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The SMART Tire Company

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The SMART Tire Company Is on a Mission to Disrupt the $300B Tire Industry

The SMART Tire Company is on a quest to revolutionize the tire industry with puncture-proof, sustainable tires inspired by space exploration.

In this interview, co-founder Earl Cole discusses the inspiration behind the company, the advantages of collaborating with NASA, and how their current crowdfunding campaign will fuel their mission.

What inspired you to start The SMART Tire Company?

I was recruited for a NASA-sponsored technology program for entrepreneurs. It was normally a program that took place in Ohio, but due to the pandemic at the time, it opened up virtually nationwide. There were a lot of NASA technologies available within the program, but I soon discovered the superelastic tire technology, saw its potential, and my research began.

My co-founder and I ended up winning 1st place in the program, started The SMART Tire Company, Inc., and began working directly with NASA through a Space Act Agreement to figure out how to commercialize this innovative tire technology. I was also enrolled in a doctorate program at USC at the time but decided to put it on hold to fully pursue the vision I had for this new company.

The tire industry is a legacy industry that hasn’t been disrupted in over 100 years, so it was quite the task. Do you remember when Goodyear and Michelin were just startups? Probably not. None of us ever had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of these multi-billion dollar tire companies that we all depend on to this day. With us, you have that opportunity.

SMART Tire Company unveils new second-generation prototype of 'space-age' metal tyres |

How has working with NASA’s technology influenced STC’s tire innovation, and what specific advantages does this collaboration bring to your company?

The initial invention, a tire made from shape memory alloys, owes its heritage to NASA’s rover program, where they are forced to overcome the most extreme conditions imaginable on Mars and the Moon.

Terrestrial tires are quite a bit different but benefit from some of the same interesting properties of these new materials. NASA as a collaborator brings certain modeling & analysis capabilities to the table that aren’t available elsewhere.

Also, the fact that NASA is a government organization owned by the American taxpayer, there’s some pride in giving access to Black communities and investors to support and/or own a piece of a black-owned, American company that works with NASA and other cool space projects.

What challenges do you foresee bringing this new technology to the mainstream market? How do you plan to overcome them?

Customer education is always an interesting challenge. To a certain degree, people need to “unlearn” some of their expectations about a tire: that it must be inflated, that airless tires are always heavy or difficult to install, or that riding on air is an unbeatable approach. The key to overcoming misconceptions is putting good products in people’s hands.

This is part of the reason why we are interested in bikes and scooters: not only are they lucrative consumer markets, but they are an opportunity for people to experience the technology at a small scale and build trust in our brand before we go after bigger markets (like cars and trucks).

This is also a high tech product with technical risk, but we’ve extinguished a lot of those challenges along the way.

What pricing strategy will The SMART Tire Company employ to balance the innovative nature of the product with ensuring affordability for the target market?

Our initial consumer products will be priced on the higher end, with a focus on peace of mind and total cost over time. We expect the cost to come down naturally over time and with volume.

NASA is committed to ongoing R&D that potentially doubles the effectiveness of the material we use, which could drop our costs drastically in the future.

Since this is a tire that can last the life of your vehicle, we plan to offer alternative pricing models and strong guarantees to rideshare partners who adopt the technology at scale. They tend to think more in terms of the lifetime cost of the component than the average consumer.

You are currently running a crowdfunding campaign. What are your goals for this campaign, and how will the raised funds be utilized?

Our current crowdfunding goal is to raise enough capital to grow our engineering team and support our go-to-market strategy for bicycles and scooters this year.

We are raising $2-$3M overall primarily through crowdfunding (future customers and supporters). We’ve found that having thousands of “regular folk” backers is a great resource for the company, beyond just the money involved.

You don’t have to be wealthy or a sophisticated investor to be a part of our company. We want all people (especially “us”) to have the opportunity to invest at whatever level they are comfortable with. A $300B market opportunity.

Your previous campaign raised over $1 million in just 3 days. What factors do you attribute to this accomplishment?

We were very fortunate that there was extreme interest in what we were building from the start! Practically everyone on Earth is familiar with cars, trucks, and/or bicycles, which all use tires – and everyone hates flats. Not only that, but working on a game-changing technology from NASA is very intriguing.

I mean, there’s a strong chance that our tires will end up going to the moon! How cool is that?! I think our campaign also hit the right notes and told the right story. People wanted to be a part of it. We’re taking on a very large, established industry, and everyone loves a good underdog story!

Are there any potential partnerships The SMART Tire Company is exploring with bicycle manufacturers or other industry players to facilitate market penetration?

Yes, we received early support from Ford Mobility and Felt Bicycles, and are currently engaged with one of the major rideshare providers as well as bicycle and scooter manufacturers. Of course, working with NASA has earned us a lot of credibility, so we are quite mindful of who we partner with.

We do receive regular inquiries from major tire companies, but as of today we plan to remain independent (perhaps until one of them writes us a check big enough to get our attention LOL)

How can our community get involved?

SMART Tire is not just another technology company. We are building the next, great American tire company, which is not easy. We are a Black owned business committed to diversity and manufacturing products right here in the USA.

This is about more than just cool space technology: it’s about making a real difference through job creation and sustainable innovation that affects everyday lives. Our lives – and inspiring the next generation of black innovators and entrepreneurs.

It’s in this spirit that STC has prioritized RegCF crowdfunding as our primary source of investment. A more fair and democratized system for people who want to own equity in our company. This is a different kind of leveled-up crowdfunding only been available since 2021, where companies can raise up to $5M per year from everyday investors.

It only takes 5 minutes to reserve your shares at WeFunder to join The SMART Tire Company on this journey!