Georgia Tech alumni Mathew Quon, BME ’19 and MBA ’24, and Michael Pullen, BME ’21, were watching Monday Night Football one evening when they both jumped from their seats. A Cincinnati Bengals receiver scored a touchdown and did a celebratory dance on camera. Quon and Pullen couldn’t believe what they were seeing. The Bengals player was wearing the LZRD Tech compression arm sleeve they created as undergraduates at Georgia Tech. Their class project had found its way to the NFL.
“We paused, sat up, and took pictures of it,” said Quon. “It was in that moment, watching our product on Monday Night Football, that we knew we were on to something. Seeing our product at the highest level was amazing.”
Quon said it’s also rewarding watching his college football team wear their sleeves. The Georgia Tech Athletic Association (GTAA) is now an angel investor after investing in LZRD Tech, the first start-up from CREATE-X to receive venture funding from the association.
“It’s awesome to have the support of our brand and product from our alma mater,” he said.
Quon and Pullen created the arm sleeve as a project in their Materials Science & Engineering of Sports class with Dr. Jud Ready. Inspired by his time as a high school football player, Pullen wanted to create an arm sleeve that protects a player’s arm from turf burn and sunburn while providing maximum grip. A typical compression sleeve is slick when it meets the ball, adding to the risk of fumbling. The duo worked on engineering a compression sleeve to help players get a better grip on the football.
After completing the project, Dr. Ready encouraged Quon and Pullen to pursue their invention further. They were selected to participate in Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X Startup Launch accelerator in 2020. The 12-week summer program provides students with a grant, pro bono legal services, mentorship, and more to support them as they develop their projects into viable startups.
Participating in the CREATE-X program helped the co-founders expand their network, create a product prototype, and launch their company. Pullen is the CEO, and Quon is the COO. Quon is immensely grateful for his CREATE-X experience.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without CREATE-X because of the network we built with mentors, advisors, and connections, from law firms to manufacturing,” he said. “One of our mentors, Georgia Tech Professor Greg Mihalik, is now a board stakeholder in the company.”
They further developed their compression sleeve with NexTex Innovations, an Atlanta-based textile technology developer, to manufacture their product using Integrated TurboDry™ moisture-removing technology that transports moisture to keep the arm dry. The sleeve also has elite-grip fabric to create maximum security. With the football season about to kick off, Quon says they’re ready for it. They’ve secured 60 teams in the country, from the NFL to high school football teams.
Another start Quon is ready for is the beginning of the school year. He returned to his alma mater in 2022 to earn his MBA at the Scheller College of Business. As a Full-time MBA student, he credits the program for sharpening his business acumen and leadership style while he builds LZRD Tech.
“The core curriculum in the program has helped me significantly in gaining accounting and marketing skills I didn’t get much exposure to as an engineering undergrad,” he said. “I can now put a name to a process that I am using and know how to optimize it effectively.”
We talked with Quon before the start of the football season about lessons he’s learning as a young entrepreneur, the Scheller community, and the future of LZRD Tech.
What motivated you to return to Georgia Tech and earn your MBA at Scheller?
The decision to return to school was a combination of factors involving my career aspirations and personal growth. I recognized the need to enhance my business acumen and leadership skills to take on more significant challenges and develop LZRD Tech. The opportunity to reengage with Georgia Tech seemed invaluable for my professional development.
How has working with Michael been? What have you learned from him as a business partner?
Working with Mike as my co-founder and my best friend has been rewarding. Our pre-existing friendship has fostered a strong sense of trust and open communication. From the beginning, we understood each other's strengths, weaknesses, and working styles, contributing to our seamless collaboration and conflict resolution. Working with him has taught me essential lessons of self-reflection and the importance of leveraging the strengths of our friendship to build a successful business partnership.
What’s been one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned it’s important to think ahead, not just what’s next month, but to plan for the next two to three years. As an entrepreneur, you must think strategically about the company vision and set goals because each decision will have a chain reaction. It’s easy to get caught up in instantaneous success, but thinking ahead is where you want to be.
How has Scheller influenced you as an entrepreneur and innovator?
Scheller has exposed me to an array of viewpoints. Being a part of a diverse group, from my core group of friends to the entire class, has helped me receive valuable perspectives.
The diverse class of all backgrounds and professions helped me expand my mind. One of my favorite courses was Leading People in Organizations with Assistant Professor Bradford Baker. His class taught me how to honor and recognize different perspectives and leadership styles and know the difference between leadership and management.
You’re in the Full-time MBA program and the COO of LZRD. How do you balance your schedule and make time for yourself?
As co-founder of the company, I've learned how to delegate and share responsibilities. It’s your company, and you build it up, but you want to be able to share the wealth as well. Sharing the responsibilities with my co-founder so I can focus on school is important, and I find time to play ice hockey at least once a week. I'm from Toronto and have played hockey my whole life.
Did you ever face doubt and want to give up while launching the company? How did you push through?
Navigating the rules and regulations of the NCAA was a challenge. We faced rejection at first, but we stayed focused and built the relationship and connection. It’s now an NCAA-approved sleeve. I learned to power through challenging conversations, because the second you get a poor review on your website, you can’t ignore it and give up. Knowing that not everybody will love your product is part of the battle of being an entrepreneur.
What advice do you have for fellow young entrepreneurs?
Build your network. The Georgia Tech community is all about helping each other out, so be open to feedback and ensure you receive feedback from not just your friends or family but from people who will be using your product. The feedback you receive will help shape your product or service to help you meet needs and create value for your customers.
What’s next for LRZD Tech?
We plan to keep growing our e-commerce and release other products, including cold-weather shirts with our technology built into them, and we’ll start preparing for spring football soon. We’ve just hired three students from Georgia Tech. I am grateful for this community and happy to give back. Georgia Tech gave me the opportunity and resources to build something from a class project. I am excited to see what the future brings and, of course, for football season.