Amber is a free phone charging station entrepreneur Bill Shuey hopes to sell to restaurants, museums, and a host of other public venues to create a “value add” for the locations. The idea is, consumers will be more likely to patronize a venue that offers a free phone charging station. On Friday, September 26, Shuey pitches Amber in the Shark Tank season 6 premier. The Sharks will want to know more.
Amber has an accompanying APP that allows consumers to locate venues where their phone charging station is available. Shuey and his team sell the Amber phone charger to venues for $180-$200; those venues decide whether they'll offer the service free or charge a nominal sum. Shuey also claims venues will be able to collect data on consumers through the APP which must be installed to use Amber. Phones get locked into the charging station much like an airport or bus station locker while being charged.
My Take on the Amber Phone Charging Station
Like any new idea, there are pros and cons, Amber is no exception. As a venue owner, making an extra $100-200 per month of a phone charging station might appeal to me, but I'd want to be sold on the value add for my customers. Say I owned a 100 seat restaurant doing $10-$20K per week – an extra $200 a month isn't going to get me too excited. What would get me excited is using Amber as a customer acquisition or retention tool.
If I get a customer to walk into my place for the first time because they need to use the phone charging station and they sit down to eat, I've made a sale I may not have made without Amber in place. Now I have some customer data and I can market to them, through the APP, so they come back. THAT appeals to me as a business owner.
As a consumer, I would like the convenience of charging my phone while I dine. If everyone at my table charged their phones during dinner, I'd have the extra value of not having to put up with people taking pictures of their food or texting during the meal! I may have qualms about data being gathered, but it seems every time you get a new APP, you submit some personal information so people can market to you; that's life in the modern world.
Overall, I'd say this is a good concept. The problem is, it isn't proprietary. Anyone could manufacture a phone charging station and market it in a similar way. The advantage Amber has is it's first to market. There is also the issue of saturation. Once phone charging stations like Amber become ubiquitous in public places, the value of the service drops, but I'm sure that's a problem Shuey would love to have. I like the idea, but will the Sharks?
Do Sharks get a Charge out of Amber?
The Sharks are smart enough to see that Amber is a good idea, but is it a good business? Bill Shuey, the Amber CEO, has a background in APP development with GroMobi and a Venture Capital background with several VC firms specializing in start-ups. He should put on a good pitch and should know his numbers. He'll also speak the Sharks' language. Will they bite?
Lori doesn't usually go for technology plays, so I think she'll go out early. Robert and Kevin will be skeptical and want to know hard numbers. I don't think Robert will go in, but I can hear the first royalty offer of season 6 coming from Mr. Wonderful: “I want $10 for every Amber sold until I get my money back and $8 in perpetuity.”
Daymond is a nightclub guy, so those types of connections may be mutually beneficial. Mark, the Uber Tech Shark, will likely see the value (he also owns a stadium and movie theaters that would be a perfect fit). Imagine going to the movies and charging your phone while you watch! The real issue for Amber is whether they can show the Sharks a demand and proof of concept for their phone charging station sales model.
The Amber website says the product is available for “pre-order,” which either means they aren't up and running with manufacturing or they're trying to use the Shark Tank effect to drive sales and fund manufacturing at the same time.
Bottom Line: Amber is a good idea, the question is whether it's a good business.