The brainchild of cousins Dan Barnes and Wes LaPorte, PhoneSoap is a device that uses UV light to disinfect your phone, while also charging it.
The idea was sparked by a TV report that said the average cell phone was 18 times dirtier than a public restroom, and since launching PhoneSoap, the range has expanded to include a bigger disinfecting unit – HomeSoap – as well as a filterless air purifier called AirSoap.
The next phase of development for the company involves brand collaborations, with the team actively looking to collaborate with partners on branded PhoneSoap devices that authentically bring brands to life in this space.
We caught up with the team to find out more about the firm’s brand ambitions – and the product’s evolution from a “nice to have” to a “need to have”.
Guys, great to connect. Let’s start at the beginning – what led you to set up PhoneSoap?
Dan Barnes, Co-Founder and President, PhoneSoap: Well, Wes and I are cousins and were roommates throughout college. We did little jobs together, but we always wanted to build something bigger than a local side hustle.
While at university, I was in the business school and Wes was doing cancer research. We ran into a perfect storm of ideation. I saw a news report that said the average cell phone was 18 times dirtier than a public restroom. It seemed like a problem that needed to be fixed! It was 2009, so smart phones and touch screens were still pretty new.
From a business side of things, you really need to catch the wave before it forms. While we didn’t have an eye on something like a pandemic, we knew touch screens would only become more prevalent and they’d be everywhere. There were some large form UV-C bulbs in the lab that Wes was working at that would disinfect his tools. We had this problem, and this sounded like it could be the solution.
UV-C light was a proven technology but had never been shrunk and used on the consumer side. That’s where it started. We then attached our product to a charger. People charge their phones every night, why not charge it and disinfect it at the same time? A phone is the third hand that you never wash. You need to wash your hands to stay healthy, and there’s where PhoneSoap came from.
Let’s look at licensing. What sorts of brands do you think PhoneSoap could be a great home for?
Scott Bridgeman, Business Development Director, PhoneSoap: I think brands that are looking for that advocacy piece. Brands that, through a collaboration, will allow us to educate the market through their brand’s exposure and consumer base. There are a lot of opportunities.
Jared Elliott, Director of Global Sales, PhoneSoap: Everyone is fighting for eyeballs on their brands. What better way to get that than through a product that’s timely and thoughtful like PhoneSoap?
How far can brands play around with PhoneSoap? As well as putting branding on the units, is there scope to be creative with materials? I’m thinking of a LEGO HomeSoap coated in LEGO studs…
DB: Yes, absolutely! We want to collaborate with brands on our products from the ground up. When it comes to material changes, anything is possible.
SB: We can be fluid, especially as a company with product that’s moved from being a “nice to have” to a “need to have.”
DB: To have someone like a LEGO or a Pixar want to expand on the design of our product to be more fully reflective of their brand or characters, that would be possible – and very exciting.
You mention LEGO there, and I know that you’re working with the brilliant Paul von Mohr of Meo Mio on forging collaborations with toy brands. Why do you think there’s exciting opportunities for toy brand collaborations around PhoneSoap and HomeSoap?
SB: Well, mobile device usage is getting younger and younger, so it makes sense from that point of view, but this industry also has a lot of shared-use items.
Paul von Mohr, Managing Partner, Meo Mio: Look at video game controllers, LEGO, toys – all kinds of stuff is passed back and forth between kids. For parents, having a trusted brand like a toy brand provides an opportunity to educate children about how important it is to keep your toys disinfect from germs. It’s also a cool way to do it!
Sustainability is something that most toy companies recognise they need to be actively engaged with now, and some were faster than others. Do you think toy firms have an opportunity to get ahead of a trend by collaborating with PhoneSoap on products that disinfect toys and prevent disease being spread through play?
PvM: One hundred percent. It’s a conversation we’re currently having with partners in the toy space – and we know it’s an area of genuine concern for parents. A partnership with PhoneSoap is a perfect way for toy brands to get ahead in this area.
SB: Lots of toy companies look at routines and habits that they can engage with. Parents are also looking at establishing habits for their children. The PhoneSoap experience is slick, so it fits into a consumer’s healthy lifestyle nicely and can become a part of a child’s daily routine.
PvM: Exactly; it solves a problem, educates children, and promotes healthy habits.
JE: We’re seeing it already in classrooms, with children disinfecting class iPads using HomeSoap. They see it as their job to do it, and it becomes kind of a cool experience for the kids. Kids gravitate towards the experience.
Read the full interview with PhoneSoap over on our sister site, Brands Untapped, here.
To stay in the loop with the latest news, interviews and features from the world of toy and game design, sign up to our weekly newsletter here