Breathometer Swims with the Sharks
A couple of days ago, I received a pitch email from a company that sells a breathalyzer accessory for smartphones. This particular pitch caught my eye because the company mentioned that its product, Breathometer, would be featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, one of my favorite shows. I decided that, instead of covering the company before that, I’d check out Breathometer’s time in the tank and recap the results.
Representing Breathometer on Shark Tank was CEO Charles Michael Yim of Chatterfly fame, who was seeking $250,000 in exchange for a 10% stake. Yim positioned Breathometer as “the world’s smallest smartphone breathalyzer,” which plugs into a smartphone’s audio jack — like a Square dongle — and works in conjunction with an app to determine the user’s blood alcohol content level.
To start, Yim shared some pretty impressive numbers on Breathometer. The product was the result of an IndieGoGo campaign that saw over 4,000 units sell in 30 days. Breathometer’s revenue for that time period was $140,000. The Breathometer dongle sells for $49.99 and, unlike many companies that show up on Shark Tank, Breathometer already had secured some investor backing. Yim put $50,000 of his own money into the product and angel investors had also paid in to the tune of $500,000. Yim stated that he planned to use the $250,000 from the sharks to concentrate on product manufacturing.
He wound up walking away with a lot more than the $250,000 he came for. When all was said and done, all five sharks — Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec — had joined together for a $1 million round, capturing a 30% stake in the company.
A Breathometer feature I find neat is “Back to Zero,” which provides an estimate of how long it’ll take before you’re back down to 0% BAC. The company is careful to let users know that the number Breathometer spits out is not gospel, both on the BAC percentage side and the “Back to Zero” side, due to liability concerns. Liability is an area that shark Kevin O’Leary actually brought up during Yim’s pitch, though Yim’s explanation that the company uses disclaimers on both the accessory and in the app seemed to satisfy him.
The advertising from Shark Tank alone was probably a big deal for the company, and I could tell that Breathometer’s competitors believed that, too — on Friday, BACtrack actually put out a press release called “Breathalyzer Myths: Why Today’s Smartphone Breathalyzers are Not Created Equal,” in what I assume was a preemptive strike against Breathometer’s coverage. But the $1 million round of funding was a big deal, too, especially when you look at who that round came from. Because of that, I feel Breathometer has a very good shot at success.
Breathometer wasn’t the first smartphone breathalyzer and it definitely isn’t the most established, but the company pulled off a major coup landing on Shark Tank. We’ll have to wait and see if Breathometer’s time on the show translates to brand recognition and sales down the line.