Story by Ee Chien Chua and Mason Porter
Wesley LaPorte, a senior from Morgan Hill, Calif., was watching ABC news one day when he saw a feature story that said phones have 18 times more bacteria than a public restroom. Shocked, he went online and found other research all saying the same thing.
LaPorte started working with a few friends to come up with a product, including Jordan Monroe, a junior from Burley, Idaho, majoring in entrepreneurship. Monroe said they started trying to look for a solution, but weren’t too successful with their first few tries.
“We found out your phone is disgusting,” Monroe said. “We were going to do phone wipes, but we found that people didn’t like wipes and wipes aren’t patentable.”
LaPorte did cancer research on campus, and noticed that they used UV lights to clean equipment. Curious, he put his phone under the UV rays and found that it was extremely effective in killing the bacteria.
Phone Soap is both a charger and a cleaner. Users plug their phones into the box and let it charge and be cleaned simultaneously.
Since launching it on Kickstarter on April 4, the project has raised more than $12,000. Monroe. who is , who is vice president of sales for Phone Soap, said the project was picked up by CNET, and has since been featured on multiple technology websites including digg. and Vodaphone news.”
“We’re really happy with how simple it’s been,” he said. “We just lucked out that such a nasty subject has been shared and reposted by people easily.”
The team hopes the product will be in consumers’ hands by September.
Part of the team’s success has been the viral nature of the product. The Kickstarter campaign has already earned more than 200 pledges, due in large part to friends sharing the link to the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
Dan Barnes, identified as the group’s “Internet Marketing Guru,” said they plan to continue spreading the word through viral video campaigns.
“We have some great statistics to work with,” Barnes said. “We want to correlate what it means that my phone is 18 times dirtier than a public toilet seat. You can imagine the possibilities for a video campaign.”
Barnes said if people help spread the idea, the group will likely sell more product and establish their new brand.
“We want to brand ourselves and become the go-to electronic cleaners, especially for phones,” he said.
With a sleek design and consumer-friendly application – users simply put their phone in the box and let it charge and clean overnight – PhoneSoap aims to be a long-term fixture in the booming phone accessory market.
"Existing products in this market are usually powered by batteries, but people get frustrated because batteries don't last," he said. "This can be plugged into a computer or to the wall so it can be easily adapted to a person's lifestyle."