Plato may have pegged necessity as the mother of invention, but for Alejandro Campos, fatherhood served as his motivation.
Smart phones are great for communicating, playing games, listening to music and running all manner of apps, but that intensive use can quickly deplete our devices’ batteries.
“Much like having Wi-Fi access, we expect to be able to charge our smart device when in restaurants, cafés, bars or other sit-down retail locations,” Campos said. “Unfortunately, we still fight over wall outlets because no one’s offering a graceful charging solution for people in these locations.”
A dead cell phone and a strong desire to reach his own young family while traveling inspired Campos and his creation of Pow-r.me. He launched the Seattle-based startup in 2015. Campos is CEO of the company and his CV includes a decade at Microsoft, working in Mexico City and Washington state.
“We offer a portable mobile device charging station and mobile app designed to ensure customers always have access to a full charge for their mobile devices. It’s currently available in more than 100 Seattle-area locations such as Duke’s Chowder House, The Lodge, Zeeks Pizza and John Howie Sport Restaurant and Bar,” Campos said.
It’s free for users to recharge their phones and other devices using one of Pow-r.me’s portable stations. The startup earns revenue through advertising featured at the charging site. In the near future, Pow-r.me will also display ads in the app itself. At least for now, the restaurants that provide the charging stations are getting them for free.
The Pow-r.me charging dock works for iOS, Android and Windows devices and integrates four rechargeable batteries. The app is available in the App Store and on Google Play. It allows users to locate Pow-r.me locations with a custom map view that includes directions.
“We believe power should be available to everyone, anywhere, for free,” Campos said, “so that we can stay connected to what matters most.”
We caught up with Campos for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Pow-r.me offers free mobile device charging stations that integrate custom branding and advertising. This allows restaurants and other sit-down locations to increase customer loyalty, advertisers to connect in a new and unique way, and consumers to get convenient access to a free charge.”
Inspiration hit us when: “When on a business trip abroad, my phone ran out of battery. I was thousands of miles away from my 1-year-old son and my wife who was seven months pregnant at the time. I was desperately looking for a restaurant or café that would allow me to charge my phone. It made me realize that power should be available to everyone, anywhere, for free, so we can stay connected. That’s when Pow-r.me was born. We decided to create an integrated charging station that could benefit all parties involved. The restaurant can differentiate and increase customer loyalty, the advertiser can capitalize on a unique delivery model, and the customer gets free power.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We decided to bootstrap Pow-r.me because we felt we could streamline the technology and operational costs required during the initial roll out, which is designed to validate our proof of concept here in the Seattle market. As we quickly evolve and build traction, we will start looking for the right partners, and talent, to help us scale more aggressively.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Personal relationships. Even in this world of social media, emails and text messages, we focus on talking to each and every client in person to explain the value of Pow-r.me and build a long-lasting relationship. The same goes for our team. We say that we are a family, and it’s true. We’re all working toward a powerful goal, and that’s to make mobile device power accessible and free to all.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Surrounding myself with smart and seasoned entrepreneurs is the smartest move I’ve made to date. It’s not easy to bootstrap a startup. You have to engage with the right people at the right time. Their guidance and expertise can help turn an idea into a reality, and hopefully open doors to more people and relationships that can help you build and succeed.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Assumptions! Pow-r.me was a new project and there was a lot we didn’t know. Many aspects of this business have required a steep learning curve. And, many times we discovered halfway through a process that because of assumptions, we were delayed on deliverables. Today, I go into every situation with an open perspective and always solicit feedback from my team. Their guidance is gold and helps me assume less and listen more.”
Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Even though I greatly admire Bill’s work and have a background with Microsoft, I would have to say that today, I’m Team Bezos. He is aggressive, innovative and disruptive to the status quo. Amazon is changing the culture of consumers, which is exactly what we want to accomplish with power. People should expect to find convenient power everywhere they go, just like many of us now expect two-day shipping on practically everything.”
Our favorite team-building activity is: Happy hour at any of the 100-plus Pow-r.me locations!
The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Many elements go into finding the right person for your business, but beyond the core competencies, they need to show a real passion for what we’re trying to accomplish. I rely on my gut to help tell me determine if they’re genuinely excited to be a part of our team.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Surround yourself with smart people and NEVER EVER give up. No matter what.”