Bob Shallit

Gridley company’s product aims to prevent drowning

Bryce Jessup with Half Dome in the distance. He climbed the Yosemite peak to celebrate his 80th birthday.
Bryce Jessup with Half Dome in the distance. He climbed the Yosemite peak to celebrate his 80th birthday.

A Gridley company is off to a great start in its plans to raise capital for an emergency flotation device targeted at surfers, boaters and other water sports participants.

Kingii Corp. initially planned to raise $65,000 to start production. But money raised from investors, retailers and consumers via a crowdfunding campaign launched Monday on Indiegogo has pushed funding over $427,000 as of Friday afternoon.

The company’s lightweight product – called Kingii and named after an Australian lizard that raises a frill over its neck when alarmed – is worn around the wrist and quickly expands when a user triggers an attached carbon dioxide cartridge. It’s aimed at people who regard life vests as too bulky.

“If you’re swimming and you get tired or get a cramp when you’re out too far, it’s nice to have something to get you through” to safety, said Crystal Bullard, the company’s sales and marketing director.

Company founder Tom Agapiades, a Gridley resident, came up with the idea three years ago after one of his friends drowned while swimming, Bullard said.

Production of the devices, which will cost about $70 each, is expected to begin in Woodland after the Indiegogo campaign ends in 30 days. Several online and specialty sports retailers have agreed to carry the product, Bullard said.

Leave the driving to them

Speaking of startups, a company with strong Sacramento ties is working to bring crowdsourcing technology to bus transportation.

RYDE, which is based in Los Angeles but has two of its three partners in this area, arranges luxury bus service to major music and sporting events. In true crowdsourcing form, the coaches only roll if enough people sign up via RYDE’s website to attend a particular event.

The appeal: It’s a social experience for people attending a common event, and customers don’t need to worry about parking or having a little too much fun at the event.

“We become the designated driver,” said Brian Allman, RYDE’s CEO. His partners are former wind-power entrepreneur Paul Misso of El Dorado Hills and Davis resident Bob Aube, who has a background in sports businesses and travel.

Unlike other companies in the space, RYDE collaborates with event producers, Allman said. RYDE helps promote events and gets priority parking and other services in return.

The company has been testing its service since the start of the year and arranged transportation to a number of events, including the SnowGlobe Music Festival in South Lake Tahoe in December. (Round-trip tickets from Sacramento for that event were $55.)

One looming challenge will be providing buses for Pope Francis’ September visit to Philadelphia, which is expected to draw 1.5 million people.

“That will be our largest event by far,” Allman said, adding: “Traffic will be a nightmare.”

Using his head

At 80, Bryce Jessup, president emeritus of William Jessup University in Rocklin, is still working nearly full time and accomplishing physical tasks that daunt those half his age.

Last month, to celebrate becoming an octogenarian, he climbed to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite and promptly did a headstand. It was the continuation of a family tradition started by his father, William, who made the challenging climb and then did a headstand at the peak when he turned 70 in 1975.

Bryce’s brother did the same thing when he was 70. So did Bryce, 10 years ago. Now he’s done them all one better by completing the trip – headstand and all – at 80.

“It was the fun of keeping alive a family tradition and honoring my dad,” said Bryce, who admits he was “sucking a lot of air” as he reached the nearly 9,000-foot-high peak.

The man responsible for bringing William Jessup University to this region stays in great shape by working out several times a week. Will he try to tackle Half Dome one more time at age 90?

“I jokingly said (I would) to my son and grandson,” Bryce said. “They looked at me like I was out of my gourd.”

He added: “We’ll just play that by ear.”