David vs. Goliath: An Interview With James Siminoff, Chief Inventor of POP

From success, to failure, to an unlikely turn of events, Edison Jr.’s team of engineers and designers successfully changed Apple’s draconian terms of service and guided an interesting and innovative accessory to fruition.

Pop with iPad

A few months ago, the tech blogosphere was abuzz with a Kickstarter project that promised to create an attractive and useful way to power multiple gadgets and devices from multiple different manufacturers. Called the Point of Power – POP, for short – the device quickly blew past its funding goal of $50,000, and ended at $139,170. With the signs of a success on their hands, the team of designers and engineers at Edison Jr. quickly began work. The team, led by James Serminoff, aimed to create a device that was both superior in design and functionality to the competition.

However, just a few days ago the POP team received word that Apple was more or less killing their project by refusing them a license to the Lightning connector. Apple’s conditions, notorious for being strict, stated that the Lightning connector couldn’t be offered alongside any other connectors. The whole point of the POP was to offer a hub that charged as many devices as possible – obviously, without the Lightning connector, a huge percentage of devices wouldn’t work.

Pop Portable and Pop Station

Feeling that shipping without the Lightning connector would create a subpar product, Serminoff and the POP team decided that the best plan of action would be to refund the money they had received from Kickstarter. Serminoff had a few choice words for Apple, as he understandably felt that the Cupertino company’s position was detrimental to both customers and his business. He told Venture Beat the following:

We are pissed. I think they are being a bunch of assholes, and I think they’re hurting their customers.

Because of the popularity of the story and the general backlash against Apple’s position, the terms of the licensing agreement that Apple forced anyone wishing to use a Lightning connector to sign were changed. And, after 24 hours of being “dead,” the POP project was back on.

Curious about the events of the past few months, iFans forum member Tkf1 decided to get in contact with the Edison Jr. team and ask for an interview. The following is that interview:

____________________________________________________________

Question: What do you and your company do? Who’s on your team? 
Answer: We are a design laboratory. Our focus is on the intersection of consumer products and the internet. We have a mixture of programmers, designers and inventors.

Q: How long have you been doing this and just how young are you? 
A: I’ve been building sh*t since I was a kid, I am now 36 years old.

edison jr. siminoff

Q: You recently came out with a new project called the Point of Power ‘POP’, can you tell us more about it? 
A: POP is around the concept that our homes have a large number of mobile devices, iPhones, Androids, tablets, etc. And charging has become a real issue. With POP we wanted to create a central charging station that looked great and could charge all of your devices in one place. We added a huge battery to it so that you could take it outside, or wherever you need power. Also in cases like hurricane Sandy POP gives you a huge amount of battery to keep charging off of if the power goes out.

Q: Can you talk us through the design process and how did you manage to fit this mammoth 26,000 mAh battery inside? 
A: We designed around 3 things. Large battery, retractable cord reels and had to be a a design that would look good in the home. After a lot of iterations we came to the design that you see today

Q: How does it differ from other chargers available on the market?
A: We have the largest battery, no one else has retractable cord reels and we also deliver 2.1 amps out of each outlet, most chargers share the amps and as you plug in more devices lower their speed. Also unlike every other charger our looks awesome.

Q: How did the idea of ‘POP’ come into existence?
A: I was at a hotel pool watching people (including myself) take their phones and tablets back and forth from the pool to their rooms to charge. I wanted something that would look nice at the pool and could charge multiple devices. From there the idea blossomed.

Q: After not only reaching your goal of $50,000 through Kickstarter but almost tripling it, what were some of the words you used to describe your excitement for a successful launch? 
A: It is incredible, the money is great but knowing that people want your product and design is euphoric.

Q: One of your updates included that you’ll now be issuing full refunds for ‘POP’. This has been said to be the “largest Kickstarter refund,” can you describe why this happened? 
A: Apple told us that we could not include the Lighting adapter on the product. So we decided rather then compromising on the product we decided to do the refund.

Pop plugged in

Q: Were you and your team just going to give up after’s Apple’s disapproval and why did you need Apple’s approval?
A: Yes, because continuing would change the concept of the product that we were very passionate about. The world has enough sh*tty products we did not want to produce another one. Apple’s approval was needed to use the Lightning adapter, which we told our backers we would provide.

Q: Why did you feel that you had to include preset cables and not just offer USB ports and let the users choose? Would this have ended this ordeal from the start?
A: We could have done that but those cables would be all over the table and look like crap. Also there are other chargers that have USB’s on them, we would rather not produce then to make something we are not passionate about and excited with.

Q: Three days later you came back with another update “and we’re back…”, can you tell us what happened there?
A: It was a incredible turn of events but apple changed their guidelines based on the pressure that all of the press we got put on them. Very unexpected.

Q: ’POP’ made a lot steam, why do you think Apple suddenly changed their policy?
A: It is 100% due to what happened with POP, they directly responded to our issues.

Q: Do you think we need a major breakthrough in battery technology? Smartphones and tablets seem to last less and less? 
A: This is a much bigger issues but yes would be great if battery technology had a giant leap, however that does not seem to be happening anytime soon.

Q: What sort of products do you hope to launch soon? Perhaps an black ‘POP’ model or even an iPhone ‘POP’ case? 
A: We have a future line of POP products, the next one will be released in the spring of 2013.

Q: Are you a Mac or PC? 
A: Mac.

Q: Would you do this all over again? If so, what would you do differently? 
A: Yes I would, even if Apple had not changed their guidelines. The world is difficult and the only way you can do anything is to put yourself out there. Sometimes that gets you run over and sometimes it works out, with POP we had both:)

____________________________________________________________

I’d like to thank James Siminoff for his time (and, frankly, for fighting the good fight), and Tkf1 for his time in putting this together.

The POP should be available in March or May, due to the Lightning connector hassle, and more information on the product can be found here, and the original Kickstarter page (which contains even more information) is here.

reveal POP cords

After this most recent set of events, it’s hard not to be at least a little down on Apple’s position. While the Lightning connector is certainly a closed port compared to what other devices have, such as the standard Micro-USB cable found in almost every Android and Windows Phone device, this type of draconian oversight feels as if it takes a step too far. Apple certainly has a right to keep its platform closed. But when does that power begin to feel as if it is keeping innovation out? Up until this point, there has been little reason to assume that Apple’s efforts are extinguishing innovation.

Luckily, the terms were updated, and are obviously more friendly to both third-parties and consumers – hopefully, they stay that way.

Post a response / What do you think?