Technology is great.
It makes your life more fun, productive and easier as long as you are near…the power outlet!
What if the outlet came to everywhere with you? ATOM will.
ATOM is a portable power outlet that fits in the palms of your hands. Imagine being able to take the wall outlets from your homes, anywhere you go- portable electricity!
A whole lot of power in one device. ATOM contains enough power to charge your phone for 13-18 full charges or even power your guitar amp for approximately 10 hours.
If you choose to get an extra battery with your ATOM, you can power all your devices for TWICE as long, giving your speakers up to 28 hours of music or your monitor 8 hours of video.
BRAIN PORTAL was lucky enough to be introduced by Phresh Organics, one of the hardware startup companies we interviewed before, to ATOM for this opportunity.
Avi, today’s interviewer, has graduated from Hong Kong university, and he was in his senior year when he started making the prototype of ATOM with his friend, Luv.
Let’s see how these two guys successfully raised over $71,300 at Indiegogo, and attracting people with their first product, ATOM.
ATOM: Makes charging outside a normality!
—— Avi, will you please tell us the trigger of this amazing idea of ATOM?
Avi : Basically ATOM was founded in 2014. My partner and I met in the same university, HongKong university of science and technology.
What happened to us was that, one of our friends wanted to go for a camping trip with us.
We really wanted to bring our speakers, lights, PCs and all other electric devices. But we don’t have anywhere to plug them in. So, how we got inspiration was that “okay, what if we can just take the wall outlet from the wall, and take it anywhere we want?” and that was the main motivation.
We wanted to solve our own needs, we made it just for ourselves. After that, our friends went “Oh! this is awesome! I want one too! Will you make one for me? ”
We thought this product actually has a big potential, and we decided to make it into business.
—— How did you manage the cost for the first prototype, as you two were still students?
Avi: We tried not to spend as much money as possible and you know anytime we have anything getting done, you know we can always choose between time versus money.
You can pay someone to get things done, or you can let yourself get the scales. So, we always chose time over money.
In addition, we were lucky because we were students of Hong Kong University of science and technology when we started prototyping. We had all the access to a lot of resources such as 3D printers, all the tools and computers we need in a lab, which helped a lot to make the prototype for an affordable cost.
—— I imagine developing a hardware from scratch must be difficult even if you have a degree in science and technology. Will you tell me how you developed and improved ATOM ?
Avi: It took us a few months for the first prototype. Actually our first prototype was pretty hilarious because it was 30cm square big, it was massive! It was like a bucket with a handle. Haha
After that we tried to reduce the size by 30%, and through a lot of remodeling, it came down to the size of palms of your hands.
Market Research: The Balance Between Power and Size
—— What do you think is the superiority of ATOM?
Avi: The advantage of ATOM is that it is super simple.
It exactly is what customers want in the sense of suppleness, you can just plug in, press, and that’s it.
So, that’s the traditional difference.
Also, ATOM is not only a charger, but it is a totally new product called “portable power outlet” and among other competitors, I would say, there is nothing as powerful as ATOM, that provides the easiest solution when you run out of the battery.
—— Okay. To decide the balance between power and size, how did you come up with the final number?
Avi: What we did for this new product was a lot of market research to understand what type of needs there are. We found that there are two types of battery market. The first type is that, a market that sells generator from 12KGs up to 45 KGs which need very high power such as car batteries.
The second type is common portable chargers, which have 10,000mAh in smaller sizes. But it cannot charge your phone more than three times.
So, ATOM decided to focus on the balance between power and size.
We came to the conclusion that ATOM should have 30,000mAh to give you enough power to get things done and also realize the smaller size.
—— What did you actually conduct on the market research?
Avi: We interviewed photographers, outdoor shops, people who may actually use the ATOM.
And that also gives us a lot of insight into why people use ATOM.
We took all these key usages, lightning, guitar, photographing and so on, and wanted to make sure we have enough power for all these kind of electric devices.
—— So you really listen to your end users and accept their feedback.
Avi: Exactly. Even in the video on indiegogo, we edit several times according to the feedback we got. So, our business is always getting input from users and anyone from the market, and adapting into that opinions.
Indiegogo has a lot of back-end and analytics. You can actually track each customer where they are coming from, who refrain the campaign, and a lot of details for us to work on creating prototype improvement.
—— You successfully finished crowd-funding with over 130 backers and $71,300 is raised. What do you think was the key element for crowd funding?
Avi: The one thing that people don’t realize is that once you start either on indiegogo or kickstarter, it so much relies on how much effort you put into your campaign.
You are the one making this campaign, bringing people to the platform, and make them want to support your product.
For us, it took as more than a year to prepare for the launch of indiegogo campaign and everything was done with the co-founder and me, between two people.
Our website, as you asked about how we figured out the phrasing, we kept updating different key phrases and saw how people respond to that.
If more people subscribed to our website because of this key word, instead of the other word, we fallowed that.
So after we got down the best phrases and design from the website, we put them on the campaign.
ATOM can be a Lifesaver for Natural Disasters
—— Right. The first time I saw ATOM in indiegogo campaign, the first impression was, it could be used in Japan as an emergency charger. We had a huge earthquake in 2011, when all the power went down, ATOM will be a real lifesaver for a lot of people suffering natural disasters.
Avi: Yes, you are right. I think one more exciting thing is that there are actually so many uses because it actually depends on how you use the electricity, it can be used for anything.
So our main users so far we have two types of main users from north America, one type is outdoor enthusiasts, people who loves going camping, long road trips, and things like that.
The second type is photographers, they use small lightning equipment or video transmitters.
So, basically what we call “Buskers” who performs in public places with gratuities, particularly associated with singing or playing music is very common in Europe and in the U.S. So, there are also needs for those people too.
—— Hmm, each country has a different usage of ATOM. Like, in Japan, we don’t have a culture of “Buskers”, but ATOM will be in high demanded for power shortages.
Avi: Going back to what you mentioned about earthquake, there are actually quite few people asked us using ATOM during power shortages. So places like India, Pakistan or even those developed countries, if there is a power cut, everything goes down.
Imagine you owe a store in the situation like that, you definitely want to make sure the connection to Wi-Fi and laptop is charged. They are the most important checklist nowadays, right? haha
CHO : Chief Happiness Officer of the Team!
—— On you website, you have two more supporters for your business. You have Rich for strategic advisor and Theo, chief happiness officer. Will you please tell more about them?
Avi: Yes. Our co-founder, Luv Sheth is a product developer and he is in technical side basically. As for myself, I’m dealing with business development and information systems.
Rich Fong, our strategic advisor who is our advisor from HongKong counseling technical creation, so he makes great decisions from variety of experiences.
Theo, he is more like our guiding principle, he dictates our corporate culture, what we deliver to our customers, and it’ s all about happiness!
We Want to Break the Barriers of Traditional Energy Supply
—— What is your goal and future vision of ATOM? What kind of difference would you like to bring to the society with your product?
Avi: The main aim is to empower people to use outdoors which was impossible before by ATOM. Traditionally you wouldn’t be able to set up anoutside live stage without outlets.
We want to have different version of ATOM not only one size but both smaller and bigger depends on the needs. We want to break the barriers of traditional energy supply.
—— That’s very interesting Avi. As for final request, may I have your advice for other hardware startups?
Avi: Give all and go with 100%. When we started ATOM we were in senior year of university and planning to find a jobs but we decided to put everything we have into ATOM.
Especially for student entrepreneurs, there is no better time. You have only have two chances you can either do it now or do it when you are nearly retired, because of risks it might give to especially if you have wife and kids who is depending on you.
As a student, you have so little to loose. So, just go for it as you want, give your best shot and if it works out that’s great if not you will loose so little but learn so much in the process as you cannot imagine.
—— Thank you so much Avi, we are so looking forward to your shipping and see how ATOM changes outdoor environment!
We, BRAIN PORTAL, are running with small team members right now and there are tons of things to do. What we learned from ATOM was that their great passion and customer-oriented mindset to develop ATOM to this stage by only two team members.
Speaking of the product itself, I imagine it is highly demanded in many reasons. In the middle of April 2016, there are over 400 earthquakes within two days, and 14 of them were over M6 scaled in Kyushu region, southwest of Japan. Over 40 people are dead, and 1000 people are serious injured. In such tragedy, hardware startup, such as ATOM, will be a real Saviour for those who is suffering from natural disasters.
os by ATOM)