Earl Cole attracted national attention after won a million dollars in “Survivor’s” 14th season back in 2007, becoming the first person in the show’s history to secure a unanimous jury vote. In the years since, the Kansas-born millionaire has not shied away from the public eye.
Recently, Cole announced that he will be appearing on the 13th season of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where he will be showcasing SMART Tire, his startup tire company. His episode will air Friday, where there will also be a celebrity guest “Shark.” Here’s what you need to know:
SMART Tire Creates NASA-Style Airless Tires for Your Bicycle
On Friday’s episode of “Shark Tank,” 50-year-old Cole and his business partner, engineer Brian Yennie, will be presenting their tire startup to this season’s “Sharks,” which, according to Cole, will include celebrity guest Kevin Hart.
Cole and Yennie’s company, SMART (Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology) Tires, was founded in 2020, and has a partnership with NASA through the Space Act Agreement, according to a March 2021 Tech Crunch article. The startup company’s inaugural product is an airless bicycle tire based on NASA technology used for Mars Rovers. This tire, which will make flat tires and under inflation a thing of the past, is called METL.
How SMART Tire May Revolutionize the Tire Industry
SMART’s METL tire is the the result of work with NASA’s Glenn Research Center, where NASA engineers Santo Padula and Colin Creager first developed “shape memory alloy” (SMA) technology. According to Vivake Asnani, lead tire engineer at the Glenn Research Center, per NASA:
Glenn began working with the U.S. tire industry years ago to develop a better non-pneumatic, or airless, tire for the Moon. This led to an advanced tire known as the Spring Tire, constructed using a network of steel springs, that adapted and contoured to terrain like a traditional rubber tire.
Per NASA, Glenn engineers have since replaced the conventional steel used in tires with springs made of SMA to improve a rover’s ability to operate in extremely rocky terrain and cold temperatures of Mars. This is the technology which will now be used on SMART’s bicycle tires.
METL’s alloy tires could be lighter than regular bicycle tires. As Swiss Cycles explained, “Weight going onto a spacecraft is at a premium, costing six figures per ounce, so the material has to be incredibly light.” In addition, METL tires “won’t need a tube, or sealant, and will never go flat, either. This, along with the material’s properties, means it can deform rapidly to match the terrain perfectly, allowing for better traction.” In addition, SMART also intends to bring SMA tires to the automotive and commercial vehicle industries in the near future.
In 2021, a crowd-sourced campaign raised nearly $1.3 million for the company on WeFunder.
“Shark Tank’s” official Twitter page teased Cole’s upcoming episode on Tuesday, saying, “An idea so brilliant, there’s only one name you can give it. 😉” The episode will be airing at 8 p.m. Eastern this Friday, January 7, on ABC.
Cole Started a Non-Profit for Children’s Health in 2007
Although Cole has not revealed how much of his winnings, if any, he invested in his startup, this is not the first philanthropic or entrepreneurial investment he has made since his million-dollar win. Shortly after his sole appearance on “Survivor,” Cole established the Perthes Kids Foundation in partnership with the University of Kansas Endowment Fund (Kansas is Cole’s home state).
According to the website, the Foundation is dedicated to helping to “raise awareness, funds, further research, find a cure, and connect others” dealing with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, a rare hip bone disease which Cole was diagnosed with as a child. In 2015, the Perthes Kids Foundation became an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
By 2013, according to Business Insider, the Foundation had become a global organization located in four countries around the world – the United States, the UK, Australia, and Colombia. Cole currently serves as CEO and Chairman of the Board, and in December 2020 hosted a Zoom event with several “Survivor” winners to raise awareness for the organization and disease.