Q: What happened next?
A: I wrote a business plan and was accepted into Wharton's [School of the University of Pennsylvania] Venture Initiation Program. I got a small grant from [Wharton] and put $50,000 of my own money in. Once I had a viable concept, I went to retailers and raised money from the debt market, institutional investors, Robin Hood Ventures and several investors in the tech and finance industries.
Q: How much did you raise?
A: $1.15 million.
Q: How's the biz model work?
A: Consumers can charge phones for free. We charge the retailer a flat monthly fee to install a kiosk. The retailer gets new traffic. We have Wharton faculty who are advisers. We've found that people who charge phones spend 65 percent more time in store and spend double at the register as opposed to those customers who are not charging their phones.
Q: What's new?
A: We just launched a mobile app that lets you know when your battery is low.
Q: How many charging units have been deployed to date?
A: We have 68, about 50 in the Philly area. We have other units in Colorado, Massachusetts and other states. We're in a hospital in Delaware, Hubbub Coffee, a Ritz Carlton hotel in Colorado and a Whole Foods in Jenkintown.
Q: How big a business is this?
A: We don't discuss revenue. We have 10 full-time employees.
Q: What's been the biggest challenge growing the business?
A: Launching a product and educating the market. We have to work on messaging. Consumers ask why it's free. We have to explain that retailers love them and want to provide this amenity.
Q: With whom do you compete?
A: There are companies that have charging machines, but you have to pay a fee and wait for the phone to charge. There's no lock.
Q: Where do you see the biz headed in the next few years?
A: Our plan is to have 50,000 units deployed within three years across the U.S.
Q: You now have a next-generation charging station?
A: Yes, it's a touch-screen kiosk with a digital lock. We have one unit [at Independence Visitors Center] and more will be deployed soon.
On Twitter: @MHinkelman