Whatever Happened To Windcatcher Quick Inflating Air Mattress After Shark Tank Season 7?

If you've ever been on a camping trip, you know how much time and effort it takes to blow up an air mattress, especially if you're out of breath from your hike. The same situation is true for any kind of inflatable toy –- blowing one up can take the air out of a fun day at the beach, quite literally. The alternative is to use a motorized pump, but they're heavy, bulky, and inconvenient to carry in a backpack or beach bag. Ryan Frayne was on vacation with his family at the beach, and they struggled to inflate an inflatable raft, but it wasn't until he got home that the idea struck him. Could there be a better way to inflate these items? An inventor at heart, Frayne experimented with several designs of inflation valves.

He soon discovered how to harness the power of air entrainment, which according to Frayne, is what happens when high-pressure air around the valve is forced into the inflatable, increasing the effectiveness of one person manually inflating a device. The result was that it was easier to inflate an item and took less time. Frayne claimed that his valve increased the airflow by 15 times, making the process simpler and quicker. His new Windcatcher product was funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 that raised $150,000, which was three times its initial goal.

The Sharks were blown away

Frayne was not an engineer, but his mind worked like one. By the time he appeared on "Shark Tank" Season 7 in October 2015, he had enough experience and wherewithal to convince the Sharks that his invention was worth their financing propositions. He demonstrated how easy it was to inflate the mattress and also convert it into a cushioned seat. Each of the Sharks, which included Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, and Chris Sacca, was impressed by his presentation. The Sharks began to circle the waters, each of them eager to claim Frayne's opportunity for themselves.

Cuban offered to match Frayne's initial request for $200,000 and an 8% stake in his company, with the promise to fund his purchase orders. "Done deal, right?" Cuban asked, as Frayne answered carefully, "Sounds like a really good deal." But the other Sharks weren't ready to give up so easily. Robert improved on Frayne's initial request with a better deal of $200,000 and a 6½% stake along with the purchase orders. "Look, what's 1½% to me if this thing goes to where you're gonna go?" Herjavec asked, which prompted Frayne's confident response, "It will!" The camera zoomed in on Frayne's hand, where he was contemplating the offers he'd written on his palm. At this point, Greiner jumped in with a final offer of $200,000 and a 5% stake. Frayne thought for a moment and then accepted, and the two hugged while Greiner exclaimed, "Fellow inventor!"

Competition and complications

Viewers were wowed by Frayne's invention and the deal made with Greiner. The Windcatcher Instagram account was filled with comments from viewers who were impressed with Frayne's appearance on the ABC show. Immediately after the episode aired, however, a series of dramatic events occurred for Frayne, according to Inc. It seems that his competitors understood how successful his idea could be and that one company, Cascade, allegedly claimed his invention as their own. A legal battle ensued as Frayne fought to obtain the rights to the specialized valve he had created. As this litigation began to play out, the unfortunate result was that Greiner decided to withdraw her funding.

Frayne's loss of funding wasn't the most heartbreaking aspect of this story. Several weeks after appearing on "Shark Tank," Frayne began to experience stomach pains. On the same day that he met with his lawyer to discuss the lawsuit he was fighting, he received a call from his doctor requesting he come to the office to hear the results of his medical tests. He received a sobering diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. As he fought for the patent of the device that he had created, he was forced to fight for his very life at the same time. Frayne eventually won the rights to his invention, but he had to use the profits from Windcatcher to pay for his legal bills. By the time the lawsuit was settled, his cancer had spread and his condition had worsened.

Inventions that make life easier

Frayne passed away on June 5, 2018, just three years after his episode aired on "Shark Tank." Before his passing, Frayne made every effort to secure the future of his company, his invention, and his family. He and his wife, Geneve Nguyen, had become the parents of a little girl named Leo. He passed on the ownership of the company to Nguyen and Oren Hanson, his best friend. Frayne gave them the option to keep the company in business or to let it close down. Nguyen and Hanson were determined to keep his inventions alive. "It's important to me to get some of his things out there to make other people's lives easier," Nguyen told Inc. "That was Ryan's whole point of inventing."

The pair embarked on an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money so that more of Frayne's inventions could become a reality. Their goal was to raise $50,000, enough to bring a new air pad to market. Beyond that, they were hoping to offer newer products that hadn't been created yet, such as a Frayne's inflatable pillow. "Without funding or backers, Windcatcher at this point would be done," Hanson said. "We want to give this another push and put out the other products Ryan was working on."

A lasting legacy

Unfortunately, the fundraising fell short of the goal. According to the social media accounts and product website, the company appears no longer to be in business. The Windcatcher had once been identified by Forbes in their list of "12 Of The Coolest Gifts For Travelers Seen On Shark Tank," and one might wonder what would have happened to the business if Frayne had been able to carry on with his life's work. Hanson has commented on how things would look if Frayne had not faced a lawsuit and a cancer diagnosis after launching Windcatcher. "If none of that ever happened," he told Inc., "you'd probably see Windcatcher on every store shelf out there right now."

Ryan Frayne is still hailed as one of the most successful inventors ever to appear on "Shark Tank," with an idea and a presentation that will go down in the show's history. The appeal of his invention generated competing offers from every Shark, and his negotiating technique — to parse through all the offers on the spot and record the calculations on his hand — is the stuff of legend for "Shark Tank" fans. His determination to create ideas to make life easier for others and his dedication to his family are his legacy.