We’ve all perhaps come up with a grand invention at some stage in our lives, maybe even cobbled together a prototype in the back shed, but Curtin Ignition entrepreneur Marc Berryman went a step further and took his concept from the backyard to the whole of Australia.
Berryman’s invention is a removable paintwork protection system for four-wheel drive vehicles. Aptly named Rhinohide, it is made from high impact ABS plastic panels that conform perfectly to a vehicle’s surface with Neodymium magnets, allowing drivers to venture off-road without worrying about scratches.
Berryman initially came up with the idea when he was 17 and badly scratched his parent’s new four-wheel drive vehicle after taking it on a road trip.
“Four-wheel drives are designed to be taken off-road, yet people are too frightened of getting them scratched,” says Berryman. “I thought, ‘there’s got to be a way to protect them from the environment that they are built to tackle.’”
However, life got in the way and Berryman shelved his idea until 2014. Growing tired of his career in construction management, he dusted off his old prototype, quit his job and spent the next two years intensely researching, developing and refining his idea.
“I discovered there was no other product like this on the market,” Berryman says. “I left my job because if I had nothing to fall back on, I would have to make it work.”
Berryman was confident in his product and knew from his research that there was a high demand for it (least of all from his parents). However, he says it was the Curtin Ignition program he undertook in 2015 that gave him the skills and knowledge needed for Rhinohide to gain traction.
“Ignition was really the turning point for Rhinohide,” he says. “The networks that I managed to create and the confidence that the course gave me to steer my business in the right direction was invaluable.”
Within three months of completing the Ignition program, Berryman received support from two sets of private investors in Perth. He also made waves in May last month when he appeared on Channel 10’s Shark Tank.
“The [Shark Tank] experience was incredible. The response has been so good. It has really increased public awareness of Rhinohide – instead of seeking out suppliers, they are now approaching me.”
Berryman’s pitch for Rhinohide earned him investment from two ‘sharks’ who are working with him to take Rhinohide to the US next year, and to develop more ‘bush armour’ that can fit other vehicle models.
Got a brilliant business idea? Applications for Ignition 2016 are now open. The program runs from 4 September to 9 September. Scholarship entries for the program close on 29 July. All other applications close 12 August. If you’re thinking about applying for the program, you can register for an information session.