Entrepreneur hopes new device catches among projector users

Project Wedge offers portable projection capability for presentations

rboone@theolympian.comFebruary 2, 2014 

Project Wedge Chief Executive Robb Anthony, left, and Chief Operations Officer Ben Walker display the company’s device that turns a tablet computer into a projector.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Perhaps startup No. 16 will be the winning idea that catapults business co-founder Robb Anthony and his partners to the next level.

Anthony, a Spokane native who is set to graduate from The Evergreen State College, has been starting businesses since he was 15. He began with a T-shirt business, followed by the “cellphone life saver” — selling bags of rice to dry out phones that got wet — the electrical outlet that detects motion and a food-preservation system.

The newest idea is called Project Wedge, a device that looks like a miniaturized lectern. But connect a tablet computer or cell phone to it and it can be used as a projector, projecting images from that tablet onto a wall nearby.

Anthony and his team — co-founders Ben Walker, Keith Tatham and Mark Rentfrow — are calling it the world’s first personal projector for a tablet computer. It also is portable, weighing in the range of three to five pounds.

Existing projection systems are either too expensive or low quality, Anthony said, so they are aiming for the middle of the pack, calling the device simple, intuitive and an easy way to share images. “Sharing should not be cumbersome,” he said.

And sales of tablet computers, such as the iPad, Kindle, Samsung Galaxy and Google Nexus, are expected to soon eclipse sales of laptop and desktop computers, Anthony said.

Inside the Wedge is their proprietary projection technology, which came to be after they tore apart and experimented with used computers purchased at Goodwill.

The Wedge itself was designed with help from Mark Rentfrow, who has an MBA from Pacific Lutheran University and experience working with wood products.

That’s right: The first Wedge prototypes are wood, although they look and feel as if created out of plastic.

Rentfrow got involved, including contributing some startup funds, after he learned about the fledgling business.

“I was captivated by the fact that no one had thought of it,” he said about the projection idea. “It’s certainly hard to pass up because it is so inviting.”

Up next for the team is to raise money.

They also have a Spokane-based manufacturer lined up, a manufacturer that would make the product out of plastic.

In a perfect world, they would have $2 million at their disposal, Anthony said, but they don’t so they are trying to raise $50,000 by Feb. 13 via a crowdsourcing effort online. Money will be used for parts, space and other items needed for the business, Anthony said. The fundraising campaign can be found at campaign. projectwedge.com.

A Project Wedge also can be purchased for $157.

Meanwhile, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Walker recently graduated from The Evergreen State College, while co-founder Tatham is a student at the University of Washington. Anthony said he and Tatham are longtime friends, and that Tatham has been a sounding board for many of his ideas over the years.

Anthony recalled that Tatham thought his “cellphone life saver” idea was one of his worst.

Project Wedge

Co-founders: Robb Anthony, Keith Tatham, Ben Walker, Mark Rentfrow.

Type of business: Startup developing personal projection system for tablet devices.

Years in business: Nine months.

Online: campaign.projectwedge.com.

Advice to business owners: You have to have a sense of defiance and be defiant to those who say no or criticize your goals. “Ambition is a product of optimism,” Anthony said. Don’t be afraid to start your business — just do it — said Walker, and choose a good team of people to work with, Anthony added. He said he’d rather work with a team that communicates really well than a group that had the right skills but did not communicate well.

Did you know? Project Wedge is the 16th startup that Anthony has had a hand in creating. 

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com

Rolf Boone rboone@theolympian.com 360-754-5403

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