Tires are typically made of rubber, as it’s more stable on various terrains compared to most materials. However, they are not that sturdy and generate 50 billion pounds of toxic waste every year. Earl Cole and Brian Yennie founded The SMART Tire Company – airless, shape-memory alloy tires. The founders pitched on season 13 of Shark Tank, but didn’t get a deal. Regardless, The SMART Tire Company is worth $54 million in 2023.
About the Founders
Earl Cole hails from Kansas City and although not much is known about his background, some people may recognise him from the reality TV series Survivor: Fiji.
After taking home a $1 million payday from winning the show, he became a television host and recurring guest on many talk shows. Then, he launched his first business venture, a creative management company for celebrities to get on international military tours.
Earl’s partner, Brian Yennie is a software engineer and went to Dartmouth College and Carleton College. Yennie has worked at companies including IDEX, Fanstreme, Showroom, and FunGoPlay.
Founding the Company
NASA invented shape-memory alloy tires decades ago for missions to Mars. Yennie and Cole wanted to make this technology available for normal vehicles.
The entrepreneurs licensed the technology from NASA and created The SMART (Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology) Tire Company. The two businessmen developed and worked on patents for airless tires for cars, trucks, and even bicycles.
The startup launched in 2020 and raised $1.3 million from equity crowdfunding. Despite raising over a million dollars, it wasn’t enough to build a manufacturing laboratory and hire enough staff.
Shark Tank Appearance
While still in the early stages of business, Earl and Brian appeared on season 13 of Shark Tank, seeking $500,000 for a 2.5% equity stake. Coming with a $40 million valuation wasn’t something the Sharks were used to.
The founders made a strong start to the pitch and clearly explained the main benefits of their product. The Sharks grilled them with questions but they didn’t give satisfactory answers.
The company was pre-revenue and was still working on how to mass produce the product. Cuban was turned off once he heard their prices. The Sharks weren’t interested in taking a gamble and they all dropped out.
After Shark Tank
Although the pitch didn’t go as planned the founders were eager to continue the business. They worked on new tire designs and got their patents approved.
The SMART Tire caught the attention of well-known automotive manufacturers as they closed deals with such as Kia and Hyundai Motors. The SMART Tire Company also started a Wefunder campaign, which has raised over $687,000 from 852 investors so far.
The startup hasn’t released a product yet and will need to raise more cash to keep the business going. They have 5,000 customers waiting for their METL bicycle wheelsets but need to manufacture them. This will be an expensive venture, hopefully the founders will listen to Kevin O’Leary and license out their technology. The SMART Tire Company is worth $54 million based on their latest round of funding.