DRAGONS’ DEN: A Surrey engineer’s ingenuity pays off

Surrey inventor has designed nearly 90 products, but his favourite never took off

Surrey engineer Andrew MacBain was on TV’s “Dragon’s Den” Wednesday night and landed an investment of $50

To hear about all of Andrew MacBain’s inventions, you need lots of time on your hands.

The engineer, who helped design the American embassy in Japan, has designed nearly 90 products.

“A whole slew,” as he puts it.

The longtime Surrey resident’s latest creation, De-Fence, was featured on a “Dragons’ Den” episode on Wednesday night.

And he scored, landing $50,000 for 50 per cent of his product.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

(MacBain and his family at the Dragon’s Den pitch).

De-Fence keeps animals and unwanted intruders off your property. The idea for the product came after years of clients asking him for a solution to those pesky raccoons and other critters.

You see, MacBain is known as the “pigeon guy.” His main business, Pigeon Patrol, was a venture he started almost by accident. He was running a company that did specialty work for restoration companies and somebody asked him to put up bird spikes.

“I had never dealt with bird spikes at all,” MacBain said. “I researched it and saw there was a need for it.”

So he designed his own metal spikes, naturally, and it was a lower-cost alternative to a U.S. product on the market.

“So now I’m known as the pigeon guy,” he told the Now, smiling, listing off many of his corporate clients, such as ferry terminals, SkyTrain stations and Tim Hortons.

“So we designed the spikes and that was the beginning.”

Then, he found a problem.

“The guys used caulking to attach the spikes. Nobody had designed anything to screw into caulking.”

So, of course, he went ahead and fixed that problem himself with a new product that could screw into the material. He sold thousands of units through Rona – until someone came in with a cheaper one, he said, shrugging it off.

Then, gutter cleaning became a thorn in his side – time to design another product. He came up with the Gutter Scoop and Rake system.

“The gutters were all clogged with pigeon feces and the problem is when you’re standing there, you can only reach so far, so we got a long stick. We sold these at Rona, they’re still selling at Rona.”

Then, after years of requests from people for a raccoon repellent, he came up with the idea for De-Fence.

“The great thing about this product is a lot of times when we install spikes, if it’s a small ledge, we can’t install it. It just won’t fit. You can score this in five different places, and cut it every six inches as well.”

Also, because it’s plastic, it concaves, meaning it can be bent over a roof peak instead of needing the metal spikes installed on either side, he noted.

MacBain said he’s seen lots of single sales for De-Fence without any advertising at all.

“People just find us. We seem to be the only product on the market like this, and it works well,” he said.

But of course, it’s hoped Dragons’ Den will boost sales.

And the investors can expect to see him again. He plans to head back with his Safe Cough product next year.

“We designed this product that cups around your middle finger. You cough into it and it has a charcoal filter,” he said.

“It’s disposable,” he added, “Basically you use it whenever you cough, use it for a couple days, then throw it away and use the second one. If you look at the stats about how long germs linger, it’s horrible.

“I’d like to go into the drug stores, I think that will be a winner… Hopefully it does well. And if it doesn’t, well? Just chalk it up.”

MacBain said his most beloved invention, a recyclable safety cone he called the  Recyclacone, got attention from the government but never took off.

“This was my favourite product. I’m so upset, right?” he said, chuckling.

“Maybe one day.”

And, he’ll be busy with his other project, a line of Canadian products including stuffed animals and keychains featuring his “Leaf” character.

Oh, and he’s also narrated over 1,000 PlayStation and other popular games, been the voice of cartoon characters and voiced commercials for Toyota and Toshiba, and has authored two books.

Don’t expect to ever find MacBain working a typical 9-to-5, because that’s just not him.

“Too boring,” he said with a grin.

Click here for more information on MacBain’s products.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com