Avi Goldstein, a former New York City volunteer paramedic, has a knack for spotting new product ideas. So when he balked at using a stylus to sign for medication at his pharmacy early in the Covid-19 pandemic, inspiration struck.
"Everyone who is sick is literally using that stylus. It's disgusting," says Goldstein. He decided to make a tool that you could bring with you to sign. Then he thought about opening doors and using credit cards, and added a range of functions.
On March 24, Goldstein launched a Kickstarter campaign for his $24.99 tool, "The Hygiene Hand." Within an hour, his $5,000 goal was met, and the campaign raised more than $585,000 by its April 22 close.
It isn't beginner's luck. Goldstein is the founder and CEO of StatGear, a manufacturer and supplier of everyday-carry and survival gear, which made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing U.S. private companies in 2019. The Brooklyn-based company earned $2.67 million in 2018 revenue, ranking at No. 1689. The eight-employee expects to book up to $5 million in revenue this year.
Goldstein got his start in generating new product ideas while volunteering as an EMS paramedic when he created a small plastic device that lets doctors clip things to their stethoscopes. He created more medical accessories and other products, sometimes running credit-card balances of up to $100,000 until the business was up and running. Now the company offers emergency preparedness kits, first-aid kits, disaster kits, rescue tools, and accessories.
Goldstein created about 20 of the products on the StatGear website. His process has three parts: Finding the idea, researching it, and lining up financing.
His best ideas come when he's out in the field and spots a need for a new tool or device -- or an improvement on an existing one. The next step is intensive research. Ensuring that nothing like it already exists in the market is crucial, he says.
"Everyone thinks they have a great idea," he says. "Make sure it's a novel idea, know what's out there, then figure out how much you can afford to put into it."
If you're short on cash, crowdfunding can be a good option, says Goldstein, who has done nearly 20 Kickstarter campaigns.
His Covid-19 eureka moment led to what he initially called the "Hygiene Hand Antimicrobial Brass EDC (Every Day Carry) Door Opener & Stylus." The tool, pictured above, is meant to help avoid the spread of germs while performing everyday tasks. It's the size of a keychain, attaches to a belt, and is made from solid brass, which has antimicrobial properties. StatGear so far has shipped about 40 percent of the 32,000 Kickstarter orders, he says. "That is what we're good at," Goldstein says, "getting materials, cutting it down, coming up with a design, and making it as soon as possible for everyone."
As with many compelling new business ideas, knockoffs already abound. When the Hygiene Hand became popular on Kickstarter, Goldstein began noticing ads on Google and Facebook for similar products and copycats, some which he says used The Hygiene Hand name and marketing material. StatGear has succeeded in having ads for dozens of similar products removed, Goldstein says.
"It's difficult to keep up," he adds. He says that some counterfeits have sharp edges, and others are spray-painted gold. The company has filed two patents and a trademark, but approvals could be years away. "I hate to think that people could feel safe using a tool like mine when they're actually not," he says.
While the company's biggest customers are federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Border Patrol, according to Goldstein, medical professionals and first responders have been in touch to ask when the Hygiene Hand will be available. But the Kickstarter campaign drew some criticism on social media from consumers for "preying on people's fears," says Goldstein.
If you have a new business idea or a concept for a new product, avoid appearing to exploit consumer anxieties, says Gabrielle Lieberman, director of trends and social media research at Mintel, a market-research firm. Although people are eager to return to normal life, she says, what they want right now is security and support. "Brands that approach this period with a short-term mentality really run a risk of suffering long-term damage to their reputation," Lieberman says.
For Goldstein's company, the Hygiene Hand is on brand. StatGear makes survival and rescue tools, and it's been doing so successfully for 10 years.