SDSU startup develops cutting-edge product


by David Hernandez

About seven months ago a team consisting of four San Diego State students and an alumnus sat around the conference table in the Zahn Innovation Center with the idea to develop a portable phone battery charger with unprecedented dimensions.

In order to develop the product, the team—business management senior Alex Martinez, finance senior Brian Kidwell, economics senior Kyle Good, psychology senior Matthew Better, and mechanical engineering  alumnus Keenan McCollom—intended to establish a company. Potential company names, words and phrases, entirely covered the whiteboard in the conference room. On the second day of brainstorming, they each chose a word that represented their personal values. “Innovation,” “growth,” “interaction,” “positivity” and “impactive” stood out, especially the last word. Looking up the definition and seeing the pronunciation guide yielded a name the team could not resist. Reading “im-pak-tiv,” they were assured they had found a name for their company.

Now, Impaktiv hopes to produce its 4-millimeter thin battery charger, making it “the world’s thinnest portable phone battery charger.”

The name for the product “The Edge” came more naturally than the company’s name and fits the qualities Impaktiv is looking for in its portable charger: sleek corners and edges, giving customers “an edge on life.”

“The Edge” can charge an iPhone 4, iPhone 5 or Android up to 70 percent, using one of three USB cables for each type of smartphone. Five miniature lights will illuminate on one side of the device to show how charged the portable battery is, with each light indicating a 20 percent charge. A money clip accessory can also accompany the battery.

While the team now has the ideal prototype and hopes to launch a Kickstarter campaign soon, the road has been far from straightforward.

In February, the team began by taping a small stack of credit cards, and a stack of business cards to create a prototype to test the product’s size in wallets and pockets and to receive feedback. After, Impaktiv designed two mock-ups in computer-aided design software. In April RoBo 3D, a company that created its own 3-D printer, assisted Impaktiv in printing its first physical design prototype. The Impaktiv team then created an aluminum-covered model.

In August, the team completed its final prototype.

The team members, who retreated from the initial idea of rebranding phone batteries, focused on designing a product unlike the ones they saw on the market by making the product’s size its asset. “The Edge” is a battery charger with a size so convenient it can seamlessly integrate into people’s lives.

“There hasn’t been one as convenient as your phone is to integrate into your life, and that’s where we come in,” Good said.

“The fact that our product can always be with you is extremely powerful,” McCollom said.

McCollom attributes the team’s success so far to the equal level of thought process that each member has, which stems from the members’ collective involvement and experience at SDSU.

Martinez and Kidwell have been part of SDSU Rotaract Club and the Business Honors Program, and both, along with Better, have also been part of the Lavin Entrepreneur Program. All five members have been involved in the Entrepreneur Society.

Starting a company, however, is inevitably a completely new learning experience. Impaktiv members said the “learning curve” has been a challenge, but also a positive aspect.

“We’re getting into all these different things that we haven’t been familiar with to begin with … which is awesome, though, because we’re learning a lot in the process,” Kidwell said.

“We know our end goal. This is what we want to create,” Martinez said looking at product. “And we know where we want to go, but you don’t always know exactly how to get there. And so, it’s been finding the right people to talk to and trying to connect the dots along the way.”

“We’re constantly learning lessons, but we love it,” Better said. “It’s a challenge and we keep learning, and from that we keep growing as a team.”

The Impaktiv team has received assistance and mentorship along the way from SDSU alumni, the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and the Zahn Center, which provides resources such as workspace, pro bono legal work and 24/7 access.

“I’ve slept here before,” Martinez said with a laugh.

And that’s what the journey has been like for the team—getting kicked out of the Love Library study rooms at midnight, using the 24/7 library area and working in the Zahn Center.

Impaktiv hopes to launch its Kickstarter project by the end of the year. After talking to manufacturers and analyzing the product’s financial aspects, the company set a tentative $75,000 funding goal for its Kickstarter campaign. The money will go toward certifications, raw material, shipping, insurance and other expenses.

Better said Kickstarter is a great platform to also receive customer feedback.

After reaching its goal, Impaktiv will perform a production run, coordinate with a manufacturer and deliver the product through Kickstarter. Eventually, the company hopes to sell its portable charger on Amazon and retail stores such as Best Buy.

“The Edge” will compete in three business competitions this month: the Zahn Challenge, the Lavin VentureStart Competition and the MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego Student Pitchfest.

Photo courtesy of Impaktiv.