Velvetwire opens online store with energy saving mobile charger
by Eric Bodnar and Jennifer Lee
Santa Cruz technology startup, Velvetwire, has opened its online store, making available the first, locally made, energy saving mobile charger for smart phones, tablets, and other USB devices.
As Velvetwire founders, we envision a smarter energy future, in which everyday products, made smarter through software, learn to use energy optimally and to save energy automatically. The Powerslayer is a smarter, more efficient version of the chargers we use every day to charge our mobile devices.
The Powerslayer achieves its efficiency through patented “Softcharge” technology. The software monitors devices as they charge, saving energy and keeping batteries happy along the way. It eliminates the wasteful and potentially damaging trickle power that leaks out as heat after devices are fully charged. And when left in a wall outlet, the Powerslayer knows when to turn on and when to go to sleep, drawing one-tenth the standby power of typical chargers. Best of all, it is manufactured right here in the Bay Area.
We started exploring energy consumption behavior after a Pacific sailing adventure. At sea, energy is precious and necessary for survival. Conservation naturally takes priority over convenience. On land, energy is plentiful and, for now, relatively
inexpensive. Convenience tends to win over conservation. The gap between conservation and convenience has led to a reluctance to conserve. We saw an opportunity to bridge this gap through better, more intelligently designed products that are both convenient and efficient.
Realizing this vision meant rethinking the design of everyday things. Rethinking the mobile charger seemed like a good first step because it has been overlooked and, with billions in use worldwide, cumulatively contributes to significant energy waste. In the Powerslayer, intelligent software replaces many of the functions traditionally performed by analog circuitry, making the charger smarter, adaptable and more efficient.
Velvetwire goes beyond just designing smarter, more efficient products. A key goal for the company is to bring electronics manufacturing back to the US. This proved to be an even bigger challenge than designing the product itself.
Traditional global manufacturers were either unwilling or unable to make the Powerslayer locally. One even laughed at the idea. Disappointed but not discouraged, our small team at Velvetwire began a year-long process to create a supply chain of local manufacturers. This meant, not only designing the product to be locally made, but also designing most of the test equipment and procedures required to make local manufacturing cost-effective and practical. A longer, and more difficult road than anticipated, it nevertheless proved well worth the journey.
The Powerslayer is manufactured by a collaboration of dedicated specialists, all within 70 miles of Velvetwire’s Santa Cruz headquarters. Absent are the faulty, unreliable hand operations commonly used in overseas production. Instead, Velvetwire constructed a design that is simple, reliable and cost-effective enough to build here.
To get the word out, the Velvetwire team chose to unveil the Powerslayer via the crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter. Through a successful campaign, we were able to build a strong following of dedicated backers who cheered us along as we raced to finish the product. Now, with that behind us and a small army of enthusiastic early adopters, we are making the product available online.
At $40, the Powerslayer is competitively priced. Even with its optimized assembly process, making it locally is more costly than making it overseas. Rather than pass the higher cost to the consumer, Velvetwire chose to sell the Powerslayer directly, bypassing the traditional retail route. With the help of local Santa Cruz web developers, Velvetwire built an online store and linked purchases electronically to their manufacturing chain.
Sara Isenberg publishes Santa Cruz Tech Beat for the benefit of the extended business and technology community. When she is not volunteering her time for the tech scene, Sara makes her living by managing software projects, web strategy planning, and providing development team services (including account management, vendor management, strategic partner management, beta project management, referrals to qualified technical team members, and more). Please visit her website: Sara Isenberg Web Consulting & Project Management, or contact Sara by email if you have any project management, account management, or Development Team leadership or service needs.