Welcome to our blog series, “Meet a CoMotion Labs Member.” These posts offer a peek into CoMotion Labs startups’ groundbreaking work and why they do it here. CoMotion Labs provides a multi-industry incubation environment for early-stage startups inside and outside the UW community. Stay tuned for profiles about startups that work in one of our three incubators on the UW Seattle campus, each focusing on a particular industry sector: life sciences and hardware in Fluke Hall and technology in Startup Hall.
Where: CoMotion Labs technology incubator (Startup Hall)
Joined: October 2021
Our team consists of founding data engineer, Thet Noe, and myself, Garrett Gross as CEO. Thet and I, both UW graduates, connected at a virtual Startup Career Fair hosted by CoMotion in the spring of 2021.
I completed my MBA from the University of Washington Foster School of Business in June 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic and then took several months off. While travelling across the U.S., I mountain biked in all of the 24 states I passed through and started working on Fresh Grease full time when I returned to Seattle. Previously, I held various positions in engineering, project management, and manufacturing operations.
Thet joined us as a founding team member after earning her master’s degree in Information Management from the UW iSchool. In addition to Thet’s skills and experience working with data, she has experience in marketing and business, including a stint as an undergrad cofounding a Korea-based investment firm. Thet recently began riding bikes at the start of the pandemic, is insanely good at Tetris (ranked), and proud parent of cats Sushi and Donut!
In addition to our founding team members, we’re supported by a contract product team led by Ross O’Brien. Ross is an experienced full-stack developer in the startup space and biked across the U.S. this past summer. Other team members include Tim Crowley and Jake Paulson-Palmer, full-stack developers, and UI/UX Design consultant Sarah Vaughn. We are advised by Benn Bollay, CTO of Fusebit, and Aaron Kerson, CEO of PNW Components.
I also can’t talk about our team without talking about our friends who have been super supportive representing “Team Fresh Grease Racing” around town and on top of race podiums!
What is your startup all about?
Fresh Grease helps cycling retailers convert and retain customers with software tools that help cyclists find compatible parts in seconds, using their bikes’ make, model, and year.
Bike parts are just the beginning for us — we want to be the first resource people use to find parts and manage maintenance for all the toys in their garage.
During our customer discovery process, we talked with hundreds of cyclists and boat, car, motorcycle, RV, and even snowmobile owners. We learned that finding the correct parts takes a lot of time in all of those industries, especially cycling, and researching what parts to buy is confusing and intimidating to many people. Our mission is to reduce friction by taking the compatibility barrier out of the equation.
As for CoMotion, Thet and I were looking for a place to connect in person a few times a week, right as the UW campus was opening back up. We stopped by for a tour of CoMotion Labs in September and claimed desks in October. In addition to whiteboards, UW library access, and free coffee, the CoMotion community has been super supportive and fun to be a part of!
What problem do you solve?
Figuring out what bike parts to buy is difficult and time-consuming for cyclists, especially online. Unlike the auto industry, where shopping for parts using a vehicle’s make, model, and year is standard everywhere, this doesn’t exist for bikes. Today, cyclists turn to forums, friends, and YouTube to make sense of confusing specifications and “standards.” Brands in the industry also lack direct relationships with customers in the digital world. We view this as a huge, missed opportunity.
What’s the latest?
We have a functional prototype, C-suite interest from nationally recognized outdoor brands, and signed deals for paid deployments with several retailers. We’re currently raising our pre-seed round to expand our database and begin pilot deployments in early 2022. Executing well at this stage puts us in a strong position to scale in the cycling industry and expand towards our vision.
Do you have any startup advice?
I’m early in my journey as an entrepreneur. It’s fun and challenging. You’ll try, make mistakes, and learn about many things–including yourself.
The first thing I’d tell anyone thinking about starting a business is to stop thinking about it and just start small. Start by asking potential customers about their problems, build a landing page, and try to get someone to pay for what you’re building. The worst case is you spend several hours a week hacking on an idea you thought was cool and learn something. The best case is there’s real opportunity in what you’re working on.
Once you’ve started, traction makes EVERYTHING else easier or unnecessary, and more is always better. All other activities (product, team, admin, fundraising, etc.) should support gaining traction with customers willing to pay for what you are building.
Lastly, entrepreneurship is hard… surround yourself with people who will support you when you need it most. This includes friends and family, mentors, advisors, and fellow entrepreneurs in similar stages of building their businesses.