The winner for Best Technology Product goes to…Breathe Tech
The technology industry is growing at a massive rate, and especially within hardware startups, there is such a large number of tech products coming onto the market every year. So how do you stand out and make sure you are seen above the rest?
Well that’s exactly what Chris Turner, Founder of Breathe Tech, did in this year’s Virtual Hustle Awards. Breathe Tech is a product that allows you to easily see the current air quality wherever you are. How did he do it? In Turner’s own words he said: “As a big tech user, I am constantly frustrated by what I see in poor design. When you are using a product every day and millions have been spent on research and development - sometimes you think, ‘how did you get that so wrong?’”
So, how did Turner get it so right? It was around three years ago, and Turner had just had a baby, sold his business and was looking for something new. He explained: “It was also the time where there was a rapid evolution in London and other cities around the world, that were taking more notice of air pollution and its health effects. I was looking for a product to buy where I could monitor the air, both in the house and out and about, and I noticed that what was out there wasn’t particularly good.”
Turner’s background was in product sourcing, not electronics. But he explained: “I thought this was something I could do better, so I went to China to see some factories, got some design companies to work on some ideas, then took it from there. I went onto Indiegogo to get some funding, but also to get some feedback.”
Breathe Tech began retail sales in the middle of last year. Turner explained: “What we have really done is to make unique products that are easy to use. You can take it out of the box, switch it on and it works, there is no need to download an app or anything and it gives you useful real-time information without having to take a phone with you.”
That was key for Turner when designing his tech hardware product, it needed to be simple, easy and ready-to-use without all the extras and add-ons, and to give you actionable information about what is in the air you are breathing. “We also ship it with a strap so you can put it on a pram when you are walking with children. You can also strap it to you when running, or to the handlebars on any bike if you are commuting, and it shows you the exposure to harmful air pollution.
“Running a business is a very lonely thing, the lows can be very low, but at the same time the highs can be very high. When things work out and you get recognition for what you are doing it’s great, because a lot of the time you are thinking is this the right thing to be doing?” Turner explained.
It was particularly tough for Turner, who was getting into a new product area in terms of electronic hardware, he added: “All the clichés about hardware being hard, it is true I can attest to that. But then it is having to do the software for it as well, and build a new supply chain from scratch, yes it can be very hard. Again, crowdfunding was hard work as I hadn’t done anything like that before, but it is a constant learning experience. Now I am excited because I have just got the second version of the product with some new updates and features, and we’re putting that on the market and expecting sales and feedback from customers.”
Not only did Turner found Breathe Tech on his own, he still works as a one-man-band, and uses freelancers when he needs another pair of hands. “I have spent a lot of time on YouTube learning how to do things,” he laughed.
To win the Best Technology Product is quite an achievement as there was a record number of applicants, and when asked how he felt on his victory, Turned answered: “It is great to have some recognition from outside my friends and family, they are always going to tell you good things. But the challenge is making something that other people want to genuinely buy and is going to be useful. So it is nice to see that other people can see the vision of what I am trying to do.”
Turner added: “When there’s so many huge corporations putting products out there all the time, what I try to do is take them on and make something better. I think I have and other people seem to think so as well. I think I've achieved something that companies with huge R&D teams haven't.”
It is extremely important to Turner that with a product or service, you have to look at it from the consumer’s point of view and deliver a product they want to be able to use without thinking about. “I just try to look at everything from the user’s perspective. For example, we ship the products with a power adaptor. A lot of people don’t do that, because its more complicated in terms of logistics, and is expensive, but I just think it’s something you don’t want to have to go and get separately.”
Our Judge Mark Patrick from Mouser Electronics, chose Breathe Tech and said: “I have several reasons why I picked Breathe Tech but in summary, I see what Chris has created as beneficial to millions, empowering people to make informed decisions on improving air quality. I also see it as highly scalable - add GPS and it’s potentially the basis of a crowd-sourced real-time air quality data index. I also felt that Chris, as a lone startup, embodied the spirit of innovation.”
It is safe to say the market that Breathe Tech is in is growing at a phenomenal rate, as Turner commented: “That’s because of awareness. It’s also about opening people’s eyes to the problems of bad air quality. I have spoken to people who have said they didn’t realise how bad the air in their house was and always thought the bad stuff was outside.”
Of course, like any business there was a drop off early this year due to the COVID-19 situation, but fortunately in the last couple of weeks Turner has started to see things pick up again. “I am hoping now that people are ready to spend and have a little bit more confidence about their future employment prospects.” The future is exciting for Breathe Tech as they are just about to launch the second version of the product later this year.
For the category of Best Technology Product, we were lucky enough to be sponsored by the wonderful Avery Law, who will be supporting our winner with the gold package of their new IP Right service and a year of their new CoSec service (perfect for startups looking to scale).
David Turney, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Avery Law said: “As a tech enthusiast, London resident, runner and cyclist and father of two small children Breathe’s product has an immediate appeal. In understanding real-time pollution levels we can all make informed decisions wherever we are. The product also looks great. I have pre-ordered one and look forward to finding those low pollution cycling routes to the office!”
Avery Law is a redefining boutique law firm for the changing legal-marketplace providing legal services with a resolute focus on corporate, finance and commercial matters in the growth tech sector. The firm fully embraces an innovative tech-enabled, lean and agile model, disrupting the traditional law firms and re-inventing the way in which sophisticated and value-driven advice is provided to clients.
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