The Main Circuit is a behind-the-scenes look at the Joule Case journey. Here, Joule Case CEO, James Wagoner, recaps exhibiting at CES in Las Vegas and unveiling our new product line, Sigma.
Much like my last blog post talked about, we've been busy... and it's taken me a few days to recover from and reflect on the last week.
To sum up my thoughts—I am fired up to tell you about launching a new product at CES! Without a doubt, our team is weary but reinvigorated by the experience.First, let me give you some of the backstory.We were surprisingly notified in the middle of November that we had been awarded an invitation to co-exhibit at CES with the Washington State Department of Commerce. Not only was the invitation itself a meaningful validation of our progress towards portable power innovation, we were also awarded an export voucher that would cover most of our expenses. Exhibiting at CES is not cheap. Let me repeat, NOT CHEAP. As a startup that must be efficient with our budget, CES wouldn't have been practical for us if not for the Washington State Department of Commerce. Thank you specifically to Julie Monahan!
When I told the team, the reaction ranged from joy and excitement to panic and terror. Of course we said yes, but this opportunity presented a high level of risk and attending would effectively change the trajectory of Joule Case one way or another.
The first decision we needed to make was what exactly would we be showing off at CES? We knew we could, at the very least, present our current product line and how effective it is for events and food trucks, but we decided to take the opportunity to think grander...
For the better part of 2021, our team had been building our next generation product from the ground up. Sigma (as it is now called) was not ready for a CES launch at that time. But when we looked each other in the eyes, we knew CES was too good of an opportunity to pass up and we all committed to accelerating our roadmap. This would mean condensing four months of work across sales, marketing, product development, and testing down to a month and a half. In the process, we would need to finalize a substantial amount of engineering and then package it all with a marketing strategy that includes imagery, video, renderings, message, and a newly dedicated microsite.
Everyone understood the task at hand and stepped up. November and December was a mad dash for the entire team. Dave DeMuro and Alex Livingston and our team at Cratus (Zeki Gunay, Jim Loftus, Sachin Anand, and Sezgin Yağbasan) stepped up to quickly develop fully functional demonstration units. Prior to this sprint, we had some basic 3D printed models—but that was it! The speed and precision this team accomplished was incredible. That was just half of it. The marketing and copy had to be created as well. Jesse Baker, Tim Garrison, Cailyn Driscoll, and the Gigantic team did a phenomenal job creating a microsite specific to CES and our new product launch. Despite the short timeline and the impressive amount of work, it felt like a well oiled machine. This is the All Star team that makes up Joule Case.
Like many things, not everything went to plan.
We had one demo unit being shipped from Cratus in California and another flying with Alex (he treated it like his first born). Shipping the product from CA at the end of December presented us with a couple of options. UPS and Fedex were backed up from holiday shipments and worker shortages. Despite requesting overnight shipment on 12/30, neither could guarantee arrival. The other option was a courier driving it directly for $2500. With CES starting on January 4th, despite no guarantees of overnight delivery, we chose to ship on 12/30 from Fedex, opting for the much cheaper option. With CES starting on Jan. 5th, there was plenty of time. Right? RIGHT?!?! It arrived... two days after CES ended😠. Luckily, Alex's carry-on made it without any issues.
We rented a Joule Case "Southwest HQ" Airbnb between Expo West at the Venetian and the Convention Center on Paradise Road.
The first night at the Airbnb before the first day was like waiting for Christmas day. It was game day and Joule Case was unveiling a whole new product at the largest consumer expo in the world. There was a mix of anticipation, excitement, fear, and expectation that would each come in waves as I laid on a lumpy, too soft mattress in a bare Airbnb bed. Knowing the preparation and work that went into the launch gave me confidence. I knew our team had delivered and we were ready. We were still missing the CA Fedex shipment but we were ready with the demo unit from Idaho.
I woke up before the alarm t-minus 5 hours before the website and email launch. We packed everything in to our rental car and drove to Expo West in the old Sands, now the Venetian Convention Center. Scouting it out the day before showed that we could skip the crowded expo hall parking entrance on Sands and park in the Palazzo parking. Alex didn’t think parking this close would be possible but we were welcomed to many open spots on the first level under the Palazzo.
Showing up at trade shows with big and heavy batteries that we carried by hand is a skillset Alex and I have perfected over years of supporting tradeshow customers. We were able to get through check in and security with banners, batteries, and backpacks unscathed.
10 am Pacific! Launch!! Website launches! Emails, social media posts, videos public, and demo is ready at the booth!
What a relief to launch and everything worked! The quick turnaround all came together. The team had pulled it off!!
Some of the comments we heard:
The first day was a blur of pre-set meetings, face to face booth conversations, and social media blasts. Suddenly it was 6 pm and the day was done. Our feet were hurting and we were glad we could leave everything in the booth.
The launch of Sigma and our proprietary PowerBlade™ technology marks a new era for Joule Case. It's been a long road to get to this point, but our technological capabilities now fully live up to our boldest ambitions. Even our updated brand look-and-feel signifies our intent and ability to provide people with Power Where They Need It.
I guess my main takeaway or message to other founders would be to take advantage of opportunities as they come—BUT make sure you can execute before you say yes. Making a bad impression could damage your brand and business. Luckily, I know my team. I know what we can do. I know what our mission is. And that was all the confidence I needed!