BYU student invents light-up toilet for nighttime use

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In September 2014, Matt Alexander, a 25-year-old student pursuing a business degree, created a motion-activated toilet night light called the Illumibowl. He will present his product with co-founder Mike Kannely on Shark Tank Friday on ABC at 7 p.m. MT.

“I drink a lot of water,” Alexander said. “So I woke up every other night and I’d have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night and I hated turning on the stupid light and waking myself up.”

Alexander said his nightly struggle inspired him to invent some kind of lit device that wouldn’t hurt his eyes, but would make it so he could see while using the bathroom.

“My original idea was a floor mat that would go around the toilet that you could step on and it would light up so you could see where you are going,” Alexander said.

A BYU student invented a motion activated toilet night light called the Illumibowl. (Matt Alexander)

Alexander discussed his lit floor mat idea with his brother-in-law Mike Kannely at a family reunion in September 2014. Kannely suggested attaching a light on the toilet instead.

Alexander liked the idea and immediately started building prototypes of the toilet night light. He then called Kannely, letting him know he was going forward with the invention. Kannely promptly responded and said he was ready to go head on with the product.

The product, Illumibowl, attaches directly onto the toilet bowl and changes color once it is motion activated.

Kannely said he and his family use the product themselves because it is very helpful during their late night runs to the toilet.

“I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old,” Kannely said. “When we started, (my son) was a little bit younger than three, and potty training at night was rough for him because he couldn’t reach the light switch. Having (Illumibowl) in there is good because it’s like having a little beacon of hope for him. He can go in there, he’s not too scared of the bathroom, he can see it changing colors, he thinks it’s fun and it really helps him so now night times are a breeze because he doesn’t wake me up and he doesn’t make a mess.”

After Alexander and Kannely built a few prototypes, they started a Kickstarter and raised $95,399 for their invention. Since then they have set up a factory in China and have sold more than 1,300,000 Illumibowls.

Matt Alexander (left) and Mike Kannely on an episode of “Shark Tank” present their product to investors and strategic business partners on “Shark Tank.” (Matt Alexander)

“Shark Tank” is a television show designed to help entrepreneurs and young startup companies get in touch with investors and strategic business partners. The “Tank” sought Alexander and Kannely’s business out and invited them to be a part of the show.

“They were telling us they had almost 60,000 companies apply this year,” Alexander said. “Then they narrowed it down to just shy of 200 to about 150.”

Alexander said he was pleased they could be a part of Shark Tank and is excited to watch it when it airs. Filming for the show happened this past June, but they are not allowed to discuss the outcome of what happened on the show until it airs.

“I’m stoked,” Kannely said in regard to the “Shark Tank” episode airing tonight. “I’ve seen pictures of it online. Obviously I looked super handsome on TV so that’s good to know. It’s exciting to be out there. It’s going to be a lot of good publicity for our business and it’ll let people know that we exist which is excellent. So we’re stoked.”

Currently Illumibowl is being sold at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Alexander and Kannely hope to have their product in most retail stores within the next year.

Their episode on “Shark Tank” aired Friday, March 11, on ABC at 7 p.m. MT.

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