use throughout the process. Burden has a degree in mechanical engineering and was able to design and manufacture the original Grypshon prototype himself.
In order to create a sustainable business around these mats, Burden entered LaunchPad, an incubator in Toledo. LaunchPad is funded by Ohio Third Frontier and offers work space for businesses in the program, including Grypshon. The team at LaunchPad emphasizes the Business Model Canvas, which helps new companies identify and build a product around their key target markets.
“LaunchPad gave me all my business knowledge,” said Burden. “They helped me take a step back from my idea and consider if the products I developed would be useful to people other than myself.”
Grypshon received some initial market and patent research funding from LaunchPad, and Burden has been working with their team to secure additional funding. He is hoping this will make Grypshon a fully sustainable company, allowing him to widely sell both the mat and other products he has been developing.
Grypshon mats don’t stop at military-grade use. Burden has received interest in the product from commercial mechanics and DIYers. While the company is still a solo venture for Burden, there are several businesses looking to partner with Grypshon for manufacturing and facilitating testing in other markets.
“My goal is to design new products, find companies to manufacture those products and be able to widely sell those products,” said Burden.