Uno fires up Dragons

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Ben Gulak, fourth from left, with the Dragons

Toronto inventor Ben Gulak persuaded the stars of CBC Television’s Dragons’ Den to hand him $1.25 million for 20 per cent of the Uno on Nov. 10.

Gulak is 19 years old, but the Dragon’s Den wizards seem to feel he’s bound for great things. They were so impressed by his presentation that one of them, Brett Wilson, said, "It’s impossible not to make an offer."

The show’s premise is straightforward: people bring business ideas to the five judges, and if the judges like the ideas, they offer money for partnerships.

Gulak’s Uno, which rides on two side-by-side wheels and uses gyroscopes to maintain balance like the Segway, could be in the hands of millions of users in a few years, the judges thought, and they wanted a piece of that action.

Gulak’s prototype was manufactured for just a few thousands dollars in China and he feels the machine could sell for about $5,000. It’s battery powered and limited to about 20 km/h at the moment, but appears stable and easy to ride.

See Dragons’ Den on the Web. Look for season 3, episode 7 (start time 17:30, end time 24:45).

And here’s what CMG said about the two-wheeled Uno back in April.

1 COMMENT

  1. It’s actually not just fore and aft, but sideways too. Lean right or left, and the wheels tilt and adjust rotating speed to make the turn. It’s all very impressive for a then-18-year-old to build and program all the bits and pieces. The impressive packaging was aided by the good work of local Motorcycle Enhancements. Yeah, I’m impressed, can you tell? I’ll shut up now.

  2. Yeah, there’s really not an engineering school in Canada to compare with MIT. He’d be a fool not to take advantage of a scholarship there.

    As to the Uno, essentially at this point it’s really nothing more than a repackaged Segway that you sit on and put your legs around the wheels. Using fore and aft movements of the body to control speed and braking also seems like a hopelessly clumsy system for anything that moves faster than the brisk trot of a Segway.

    Oh well, congrats to him, anyway. It’s certainly more clever than anything I ever invented, which is to say, nothing.

  3. I think there’s more to this than him just being anti-patriotic. He’s 19 — i.e. not yet university’d — I believe he got into, or was given a scholarship to, MIT (which is in MA). MIT is a very prestigious technical/engineering school. I suspect that has as much to do with the (near) future location of the business as anything.

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