The Kiwi invention that makes Lego bounce, flex and spring

Every week on The Primer we ask a local business or product to introduce themselves in eight simple takes. This week we talk to Mark Stolten, the inventor of flexible, Lego-like brick toy Flexo.

ONE: How did Flexo start and what was the inspiration behind it?

While I waiting for a physio appointment for a torn bicep tendon, I marvelled at the images on the walls of the human body. Muscles, tendons and ligaments interacting with rigid bone structures, allowing freedom of movement. Due to my love of building and constructing with Lego, which is rigid, I began to wonder if I could invent something to make it flexible too. A lightbulb moment occurred, the Flexo system was born, and the rest is now history.

Since that moment, Flexo has been developed to enhance the traditional brick building experience. Creations now have the ability to bend, bounce, flex and move in ways you’ve never seen before.

TWO: Did you have any interest/experience in business or entrepreneurship prior to starting Flexo?

I’ve been managing technology companies for 29 years now and I’ve always been interested in creative design. I’ve owned an entrepreneurial enterprise for 15 years which specialises in bringing ideas to commercial reality.

Flexo founder Mark Stolten (Photo: Supplied)

THREE: What is it about Flexo that makes it bounce, flex and spring? And what are some of the weirdest/craziest/most impressive things you’ve seen made with Flexo? 

The concept of a flexible silicon tendon linking to a ridged brick system which transforms it into a flexible play construction system.

As to what we’ve seen made with Flexo? We’re just at the beginning, but we have some big plans. We reckon we can build a life-sized trampoline!

FOUR: What are some shapes/forms Flexo can make that a more rigid product like Lego can’t?

A squishy ball, a bouncy ball, a trampoline, a fish that bends in an ‘S’ shape, catapults, a bow and arrow, swing bridges, train tracks – it’s only really limited by the child (or big child’s) imagination. You can make any geometric shape to play with, you can drop it and it won’t break. The possibilities are endless.

Various Flexo creations (Photo: supplied)

FIVE: Is Flexo compatible to use with Lego? And what kind of discussions (if any) have you had with the Danish toy giant?

Flexo is compatible with all major brick brands. I’ve talked many times with Lego and even met them at their headquarters in Billund, Denmark. We have an ongoing relationship with them and we highly respect Lego. We don’t compete with Lego. Instead, we enhance the Lego experience by allowing the user to create in a new universe of flexible play using Lego bricks or any other major brick brand.

SIX: Since raising almost $60,000 from your Kickstarter campaign last year, where is Flexo as a business at now? Have you kept your manufacturing here in New Zealand?

Growing very fast! We now have distributorship in Canada, the US, Europe, Australia and Asia region. Mastermind Toys, for example, has taken us on exclusively in Canada and we’ll be in every single store. That will be in excess of 90 stores Canada-wide by 2020. The excitement the product is generating for us is a dream come true.

Currently, we manufacture in New Zealand and we’d love to keep this in New Zealand.

SEVEN: Do you have any other plans to scale/grow further and if so, what are they?

We recently won a place in the BNZ Supersize SME programme and have two awesome mentors, Mylene and Harry, who are working with us to accelerate Flexo.

EIGHT: Lastly, tell us about a New Zealand start-up or business that you really admire right now.

There are three other BNZ Supersize SME winners and Orbica, which unlocks the value of location data, is a very interesting company to look out for. We’ve also enjoyed getting to know clothing company ilabb.

There are many exciting New Zealand startups at the moment and we also like to look up to some of the greats of New Zealand business like Fisher & Paykel Health Care, Buckley Systems, Sistema and many more.


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