Before power banks or other portable chargers were introduced, Amber was introduced to the market. It was a mobile charging station that required users to place their phones in compartments and lock them in with fingerprints. The phones will charge automatically.
It was designed to be used in public spaces with heavy foot traffic, such as malls, airports, bus stops, etc. Since there weren’t any other feasible solutions present then, the idea was way ahead of its time.
In 2014, Kyle Byrd and Bill Shuey co-founded Amber. They were students at James Madison University in Virginia, where they came up with the idea of secure mobile charging stations.
Since they were both quite passionate about startups, they worked together to develop a creative gadget. Initially, the idea was to build tech items that could be rented or sold to commercial businesses.
The idea popped when Kyle and Bill saw a need for public charging stations. They spent $11,000 to build a prototype. The fingerprint-enabled locks ensured that the phones remained secure while being charged in compartments.
They were looking for investors to launch their company. Soon after, they received an email from Shark Tank, welcoming them to pitch their idea on the show.
When they appeared on the show, Bill and Kyle were hoping to get $250,000 in return for 25 percent of Amber’s shares.
After pitching the idea in detail, the negotiations went horribly wrong when one of the sharks called it the “worst idea ever.” None of the sharks seemed interested and pointed out everything wrong with the prototype, including concerns regarding the reliability of their biometric locking system.
Since they only spent $11,000 on the prototype, the sharks were convinced that the biometric locks would fail, especially during festivals where people’s hands can get sweaty and dirty. Moreover, the sharks also raised questions about the necessity.
According to them, there wasn’t any need for charging stations in public spaces, and more unique and innovative technologies would emerge soon that could easily take over this idea.
The negative feedback did not sit well with the entrepreneurs, and soon after, their business shut down completely. Since the episode aired, potential customers started doubting their invention. Bill blamed the show for manipulating the episode and cutting out the parts where any of the sharks had something positive to say about the idea.
Bill and Kyle still tried their luck at other places to get investment. They did manage to get a little support. Still, the negativity the Shark Tank episode spread prevented their business from taking off. The idea was dropped from the market entirely, especially after the invention of other more affordable solutions.
Our Review of Amber
Even though Amber was a creative invention, it did not hold a candle to the ever-expanding world of technology. The idea was to design a charging station that could be installed in public spaces. While it had a nice appearance and offered what it claimed, it still couldn’t bag a deal on the Shark Tank show. Let’s look at the pros and cons of Amber.
Pros of Amber
Let’s first focus on all the plus points of the Amber mobile charging station.
- Fingerprint-enabled lock for security
- Automatic charging on-the-go
- Suitable for all public spaces
- It allows you to run errands while the phone gets charged
Cons of Amber
Even though it sounded like a promising idea, Amber had more than a few disadvantages. Let’s look at all the cons of the product.
- Availability of cheaper alternatives. Amber costs $2000 per unit of charging station.
- Lack of reliability of the biometric system for numerous reasons, such as system failure, dirty or sweaty hands, etc.
- There weren’t any prominent drivers for the market
- Lock system failure could put mobile phones at the risk of theft
- You can’t use the phone while it is charging since it is stored in a locked compartment
Who is Amber for?
Amber was designed for people constantly on the go. The concept was to install charging stations in public spaces such as malls, bars, airports, etc., where people could charge their phones worry-free. By leaving the phones in locked compartments, they could run errands and return later to pick up a fully charged phone.
The compartments were locked via fingerprints to eliminate security threats to the phones.
Are There Any Alternatives?
There are dozens of alternatives to the Amber charging station. The best example would be portable power banks that you can take along while on road trips or running errands. A power bank stores electrical energy that can be used later on. They are a much cheaper alternative to Amber and allow you to keep the phone by your side while it charges.
Our Final Thoughts
The Amber charging station was designed by Kyle Byrd and Bill Shuey, two students who had a knack for entrepreneurship. The idea was to build a mobile charging station that could be used in commercial spaces. They wanted to sell or rent tech gadgets to business owners.
Since they lacked funding for the idea, they went to the Shark Tank show, hoping to get an investment. After all their efforts, they failed to get any funding because of the lack of scope in the market. Moreover, there were many concerns raised by the Sharks about the reliability of the system.
Consequently, it spread a lot of mistrust among potential customers, leaving the duo no choice but to shut the business down permanently. Their idea was deemed immature and unwise because of cheaper and much more efficient alternatives available in the market.
The product surely was unique, but because of the lack of innovation and high cost associated, it became obsolete even before the idea was officially launched into the market.