Crowd-funded, American molded iPhone case cracks growing market

Inventor and entrepreneur Mike Kane, CEO and co-founder of CellPig, solved a big problem for the masses of cell phone users: fallen iPhone fatalities. Users can now purchase the cellhelmet molded from TPU that offers protection for their iPhone4/4S.

In an interview with PlasticsToday, Kane noted that trying to come up with an indestructible case for the iPhone that would be different from what was already on the market was no easy task. "There are so many companies out there that make iPhone cases," he said. "How do we get retail shelf space for a me-too product?"

CellPig's cellhelmet utilizes TPU for a stronger iPhone case.

Kane and his partners, Bryan McHenry and Dave Artuso, have no engineering experience so they decided to make something very simple that would still allow the iPhone to fit into peoples' pockets. The differentiator would be the included accidental damage coverage. "No one else had accidental damage coverage built into their product that guaranteed if your iPhone4/4S broke while in the protective case you'd be covered," said Kane. "So we decided that if we're going to promote the best option on the market, we'd guarantee that if your iPhone breaks while in the cellhelmet, we'll take care getting it fixed or replaced. We stand behind our products."

Kane added that cellhelmet has "been very well received." Over the three months that the cellhelmet has been on the market, more than 2000 units have been sold. "We're in about 30 stores now," commented Kane.       

Sun Star Inc., a custom injection molding company in Latrobe, PA that specializes in product design assistance and molding (both plastic and metal injection molding) helped Kane and CellPig

get the project off the ground. "We really wanted to manufacture the cellhelmet here in the U.S.A., but we also knew that it had to be a good business decision. We looked at Sun Star, which is literally 15-minutes up the road. We quoted China too. Sun Star came in at about twice what it would have been in China, but when we looked at the shipping and other factors, we decided that Sun Star would be our supplier."

While the price for the cellhelmet is a bit higher than other protective devices on the market, Kane said that the price is justified by the included service on the backend. In deciding which mobile phone to design a protector for, the partners chose the Apple iPhone. "The cell phone market is huge, but Apple is very stable, so we stuck with Apple," Kane said.

Additionally, CellPig just launched a whole new line of products that includes screen protectors which also include accidental damage coverage for mobile phones, iPods or other gaming devices. "If you get a scratch on your screen with the protector on, we'll replace the glass," Kane stated. "If we tell you we'll protect your product, we will stand behind that."

The screens are die-cut from PET sheet, with that production outsourced to an overseas company. "Unfortunately, those didn't make sense at all because the price to get them done locally was 10 times what we could get them for overseas," he said. "It just didn't make sense at all because the selling price point is just so low."

Unlike many inventors who get funding for their projects through friends, family and a second mortgage on their house, Kane got of his funding from Kickstarter, a funding platform for new inventions and creative projects. This online funding platform provides a way for people to receive funding for their new products or creative projects such as art, film making, musical productions, book publishing and other creative arenas.

People post their project or product on Kickstarter's site along with their funding goal - the amount they need to get their product or project off the ground. There are a few rules. One, the project or product must reach its funding goal before the allotted funding time runs out or no money changes hands. This is to protect both the contributors and the project or product owner.

Typically, according to Kickstarter's website, the average project funding requirement is under $10,000. Kickstarter collects 5% in fees from the project's funding total. "We raised double the $10,000 we originally asked for," commented Kane. "We found out that the platform [Kickstarter] is so much better at raising awareness than money. In addition to the funding, we raised awareness of the cellhelmet. We got a lot of press."

Essentially, people pre-order the product that is offered so it's a 'non-equity' form of investing. "We just launched the screen protectors on a similar site, indiegogo" Kane said. "We used it as a means to raise awareness -get people to be on our side of the fence. It is a full time job however because you need to drive people to the site and get them talking about the project. You need crowds to see what you're doing."

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