Terps TE Matt Furstenburg wins entrepreneurship competition

November 20, 2012

(2011 photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Matt Furstenburg towered over his audience atop a stage at the University of Maryland business school Friday afternoon, gripping two pairs of red receiver’s gloves. He placed one pair between his khaki pants and smacked the other gloves together. They stuck. The senior tight end then grabbed the other pair, waving the gloves wide then whipping the palms at each other in front of his chest.

No such stick. The gloves fluttered to the ground.

Furstenburg has helped develop an intriguing solution to a widespread problem across all levels of football, netting $2,500 in seed money for his company, GripBoost, after it won the Dingman Competition for entrepreneurship, beating out four other businesses, including one offering sports league organization software and a project that compiles aerial data for non-military projects.

But Furstenburg, a senior tight end who has 14 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown entering Maryland’s season finale at North Carolina, wowed the four judges with his aerosol tack, which can help rejuvenate worn football gloves with just one spray. New gloves, Furstenburg said, can cost upwards of $35, and the Maryland football program spends $30,000 per year in gloves, which can wear out after three days. GripBoost, on the other hand, restores the original tack for 65 cents per spray.

The product, developed in conjunction with Kevin Diehn, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering and co-creator of GripBoost, relies on a crab-based sticky polymer partially derived from the formula used on UnderArmour’s gloves. An original name for the product was CrabGrip. “We figured, will anyone get that?” Furstenburg said.

The Terrapins have agreed to test the product, and Furstenburg hopes to use contacts within the program to spread it to other college football teams. Eventually, he said, it can be used in other glove-related sports, like for soccer goalies, or even for industrial use. By 2015, he projects a $350,000 profit based on the current model.

Sitting in the Maryland locker room after practice, Furstenburg always noticed that his gloves kept wearing out. Then one night, lying in his bed, it hit him: a reapplication of grip. That was in 2011, when Furstenburg approached Harry Geller, the entrepreneur in residence at the Dingman Center, part of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Defensive lineman Joe Vellano and safety Matt Robinson also frequently visit Geller to pitch ideas, he said.

After dispatching Furstenburg to research existing products, of which there were none, Geller called his contacts within Maryland’s chemical engineering problem, who teamed up Furstenburg and Diehn. The result was a winning product.

“I didn’t expect to win,” Furstenburg said. “I knew we had a good product. I practiced the presentation a lot, every chance I got.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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