Landing an investment from all five hosts of ABC's Shark Tank was just the beginning for Charles Michael Yim.
The 31-year-old entrepreneur, who closed the first million-dollar deal in Shark Tank history with his smartphone breathalyzer company Breathometer, is launching a second product, the breath-monitoring device Mint. Whereas Breathometer's Breeze product focused on analyzing blood alcohol content to prevent drunk driving, Mint measures oral health indicators, such as bacteria and hydration levels. It may even save consumers a trip to the dentist, according to Yim.
"A lot of people think halitosis is just bad breath, but it's really a byproduct of poor oral health," he says. "We measure what are called sulfuric compounds, which have a direct connection to the amount of bacteria in your mouth."
The beta version of Mint, which works in conjunction with a mobile app, shipped this week to contributors to the company's Indiegogo campaign that raised more than $94,000 in March. Yim says the final version will be available to consumers in September.
Including early sales of Mint, Yim is projecting nearly $20 million in annual revenue for Breathometer in 2015, and expects to reach profitability this year. While the company is off to a fast start, expanding into the oral health care industry--a multibillion-dollar market--could be its largest business opportunity.
"There are all these ultrasonic toothbrushes, but there is nothing in the market in terms of a portable consumer product that can validate whether or not your toothbrushing, flossing, or hydration methods are adequate," Yim says. "Mint can play a substantial role in that."
So what has Yim learned from bringing not one but two breath monitoring devices to market? Here are three of the founder's tips for product-focused companies.
1. Hardware is hard. Building any product from scratch is an arduous process that typically requires multiple iterations. But launching a new device with proprietary software will always take more time than expected. "We've had to create custom-designed circuit boards and work with custom sensor technology," Yim says. "It's been a real challenge."
2. Hire to grow. Maintaining the growth rate of a less-than-two-year-old startup while simultaneously launching a new product requires adding more manpower than you might expect.
"When you're growing, you need the right type of talent, and it's not easy to find the right folks when you grow so quickly," Yim says. The company is now in the middle of a hiring frenzy for both product and engineering roles.
3. Make time for investors. In addition to the five sharks and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who recently invested in Breathometer, Yim has other seed-stage investors, and a new group of venture capital firms are expected to soon close a financing round in the "tens of millions," he says.
The lesson? Expect to spend lots of time managing your investors, even when your business is performing well.
"There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen," Yim says. "It's a full-time job by itself."
During the next few weeks, Yim says Breathometer will announce a partnership with a major oral health care company, which could lead to new products in the near term.
"We're looking at connecting the application to an e-brush," he says. "The idea is to encourage better behavior than what you're already doing, because 100 percent of people can improve their oral health care regimen."