HoVal Inventors Snare Big Fish Investors for Their Joulies on ABC’s Shark Tank
|David Jackson and Dave Petrillo appearing on ABC's Shark Tank (image courtesy of ABC)
Two graduates of Hopewell Valley Central High School appeared on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show The Shark Tank recently and snagged a $150,000 initial investment in their invention – stainless steel “coffee beans” designed to keep hot beverages at the perfect temperature.
Dave Petrillo, 26, and David Jackson, 29, who grew up together in Pennington and attended Hopewell Valley Regional High School, are the inventors of Coffee Joulies. The product (www.joulies.com) is a set of five sealed, stainless steel, over-sized “coffee beans” that contain an organic, non-toxic, edible material (exactly what is proprietary information). The material cools your coffee or other hot beverage to the perfect temperature of about 140 degrees by absorbing heat, preventing burns and maximizing flavor.
Then, emitting the heat they absorbed, the Joulies keep the beverage at that temperature for several hours, up to five hours if the drinker uses a special airtight travel coffee mug sold with the beans.
In January, Petrillo and Jackson appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, which features five wealthy celebrity entrepreneurs who listen to pitches from up-and-comers. After hearing their pitch, four of the five celebrities (Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec) opted to invest in Joulies in exchange for a royalty from each set of Joulies sold. (Go to http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank to watch the episode.) The deal they made on the show was a starting point for further, confidential negotiations that are ongoing, according to Petrillo.
“It was a lot of fun, it was really exciting,” he said of their trip to Los Angeles to tape Shark Tank. “The show is very realistic; the Sharks don’t have any idea who you are when you walk in, they are investing their own money and throwing out deals at you.”
“Eight million people watch Shark Tank and it was great publicity,” said David Jackson, who currently splits his time between the West and East coasts. “And four billion people in the world drink coffee, so we’re nowhere near where we can go with this product.”
The mechanical engineers who grew up building things together, from rollerblade ramps to robots, are far from beginners at the entrepreneur game. They started working on Joulies (which are named after the joule, a unit of energy) in 2010.
|David Jackson and Dave Petrillo, co-inventors of Coffee Joulies™
“We were both working fulltime and caffeinating quite a bit,” says Jackson of coming up with Joulies. “ I would put my coffee in a thermos, it would be too hot, and I’d burn myself, and it would stay too hot. Then, it would get too cold.” The two set out to solve that problem, and Joulies were born.
They then set out to find financing to make their product. In 2011, they gained attention when they put Joulies on Kickstarter.com, a site that invites people to support creative projects and products. In the case of Joulies, interested investors could pre-order the product at a discounted price. In just over a month, the Daves, who had set out to raise $9500 for production, raised more than $300,000, making them, at the time, the third most successful pitch ever on the site.
“We pre-sold 8000 sets to 4800 people in 57 countries around the world,” said Jackson. Also that year, they won $100,000 in the Shopify Build-a-Business Competition (http://www.shopify.com/build-a-business.) The two were also featured in media such as The New York Times, Fox News, Wired, and were named one of “100 Brilliant Companies” by Entrepreneur magazine in 2012.
Petrillo, who graduated from Hopewell Valley Central High School in 2004 and has an engineering degree from Lehigh University, and Jackson, who graduated in 2002, and has engineering degrees from Rutgers and Stanford, both belonged to the high school’s Robotics Club. Dave Petrillo’s father, Edward, a retired chemist, still serves as a mentor to the group.
“The Robotics Club is a great place to get hands on engineering experience that will set you apart from your other engineering classmates” when you get to college, said Dave Petrillo, who also took part in an engineering club at Lehigh. “It is the kind of practical, tangible, ‘building stuff’-experience that was one of the most valuable things in my whole education. That’s the stuff that really gets you ready to be a very productive engineer when it comes time to get a job.”
Petrillo, who worked for a Pennsylvania engineering company until 2011, had worked for years long-distance with Jackson on a laundry list of various inventions. They chose to go full-throttle on Joulies, because it seemed like the simplest of their products to bring to fruition.
“We thought this might be the simplest to execute, that was the thing that made it stand out,” said Petrillo. “We thought we could probably figure out how to do this easily, and bring it to market, this simple product. (But) it turned out to be way more complicated than we imagined.” Petrillo said the two initially spent eight months living near the Sherrill, New York, former flatware factory where Joulies are made, getting production running smoothly. “We underestimated how much time it would take and how many details there would be,” he said.
Now, Joulies are even hotter and are flying off the virtual shelf since the Daves’ appearance on Shark Tank. They are on a six- week backorder on the website as they work to satisfy demand.
“We got a huge bump from Shark Tank,” said Jackson. But the Daves have many more ideas up their sleeves. “The important thing for us is this is just project #1,” said Jackson. “We want to make sure we learn as much as possible so projects # 2, #3, etc., are successful.”