BYU student Matt Alexander, founder of the weekly Newsletter “Provo Scene,” has done it again. This time, his work has taken him in a completely different direction.
He continues his entrepreneurial streak with a light-up toilet bowl invention.
Alexander, a business management major, was sitting with his brother-in-law and current business partner, Mike Kannely, discussing some business ideas last August when the stroke of genius hit them.
Alexander had already been contemplating the idea of building a device that would solve the blinding effect of turning on the light in the middle of the night to use the restroom. He mentioned it to Kannley, who said he felt the same way.
“I absolutely hate turning on the light in the middle of the night and waking myself up,” Kannely told KSL News. “If you are a boy and you pee in the dark and you miss, then your wife gets mad at you.”
Kannely suggested they place the light on the bowl instead of on a floor mat, as Alexander had originally conceived. Kannley then insisted they begin the project, which gave Alexander the confidence he needed to pursue the venture.
That is when the idea of IllumiBowl was born. IllumiBowl is a motion-sensored night light placed inside toilets.
Alexander began building the prototype using a motion-sensored light typically used in driveways or yards. He described the process as basically ripping it apart and gluing it back together. The device is a little more sophisticated now, featuring LED lights only on the interior of the bowl that can be set to a single color or a color-changing setting. Alexander said this makes it one of the world’s coolest motion-activated night lights.
Alexander launched the product on Facebook via a few indoor yard sale pages in the Utah Valley. To his surprise, it was an immediate hit.
“In three hours, we had sold 120 of them,” he said.
Alexander said he knew he was on to something big and decided he would place it on Kickstarter soon after. The Kickstarter launched Oct. 18 with a goal of $20,000.
Today it has far surpassed that goal, with almost 3,000 backers donating more than $84,000.
Ryan Roemer commented on the Kickstarter page and said he is never going to pee on the seat again. “I love the fact that this idea was probably thought up when he was half asleep taking a pee. I bet he didn’t sleep the rest of the night … probably started thinking of how this could be created! Your product is going to make A LOT of wives happy!” Roemer wrote.
Alexander and Kannely, who originally had marketed to primarily wives and mothers, were astonished by the diversity of demographics of those who responded to their product.
“We’ve had college students, elderly people and moms who want to use it to potty train their kids,” he said. “It’s nice because now we can market towards everyone instead of being limited.”
The product even has an international market, with companies in Israel, Germany, Italy and several South American countries showing interest.
Alexander has become so tied up with launching IllumiBowl that he has passed his newsletter over to his stepbrother, Alex Speiser.
Alexander is planning on selling IllumiBowl for $20 online beginning January 2015, but it is currently available on Kickstarter at a lower price.
The most current update to IllumiBowl was announced Nov. 19 on the Kickstarter page. The company has selected a manufacturer in Shanghai and is awaiting samples of the product.
According to Alexander, “Once we ok the sample, they [the manufacturers] will begin tooling up and creating the molds. They estimate 30 days to create the molds and then 20 days to produce the first 10,000 units.”
Alexander said his success with IllumiBowl will not impede him from developing any current or future ideas. Alexander carries with him a list of possible ideas based on things that bother him. He believes IllumiBowl will benefit his creative and ambitious nature.
“This will make it easier to develop future ideas,” Alexander said. “It’s hard to develop a successful business model and get into big retailers, but once you do you’re pretty much in.”
Alexander plans on hitting smaller retailers early next year with hopes of being in Walmart by the end of the year.