What’s in a Thing? Meet the Designer Behind the thingCHARGERGadgets & Gizmos
What’s in a Thing? Meet Designer Behind the thingCHARGER
New things are invented each and every day. With thousands of new products hitting the market, demanding your attention, and screaming to be purchased, very few things stand out enough to grab your attention. After all, why bother with useless gadgets that will litter your home, crowd your space, and eventually become nothing more than a waste of money? If you’re going to buy something, then you want it to be elegant, useful, and utterly fabulous. These are just a few of the things that Seymour Segnit, founder and inventor of the thingCharger, pointed out to me during our hour long chat. Of course, we also covered other ‘things’ like the inspiration, design, and ideas behind the thingCharger, but we’ll get to that later.
thingCharger’s launch on IndieGoGo
If you’re on mobile or don’t have time to watch (video removed by owner), the thingCharger is essentially a multi-purpose charger that allows you to charge any of your devices on the top of the outlet (without using wires). As amazing as that sounds, it gets better, because the thingCharger is also stackable, and comes with USB ports on the bottom.
When I first found the thingCharger they had just kicked off their campaign, and today, they have surpassed their fundraising goal by nearly 620 percent making this particular gadget a definite success. Earlier last week, I sat down to chat with Segnit about his invention and was pleasantly surprised to find that he’s incredibly inspired and passionate about pretty much everything but remarkably humble as well. To get things started, Seymour is not a professional designer, and this is his very first product, of which we hope there will be many more.
“I’m most proud of taking this unbelievably dull thing and turning it into something people are really excited about.” _Seymour Segnit
Q. What was the inspiration behind the thingCHARGER?
A. “My inspiration was sort of ‘anti-inspiration’ . You see, for Christmas my wife had given me a solar power re-charger and with connections for different phones etc. It was thoughtful, she researched the best one, looked at reviews, and got me something that she thought I would really love. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ever practical to use because we’re not outdoors in remote locations needing to charge, we are at home or in the office. So although it was a clever device, in practice it was yet another unused item hanging around the house and it wasn’t even charging very quickly… But it got me very interested in solving the charging nightmare.
I then purchased a standard electric outlet with a USB port, which looked like it solved the issue, but really it just created more mess. I tried another popular brand, (he showed me a Beztek product, which was a monster and even featured a lit-up ‘Beztek’ sign on the front!) it has 6 power outlets, a place for an old-style iPhone, 4 USB outlets and, incredibly, a built-in nightlight… but it still didn’t solve the issue. If you assume that people don’t want to see the wires, then you’d have to use it out of the way but then it’s hard to see and difficult to use.
I played with a whole range of different chargers, even installing a built-in one right in the wall – but all had the problem of messy wires, or, if you tidy the wires away, missing wires when you want to charge.
So I went into the basement and started tinkering with all of this stuff, and came up with the original prototype for the thingCHARGER.
Q. Is there anything (specific) that the thingCHARGER doesn’t charge?
A. Well if you have an odd shaped device, then it literally might not fit on the top, but almost everything else does. thingCHARGER uses 5v charging so anything that fits on top can be charged.
Q. Why did you choose to crowdfund?
A. The traditional method is to mortgage your house and pay to manufacture it and then have thousands of your product sitting in your garage. I chose crowdfunding because I wanted to see if people wanted it first. In fact, the most successful thing that I’ve done in the past was an idea for a product I put online to see if anyone was interested and after a week it was clear that enough people were interested so then we went ahead and created it, which took about a month, and now it’s been selling for 10 years.
Q. What Advice Would You Give to Anyone Who’s Starting a Crowdfunding Campaign?
A. Anyone who does crowdfunding should get out there and make sure their friends and family are supporting them, and make a plan for generating lots of publicity. It is not a case of if you put it out there then people will find you and contribute. The traffic to our Indiegogo page – and the support we are getting – is almost entirely from our own efforts. Very little comes just from being on the site. That said Indiegogo rewards campaigns that make the effort with better placement on the site. They have an algorithm called the GoGo Factor which they use to determine which campaigns have wings and deserve some lift!
Q. Why Do You Think People Love the thingCHARGER So Much?
A. We’re thrilled at how folks are responding to the thingCHARGER. If you think about it, chargers have always been one of the least exciting gadgets, but when people watch the video their mouths literally drop open, so we’re very proud that everyone who sees it seems to be falling in love with the thingCHARGER.
In answer to your question, it’s never one thing really, it’s always a series of things that come together that make something – like if you read about why the Beatles became the Beatles, it wasn’t an overnight thing, they put in thousands of hours of work to make things come together (pun not intended). I think people react the way they do to the thingCHARGER because there is an innate yearning for simplicity in our lives. Things are just too are complex today and too much stuff just confuses things – so there is this universal desire is to simplify.
People love the thingCHARGER because it’s designed to fit into your environment rather than stand out, it’s stackable, and interchangeable tips make it versatile, and overall very well thought through, and you don’t see that often. The thingCHARGER adds a whole new range of features without changing the environment (it’s still a wall outlet), and from a design point of view, that’s very rare.
I’m most proud of taking this unbelievably dull category (did anyone ever care about a charger before?) and turning it into something people are really excited about. Still, let’s be honest, it’s only a charger, it’s role in life is very small… many projects on IndieGoGo are more worthy than ours.
Q. Do You want to Tell Us a Little More About Your Production Process?
A. We’re using professionals to produce the thingCHARGER because we have to do what we’re great at and then get other great people to do what they do best. Manufacturing – my role/our role is to be really fussy and to choose people who know what they are doing. The people we’ve chosen to make thingCHARGER prefer to be left out of the publicity process but they’ve had thirty years of experience and we really trust that they can produce a beautifully made, solid, and thoughtfully designed thing.
At the moment, you can pre-order the thingCHARGER to use in your own home right on IndieGoGo.While the charger is currently only available with a ‘Type B’ outlet common in the US, Canada and a couple of dozen smaller countries, it will be in Europe and elsewhere after it takes off in the US. This is because, as we discussed during the interview, expansion depends on timing and success, and once they make it in one area, they can begin to sell in another. However, as the core electronics are designed to be used worldwide, the final design will actually work all over the world, but it will need a different enclosure and different certifications to work in different countries.
If you’re interested in learning about how Seymour and his wife Amy put the campaign together and made it so successful, you can also join the thingCharger Insiders Club to find out just exactly how they raised 620 percent of their fundraising goal in just two months. The Insiders Club includes webinairs, and a full explanation of what they’re doing to make this campaign fly. Membership is free so long as you’ve already donated to the campaign.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again to Seymour Segnit for taking the time to chat with us.