If you’ve ever tried running (or yogging) with a child in a stroller, then keep reading. Because this next #50startup company might just blow your mind. Bend-based Kidrunner is aiming to change how people run (and ski and bike and explore) with their kids with its hands-free, pull-style running stroller.

This past year was a breakout one for the company. Founded by Will Warne, Andre Cardec and Mauricio Mejia in 2011, Kidrunner earned a spot on the concept stage at the Bend Venture Conference. Elite runner Max King, the company’s first athlete-ambassador, won a 10K pulling his daughter in a Kidrunner. And the company partnered with Bend-based Composite Approach to help bring this not-stroller to market by summer. BendTECH recently talked with Warne to learn more about how he came up with the idea and when you can buy one.

Startup: Kidrunner
Started: 2011
Founders: Will Warne; Andre Cardec; Mauricio Mejia
Headquarters: Bend

Kidrunner Version 5.
Kidrunner Version 5.

What is a Kidrunner? It’s a high-performance piece of hands-free, pull-style sports equipment that lets you run and explore with your kids. There’s no more pushing. In fact, studies that show you can gain 30% more efficiency when you use your upper body to run. But parents have become accustomed to being inefficient because there haven’t been options for running with your kids beyond what’s basically a shopping cart.

How did you come up with the idea? Both my wife and I were running 20-plus miles a week after we got married. Then we had our daughter and the first time we took her out in the jogging stroller it was awful. I felt embarrassed by how awkward it was. So I started thinking of how it could be better — I drew up sketches, went to Home Depot and got a bunch of PVC pipe, plumbing parts and duct tape. My first prototype of the Kidrunner was this 10-foot long contraption. I waited until my wife (a pediatrician and Bend native) went to work, and then put my six-month-old daughter in it and ran down the street.

How’d that go … There was a small crowd of my neighbors watching. The dads were clapping. I think some of the moms were almost crying in fear. But it worked. I proved the concept.

Will Warne, co-founder Kidrunner.
Will Warne, co-founder Kidrunner.

What’s happening with Kidrunner now? We just partnered with Composite Approach, a Bend company that grew out of the local composite airplane industry. The whole Kidrunner solution is to have a lightweight, beautifully designed piece of sport equipment, like a mountain bike or ski, so we need to use composite materials. They’re a perfect partner. We’re also building out our ambassador program with Max (King) at the helm. He’s run hundreds of miles with the Kidrunner, including winning the BigFoot 10k, and granted us a lot of credibility.

What’s next? We’ve got a 90% go-to-market prototype, and we’d like to have products for sale by this summer. The biggest question right now is how to finance the first orders, and how to commercialize the product. We’d also like outfit about a dozen ambassadors with a Kidrunner, including two athletes who are training for the Olympics. We’re contemplating exploring crowdfunding to help us do that.

Are you currently fundraising? So far, we’ve been self financed. I think we’ll need about $500,000 to scale the production of Kidrunner. We’ve had a lot of investor interest, especially after BVC. We’ve also garnered some attention from retail partners. But we’re still determining how we want to approach investment.

More #50startups to come! If you know of a Central Oregon startup you think would make a good feature, send them our way.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley