The Pitch: "You wouldn't use dry paper to wash your dishes. You wouldn't use dry paper to wash your face. So why are you still using it to clean your most sensitive body parts? We make the Swash, a bidet that can be installed easily on almost any toilet seat. It provides a more hygienic and eco-friendly way to take care of 'business.' Depending on the model, it retails for $450 to $800. We also sell a deodorizing line of toilet seats, and later this year we'll launch products that decrease your existing toilet's water consumption. We sell to luxury hotels, and our products are available online and in 400 locations, including the Home Depot's EXPO. We're also reaching out to doctors for endorsement in the medical community."
OWNERS: Scott Pinizzotto and David Samuel
LOCATION: San Francisco
FOUNDED: October 2003
2007 REVENUE: $2.28 million
2008 PROJECTED REVENUE: $6.15 million
RAISED SO FAR: $1.8 million from angels, including investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban
NEEDED NOW: $5 million for marketing, distribution, and product development
CLIENTS: Households earning $75,000 or more; luxury hotels
RECENT BUZZ: 2007 American Building Product award; mentions in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Wired called it a "supercool gadget."
Focus on hotels
I actually had an informational meeting with these guys about six months ago, and I ended up buying the Swash at a friends-and-family rate. The product works well. I'd recommend it to friends, but I'm skeptical about whether many Americans will buy it. The problem is that everyone uses the bathroom, but we don't talk about it. And changing something as personal as cleanliness is going to be difficult. But bidets are all over Asia, so there's probably some market demand from people who are familiar with it. If they want to sell it in the U.S., I think their best bet is to focus on luxury hotels.
Seek angels instead
If you're a small guy, just getting into a distributor like the Home Depot doesn't necessarily help you -- what's important is what the distributor can do for you. Since they're already in 400 locations and yet they're doing only $2 million, I wonder how big the market is for this enhanced toilet. As far as endorsements from doctors, it's an interesting idea, but it's hard to create significant traction doing that unless your product makes a huge health difference. Because I'm unsure about the national market potential, I think Brondell should stick with angel funding.
Founder and former CEO, Staples
Managing partner Highland Consumer Fund
How do you differentiate the product from the competition? In the end, the people who are putting in a new bathroom -- are they really going to go with your branded product, or are they going to go with the market leaders, like Kohler? My suggestion is to get some prepaid distribution deals. For example, let's imagine that a big company like Kohler is interested in this kind of product but doesn't have it yet. That company acts as a distribution channel -- it sells your product using its own branding, and in exchange it prepays you a significant amount of money. Brondell can then use that money for working capital instead of getting venture funding.