What they do: Doblet solves the battery life problem with a network of super-portable chargers. They give their chargers to bars, restaurants, coffee shops and hotels for free. Consumers pick up a portable charger at their nearest location, and can charge on the go for a small fee, while still using their phones. Consumers no longer need to lug around cables, and merchants get new customers for free. Why it's a big deal: Everyone has a cell phone, and battery life is the largest complaint we have about them. Getting caught disconnected and without a charge can be a crisis. Doblet’s network of charging stations wants to solve this problem once and for all by making access to a recharge ubiquitous. They have signed over 800 venue partners in San Francisco by offering the allure of free foot traffic from their user base. But solving the charging problem is only the start. With their network of thousands of venue partners and on location displays they can add wifi service, targeted consumer offers and more. Only time will tell.
Jeff Chang CTO @ Doblet
Last Funded April 2015!
total funds raised
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800 venue partners
30 new vendors sign-up every week
Every Doblet charger is profitable in 2 weeks
Team: Stanford, MIT, 2 acquisitions, 2nd youngest MD in US.
Why investors us
$1,171,000 since our founding
Because dealing with a dying cell phone is a problem that we have all suffered through. What impresses us the most is how quickly they have built out their network of venue partners. With in venue displays and venue employees pointing the 15 requests a day that they get for a charge towards the Doblet devices, they have a scaleable user acquisition model. They have signed over 800 venue partners in one city in under a year. As the network continues to grow, and they have thousands of in venue partners they could launch a wifi service or promote offers through the app. Charging is just the beginning.
A former radiologist, Jeff started med school at age 16. He has an MBA from UCLA Anderson and has participated in Developer Bootcamp in SF.
Gurson told me he first got the idea for Doblet when a man with a dying phone approached him in a bar and asked him if he had a charger. Gurson said only if you give me $2. The man laughed and walked away, but later that night Gurson saw him again and he said he ended up spending $15 on a new phone charger.
Doblet users can sign up for the service, order a portable battery for their device, and then pay to get their device charged. The cost of this service is either $3 for a single full charge at any establishment supporting Doblet, or $30 for an annual pass that lets you charge an unlimited number of times.
Doblet makes sure your cell phone never runs out of battery, by giving you access to a network of portable charging stations that you can use on demand. Battery life is the single biggest problem we have with our smartphones. 80% of us charge our phones every single day, and we're often caught without a way to charge.
We've built a super-portable charger that fully charges your phone wherever you happen to be. Consumers with low battery can pick up a portable charger at one of our 260 venue partners in SF, and use their phone while getting it charged. Merchants benefit from increased foot traffic and new customers, through their new phone charging service.
How does Doblet work?
When one of our customers is low on battery, our app will notify them of the closest Doblet venue. They just drop by, pick up a portable charger, and start charging. Plugging in a Doblet automatically launches the app -- it's a $3 one-time fee for a full charge, or a $30 annual subscription for unlimited charging, anytime, anywhere.
The customer can enjoy their time at the bar, coffee shop, or restaurant, and return the charger when their phone's fully charged. They’re also welcome to take the charger with them and return it within 5 days, or pay $50 to keep the Doblet as their own personal external battery. Never again does anyone need to worry about low battery -- just step into the nearest Doblet venue, grab a battery, and keep on texting!
What problem does Doblet solve for Merchants?
Demand for charging at venues like restaurants and bars is already high. Bartenders we surveyed said guests ask them 10 - 30 times per day for a quick charge. Its a pain for them to deal with, there are rarely enough outlets to go around, and many merchants aren’t willing to charge phones due to liability -- accidents happen behind bars, phones are stolen in busy restaurants. That’s where Doblet comes in. The merchant takes zero responsibility for the phone and can always say: “Yes! We can charge your phone.”
Merchants also benefit from the foot traffic and new customers we drive to their venues. Our customers stop into a merchant to charge their phones, and stay for coffee or a beer.
How many merchants have you signed up?
We’ve secured 260 merchants in just San Francisco over the past 8 weeks. Last week we closed ~30 venues, and if we continue at this pace we’ll be near 400 venues by the end of November. Right now we’re focused on SF, but have received a lot of interest from other US cities as well as international interest from India, Germany, the UK, and Turkey.
What is your merchant acquisition process?
Right now we pay our salespeople $100 for every venue they sign up. We primarily go door-to-door to hand out flyers, and we get the ear of the decision maker. When we get in front of the manager or owner, we have a nearly 100% close rate. This makes perfect sense -- Doblet is free for merchants, we share revenue, and we drive new business directly from the app.
How close is the nearest Doblet for most people in San Francisco?
Most users will be able to find a Doblet venue within 200 feet.
What type of businesses does Doblet target?
In the short term our target customers will be bars, restaurants, coffee shops and hotels. But we’ve already received interest from office lobbies, gyms, and public lawns. We also plan to go after airports and malls. There is no end to the variety of potential venues for Doblet -- any merchant that serves smartphone users can use Doblet.
How do you acquire users?
We’ve made zero effort to acquire new users so far -- no marketing spend -- yet 600 people have already signed up for Doblet. Once we launch to the public, though, our merchants will be our best user acquisition channel. Because we share revenue and drive repeat customers with Doblet, every merchant has the incentive to sign up new users. To help them do this, we provide Doblet materials to every partner venue, and educate merchant staff members on our solution. We focus most of our efforts on merchant acquisition, not only to ensure our customers always have a charger close by, but also since merchants will on-board thousands of users we could never reach on our own.
How do you make money?
Right now we charge customers $3 per charge or $30 for an annual subscription. Merchants receive 33% of the revenue we get from all non-subscribers. This model will help us attract new venues quickly, but as soon as we reach a tipping point, our new contracts will no longer offer revenue sharing incentives. Increases in business and higher customer satisfaction driven in by Doblet will be more than enough to attract new merchants.
Eventually brands will be able to make this free for consumers, by running short ads. For instance, the customer could watch a 15 second RedBull spot for a fully charged phone. We have talked with several brands so far about this opportunity.
What other avenues do you plan to tackle beyond portable charging?
Doblet chargers are the Trojan horse to get our foot in the door with thousands of venues, for building a huge network of customers by solving a problem that everyone has. Next, we can provide WiFi to all our users on both phones and laptops, through our network of charging stations. Of course, there's also a massive data set involved regarding where and how consumers spend their time and money, with potential for any number of applications.
What are your hardware costs?
We spend approximately $30 per Doblet and supply each merchant with 6 Doblets and a charging stand. Costs fall dramatically with scale, and we're already building out our supply chains and larger-scale manufacturing capability.
What does it take for a location to be profitable for you?
Pilot testing has shown that, on average, 10 people will use the one-time service at every merchant every day. 10 people per day at $3 equates to $900 per month per venue. It costs us $180 to produce 6 Doblets for each venue, $200 for the charging station, $100 in sales commission to acquire the merchant. Add ~$50 for in-venue marketing materials, and it costs us $530 to acquire a new merchant, which we make back in 2-3 weeks. Everything beyond that is profit.
How big is the market?
In the US, there are 1.5 million potential venues of appropriate size and nature. At revenue of $900 per month, not including subscription, hardware sales & other revenue streams, we're looking at a TAM of $16B in the US, for charging services alone.
What do you understand that your competitors don’t?
Everyone we see trying to solve the battery life problem has chosen to focus on either software or hardware. People just want to charge their battery when they’re running low, and we realized that the best way to do that is with a carefully curated user experience, including both hardware and software experience, that exists everywhere consumers happen to be when they need a charge. The other thing that most of these companies don't understand is that it's more about creating a brand and a subscription network, rather than one-time charges or battery sales.
We're building a company with extraordinary network effects. Whether it’s wireless, portable, or kiosk-driven charging, it's the company with the network that makes charging effortless that will win. Each consumer will subscribe to only one network. We're focused on scaling that network -- with a strong revenue model and thorough market penetration, we'll be able to build stuff at the forefront of our industry, as the technologies continue to evolve.
Who are your competitors?
There are a few companies that sell charging kiosks and phone lockers. They haven’t seen much success because no one wants to lock up their phone and leave it somewhere for an hour. A few portable battery companies sell portable batteries to bars that are then resold to consumers. But merchants could buy and sell batteries on their own without the middlemen if they wanted, and are generally not in the business of selling batteries. Doblet is the only company that provides a seamless portable battery charging service to consumers, and manages the entire customer service experience for merchants, while sending our partners new customers free of charge.
Why are you the team to succeed?
My co-founder and I bring very different backgrounds to the team, but our combined experience and work ethic (along with our amazing team) will help us succeed. I (Doktor) started a domain registrar when I was 21, which was acquired by GoDaddy. After that I started LifetimeHost, which was acquired by MDWeb in Brazil. I've also launched a mobile app startup, as well as a recent customer-facing startup, BitMule.
My partner Jeff became the youngest radiologist in the US, and was the second youngest MD in the US at the age of 20, after skipping high school and graduating from college at 16. He got his MBA from UCLA, worked in VC and PE, and did graduate studies in artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh. We met at Dev Bootcamp, here in SF, and decided to form our team ... shortly afterward, we made it into Y Combinator, and now we're off and running!
Our new guys are also awesome! Both our mechanical engineer and IOS engineer have degrees from both Stanford and MIT. We're taking the time to pick the best possible people, since it's the team (and the culture our team builds) that really makes all the difference.
What keeps you up at night when you think about Doblet?
Hardware development is complicated. Every part is critical to a well-functioning product, and delays pop up at random intervals. Our main focus is on being meticulous at every step, and coordinating a variety of complex timelines, so we can save time wherever possible & build the best possible product the first time. Luckily we have full control over all Doblet units even once installed, so iteration is much easier than for other hardware ventures, where accessing the units is extremely difficult once they’ve been sold to a customer.
Why is now the time for Doblet?
We’re all fed up waiting for phone companies to provide batteries that last longer. Lithium ion has hit a ceiling in many ways, and batteries aren’t going to get dramatically better for quite a while. New technologies are announced, then fade -- commercializing a new battery technology has proven to be far more difficult than most researchers expect.
Phones have become irrevocably embedded in our everyday lives -- from managing our transportation to checking our schedules, from our source of entertainment to paying for groceries at the checkout counter. Running out of battery is simply not an option, yet it happens day in and day out, all around the world. Doblet will be there -- you'll never need to worry about your battery again.
How do you plan on expanding?
Within 4-6 months, we’ll have San Francisco covered in Doblets. At that point, we’ll have thoroughly refined and iterated our onboarding process, and we'll begin expand city by city across the US and to selected international markets. Every set of Doblets reaps profit within 2-3 weeks, so working capital won't be a large issue. We've started bringing our full hardware engineering team in-house -- this will allow us to iterate, refine and expand more quickly, with our upcoming iterations of hardware.
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