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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

November 23, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Amazon software engineer turns to hardware, for iPad

Marty Springer had three ideas for a startup after he left Amazon.com in 2009.

Two were software companies, and the third was to make stands for Web tablets like the one he had cobbled together for his wife’s Kindle.

A startup consultant suggested he go for the hardware, so the 48-year-old Seattlelite entered the manufacturing business.

TwoStands.jpg

Springer began selling his SwingHolder stand on Amazon on Nov. 8 for $239.

His wife had the idea originally because she has a condition that makes it hard for her to hold things for a long time. Reading her Kindle in bed, she told him that she wished there was a stand or something to hold the device.

Springer went out and bought some plexiglass, a jigsaw, glue and a microphone stand and came up with something she liked. Then he hired a mechanical engineer and a local design firm to refine the concept.

Because he happens to live in a region full of companies that make parts for things such as airplanes, Springer found several local suppliers. He worked with Cashmere Molding in Woodinville to develop the stand, which is being manufactured by Technical Molded Plastics in Kent. The Kent factory even let him use a spare office while they sorted out the production.

SwingHolder actually is Springer’s second trip to startupville. During the dot-com era he tried to launch a network security company and “made tons of mistakes.”

springer mug.jpg

This time around he was more careful and used outside advisers. He also has applied for several U.S. and international patents on the device.

To get by while developing the product, he found a programming job with a mobile payments processing company, which he left in June to work full-time on the new venture.

The device looks and feels like something you’d see in a medical office, which is one of the big markets that Springer sees for the SwingHolder.

A review unit snapped together in a few minutes, with just two screws to hold the vertical stand in a heavy plastic base. A key feature is the counterweight that holds the device steady, but keeps it adjustable with light pressure.

At the business end of the stand is a plastic tray for holding an iPad or iPad 2. The tablet slips behind four rubberized grips that held my tablet in place through some aggressive wiggling. Springer plans to introduce additional tray “heads” eventually for “the whole Kindle line,” he said.

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