CEDAR CITY Chris Culp was hoping to sell a million Dump-A-Matics a simple device that dumps heavy loads from a pickup bed without power, hydraulics or cranking.
The handyman's invention won a promise of $100,000 in venture capital at the 2007 Governor's Utah Economic Summit.
Now Culp is suing sponsors of the event after promised "angel" investors refused to come through with the cash, saying he hasn't been able to patent the idea. Culp says he's working on that.
"I am just a guy who entered a contest and got used up," he said.
Culp is suing Grow Utah Ventures and Funding Universe organizations that once praised him for perfecting the Dump-A-Matic.
He got the idea from a gardener who put wheels on a large planter to tilt and dump loads out the back of a pickup. Culp's dumper works by itself when a pickup pulls forward with the tailgate down, letting a load slide and tilt out of the bed on a fulcrum.
Culp signed a statement days before the contest acknowledging he was in the running for a possible investment, not guaranteed cash or an award, said Craig Bott, president and CEO of Grow Utah Ventures.
Then, according to Bott, investors discovered Culp was unable to patent his device and backed away.
"They haven't done anything for us except make excuses," Culp said. "I never said it was patented. I said I was working on it."
Craig Isom, director of Southern Utah University's Small Business Development Center and an informal adviser to Culp, said the dispute boils down to semantics is an investment opportunity a promise or guarantee of funding?
Despite the setback, Culp says he's bullish on Dump-A-Matics, which he makes and sells through retailers in small quantities. He's built up a 10-dump inventory.
"I am learning because of this," he said. "The whole thing has taught me patience."