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Startups Building Toys for Your Wish List

Revolutionary new takes on three old favorites.

Great things happen when entrepreneurs focus on fun. There's nothing better than a classic toy that's gotten reimagined by a master designer and built by people who really put everything they have into what they make. The three examples here may be a little too nice--or dangerous--for Junior, but you're never too old for a little fun. Or adrenaline. 

1
Chopping Block
Chopping Block

You know Ping-Pong is having a moment when you can buy a bamboo table that aspires to the level of sculpture--for the price of a small automobile. But the Theseus table ($15,875) from Los Angeles-based Eleven Ravens is not just a high-end piece of Pong-themed art. It's a cause: The company donates part of the proceeds to the Sport and Art Educational Foundation's effort to battle Alzheimer's disease, a condition that playing Ping-Pong may help treat. Eleven Ravens has developed a scratch- and damage-resistant melanin-resin surface so you can chop and slice with abandon. The company builds the tables to order (it makes pool tables, too). Options include the elegant table seen here, another that looks like a martini (complete with a lemon twist), and several others. To get yours, you will need to put 30 percent down and have at least 11 feet by 12 feet of space. Wait time: nine to 14 weeks. And no, it doesn't rock--your beer's safe.

"With the game's unusual combination of elegance of movement and natural aggression, it made us think, Why should we compromise design for functionality when we can have both?"

--Michael James Jackson, co-founder, Eleven Ravens
2
Green Demon
Green Demon
Motocross may not be where most motorcycle geeks look to find cutting-edge specs, but the RedShift MX from BRD Motorcycles ($14,995) is more than just a supercool dirt bike. The 40-horsepower machine goes from zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds; it runs for 50 miles on one charge; and according to CEO Marc Fenigstein, it can last for 1,000 hours of use before it needs an oil change (about 70 times longer than its fuel-injected peer from Honda, the CRF250R). BRD, which was founded in San Francisco in 2010, employs active racers and riders, and this lovably noisy bike (it can be heard a block away, solving a safety concern that plagued early electric bikes) was designed for intermediate to pro racers. Another $500 gets you the SM, or Supermoto, model, which has been retooled to be street legal. So you can enjoy your low-carbon footprint--at 85 mph.
"It's a true rider's bike. It elevates your game and makes you feel like a hero."

--Marc Fenigstein, CEO, BRD Motorcycles
3
TurnTabulous
TurnTabulous
Today's vinyl enthusiasts have limited turntable options. They can buy one for $1,000-plus or settle for the toylike versions that don't get close to aural Nirvana. But U-Turn Audio's minimalist $179 Orbit Basic produces sound as good as equipment twice its price. Built by a Boston-based startup that earned its seed money via Kickstarter, the black Basic model does away with nonnecessities such as electronic tone-arm lifters and USB ports and performs remarkably well in terms of maintaining speed and minimizing motor noise. For another $100, aspiring audiophiles can pick up the Orbit Plus, which has a heavier acrylic platter and three grades of cartridge, and also comes in green or blue. Either model offers balanced tone arms as well as "moving-magnet cartridges" with diamond tips that produce clear, warm sound and are better for preserving records than the ceramic-tip cartridges on cheap models. And setup is incredibly easy, right out of the box.
"Vinyl is the best way to experience music, and the Orbit's simple, inexpensive design really lets you get the most out of your record collection."

--Rob Hertig, co-founder, U-Turn Audio



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