Texas Tech University

Navy Dad's Hustle Helps Parents Help Kids Stay Active

Innovation Hub Team

February 24, 2020

Lee Lisemby says he and his startup got a big boost through the Hub's iLaunch Competition

Startup entrepreneur Lee Lisemby is leveraging his engineering and innovation background to solve a problem many parents face: Sometimes, it's tough to motivate kids to be physically active.

Lisemby says, "As a father, one of my biggest challenges is getting my kids to play outside and get off their devices. Technology can have a steadily tighter grip on children as they get older. Childhood inactivity is up 33% in the last ten years. It's been linked to obesity, lower test scores, and shortened lifespans." 

Innovation, incentives, and inspiration

Lisemby's solution is Valkon, a subscription-based business that will allow parents to monitor and manage their kids' physical activity levels. Children with higher activity numbers will earn discounts at major retail stores. They can also compete with friends and win monthly prizes based on point totals. Lisemby says, "It will not only encourage kids to get active and stay active; it teaches them the value of earning things they want."

Lisemby has had a varied career. He left for Navy boot camp the day before 9/11 and served eight years as a parachute rigger for pilots. Later, he designed and developed spacesuits for astronauts at NASA. Next, he worked as an engineer for a silicon wafer manufacturer. Now, he's the operations director for a biomedical company.

No doubt, his favorite job, however, is being the dad of two pre-teen boys.

He says his sons inspired the development of this startup in several ways. "My older son is super competitive. He's helped me come up with about 90% of the ideas for this. It all comes down to wanting to be able to leave my kids a legacy of better health and a successful business I can hand down to them someday."

iLaunch experience

Lisemby says competing in the Texas Tech University Innovation Hub's iLaunch competition helped further his entrepreneurial goals. He found out about it from Ryan Reber at the Lubbock Angel Network. "Ryan said they really like the companies they invest in to go through some of the programs at the Innovation Hub. I had seven days from that phone call to make my application. I worked day and night to get it in. I mean, what an opportunity! Where else can you get the experience of presenting in front of a roomful of investors? I'm really glad I made it."

Valkon was one of the ten finalists in the competition.

Community and hustle

Lisemby says finding the Hub has also given him a new sense of belonging. "It's one of the coolest things, to find people that think the same way I do. I've always had big dreams. I want to launch companies. I'm kind of an outsider everywhere else."

That environment helps fuel Lisemby's hustle. He summarizes it this way: "You can't lose if you don't give up. It's about the iterative process of getting my company from being an idea to being something in customers' hands. The network, the relationships you can make here, and the feedback are invaluable."