What Really Came Of Windcatcher From Shark Tank?

The ABC hit "Shark Tank" has seen its fair share of inflatable products on the series, including Airbedz and FLATED. Then there's Windcatcher. Created by Tampa native Ryan Frayne, Windcatcher is a portable, packable mattress that can be inflated without electricity or a manual pump. A user blows into the Windcatcher's valve, and within seconds, the mattress inflates and is ready to use once the valve is secured with velcro straps. Likewise, the Windcatcher easily deflates when you reach into the valve and pull a tab. 

Frayne created Windcatcher after he and his older brother attempted and failed to inflate a beach toy during a 2011 trip to Hawaii. Soon after, Frayne got to work on Windcatcher. In an interview with Heavy, he said, "It only took a couple days to create my first prototype, but that one was a terrible idea (picture a garbage bag that you fill with air and then squeeze to pump that air into a mattress). My first fully functional Windcatcher inflatable mattress was created around December 2012."

By 2013, Frayne, who previously worked in marketing, was seeking funding for his product on Kickstarter. Frayne advertised Windcatcher on the website by emphasizing its simplicity and versatility, noting that it was an essential that could make sleeping or lounging while camping or traveling cozier. Windcatcher ultimately garnered a little less than $150,000 on Kickstarter. In October 2015, Frayne and Windcatcher made it onto Season 7, Episode 6 of "Shark Tank" and was an instant hit with the Sharks.

All the sharks wanted in on Windcatcher

On "Shark Tank," Ryan Frayne sought $200,000 for 8% of Windcatcher. The Sharks, including guest Chris Sacca, watched as Frayne demonstrated how Windcatcher's AirPad 2 could inflate with little effort and without putting his mouth on the valve. Frayne then explained to the impressed sharks how Windcatcher works. 

Every time a user blows into the valve, surrounding air also gets sucked in, thus inflating the product. When Robert Herjavec asked how much it cost to make Windcatcher (which Frayne was selling for $99.95) and how much he sold it wholesale, Frayne refused to disclose this information. However, Frayne did admit his margins were at 60%. O'Leary then came in with a deal: $200,000 with a 6% royalty that would end once Frayne paid O'Leary $800,000. In addition, O'Leary wanted 3% equity. Frayne, who wrote the details out on the palm of his hand, was displeased with this offer.

That's when Lori Greiner jumped in and told him she would give him $200,000 for 15%. Sacca wanted in, and Greiner said he could join the deal if Frayne accepted $200,000 for 20%. Herjavec then said he would do $200,00 for 10%. O'Leary chimed in and said he would lower his equity to 2%, and Mark Cuban told Frayne he would give him the $200,000 for 8% with funding of purchase orders. Greiner decided to take Sacca out of her deal and offered Frayne $200,000 for 5%, along with the funding of purchase orders. Frayne took her offer.

Windcatcher faced legal issues

Ryan Frayne appeared optimistic about Windcatcher's future as he walked out of the tank, saying (via Hulu), "With the deal I got today with Lori, I believe it's gonna allow me to move Windcatcher in the direction that I feel the company should go." But unfortunately, this is not what happened. Instead, Frayne was sued by a company called Cascade Designs. Frayne believed that Cascade Designs had ripped off Windcatcher and used his technology in their products.

Legal documents show that Cascade Designs decided to take legal action first after Frayne reportedly distributed flyers at an outdoor convention in 2015 accusing the company of stealing his invention. Frayne and Windcatcher sued back. Per Inc. Magazine, these lawsuits resulted in Frayne losing his deal with Lori Greiner. Frayne's legal battle with Cascade Designs ended in 2016 with an undisclosed settlement. However, a Facebook post from 2019 states that Windcatcher received a patent for the valve Frayne designed in the lawsuit.

Around the same time as his legal issues began, Frayne discovered he had terminal pancreatic cancer. Speaking to Inc. Magazine about his diagnosis, he said, "At the time, I was angry with the world." He added, "It felt like the worst possible scenario I could have presented myself after 'Shark Tank' is exactly what was unfolding."

Shark Tank led to Ryan Frayne's marriage

At one point, Windcatcher's AirPad 2 was sold at various retailers, including REI and Amazon. Windcatcher had a 3.5 out of 5 rating on the latter site and mixed reviews, with consumers noting that they had some issues inflating the product. However, Ryan Frayne's battle with cancer and lawsuit with Cascade Designs left Windercatcher's future up in the air. 

The company lost money due to the lawsuit, and when Frayne became sick, chemotherapy limited how much he could do. Inc. Magazine reported that Frayne's parents, his friend Oren Hanson, and his then-girlfriend Geneve Nguyen did what they could to help Frayne and Windcatcher. In fact, Hanson told the publication if it hadn't been for this chain of events, "You'd probably see Windcatcher on every store shelf out there right now." 

Despite all this, there were moments of happiness, especially concerning Frayne and Nguyen. In another article from Inc. Magazine, Nguyen revealed that she and Frayne got together after she saw him on "Shark Tank." Nguyen and Frayne had previously met in 2006, but the "Shark Tank" episode led them to reconnect. The pair later married, and in March 2018, the couple welcomed a baby girl, Leo Zelda-Rey Frayne. Tragically, Frayne died from his illness two months later, in June 2018. He was only 35 years old. 

Windcatcher has gone dark on social media

In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Oren Hanson and Geneve Nguyen told the publication that they felt responsible for Ryan Frayne's life's work. As a result, they began crowdfunding for Windcatcher on Indiegogo in 2019 and presented the Ultra AirPad. The new and improved product was designed to inflate quicker than the Airpad 2. Likewise, Hanson and Nguyen were eager to bring another of Frayne's inventions to the market: the Airpillow. It worked the same way as the Airpad 2 and Ultra Airpad but on a smaller scale.

Hanson and Nguyen sought $75,000 on Indiegogo, with Hanson telling Inc. Magazine, "Without funding or backers, Windcatcher, at this point, would be done." In the end, the campaign only made $6,572 by its deadline. With that said, Windcatcher has been inactive on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter since 2019. The final social media posts were centered on promoting the ill-fated Indiegogo campaign. In addition, Windcatcher's website, windcatchergear.com, is no longer in use, and the Airpad 2 is no longer sold online. It's unclear if Hanson and Nguyen are still involved in the company.