New Haven entrepreneur Thom O’Leary has developed a bat-shaped gadget with ten different tools — and it’s the size of a quarter.
O’Leary developed the device, which he named the Bring Anywhere Tool coin, over the course of a year and half and with the aid of a local nonprofit. He hopes to sell the device on Amazon and through other retailers by next February. It will sell for $32 apiece.
Among its 10 features, which O’Leary whittled down from a long list, are a screw driver, wire stripper, bottle opener and saw blade. It also includes two Coast Guard-approved reflective stickers to signal for help in maritime emergencies. O’Leary eventually settled on those functions because of their practicality and low cost of production.
“It may not replace a toolbox or a Leatherman tool, but it’s certainly something you can keep in your pocket all the time,” O’Leary said.
One function O’Leary had wanted to include was a handcuff key, which he thought would have brought more of a James Bond feel to the gadget. But he decided not to incorporate this component after realizing that TSA agents would find it suspicious. As it currently exists, the B.A.T. model is completely TSA-compliant, he said.
“The most dangerous thing you could do with this is swallow it,” O’Leary said.
Prototyping for the device was done at MakeHaven, an Elm City nonprofit that helps local entrepreneurs and designers. O’Leary learned to 3-D print his own models there and did the project almost entirely on his own, according to J.R. Logan, chief maker of the nonprofit.
MakeHaven, which is open 24/7, is a communal creative space for local artists and entrepreneurs who want to develop their own ideas.
Logan added that most projects developed at MakeHaven are independently directed, with the organization’s staff and volunteers providing guidance.
“This is not a place where we take your project and do it for you,” Logan said. “This is where you do what you want to do and learn how to do it.”
O’Leary said New Haven continues to serve as a valuable and unique entrepreneurship hub for him. Yale and the city’s other universities provide a unique support system for local entrepreneurship by creating a stimulating, energetic and collaborative community.
The city’s size allows one to “bump into the same people over and over again and build a reputation,” Logan added.
But Logan argued that in the end what makes a place conducive to creativity and innovation cannot be forced.
“It’s the concentration of people who have a shared vision, attitude and resources that supports this spontaneous generation of entrepreneurship,” he said.
O’Leary tapped into crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter to support his project. He set a goal of $7,000 and eventually received over $11,000 in donations. He has already begun sending B.A.T. coins to his funders and supporters. When O’Leary opens up the product to the public, he expects to garner interest primarily from travelers, hikers, military and security personnel as well as “survival-minded people.”
One such person is Brandon Barton, creator of the Last Man Project on Facebook, which serves as a forum for nearly 8,000 people to share thoughts and products related to “keeping their families safe during an emergency,” Barton said. He helped publicize O’Leary’s invention on his page after receiving a B.A.T. coin a couple of months ago. He wears it everyday on a necklace and most frequently uses the device’s nested cutting edge and fire striker.
“The cutting edge has been useful to humankind since we learned how to use it,” Barton said. “We’re not skimming a wild animal with it but we do need to cut cardboard boxes.”
O’Leary is also partnering with the California-based manufacturing firm MFI Inc. to sell his invention. The first phase of the production process, which comprises mold-casting and represents 80 percent of the entire process, is done in MFI’s facilities in China. He chose the company after contacting nearly 40 different manufacturers worldwide, before settling on his choice for its low cost.
The B.A.T. coin is O’Leary’s first product, and he plans to continue developing more. As to which ideas he pursues next, O’Leary said he polls his supporters to see which ideas strike their interest. His next project is a multi-pocket leather belt.