His USC roommate was so annoying that Eric Mear built a private space inside his dorm room.
“He would come back early in the morning after a long night of partying, really loud and obnoxious,” said Mear, who graduated last month. “He wouldn’t really care about waking me up. I thought: What can I do to change this situation? Then I thought about having some kind of tent over the bed.”
Mear started drawing designs and then decided to create the early prototype for his entrepreneurship class.
Faculty and friends thought it was a great idea. So Mear spun the idea into a business: Privacypop.com.
Mear’s invention pops up like a tent, wraps around a mattress and sits on top of a bed frame. Overhanging mesh flaps allow privacy for reading, watching television, or using a laptop or cell phone with some isolation from roommates. And it keeps out sunlight for those who like to sleep in. The fabric panels can be unzipped when privacy is not needed.
Twin-size models cost about $180 and queens about $300. They’re now sold only through the company’s website. Mattresses and bed frames aren’t included.
Privacypop launched earlier this year after Mear, 22, teamed up with Kevin Sperry and Danny Ninete, both 26. Sperry is the older brother of Mear’s girlfriend. Mear pitched the idea to him while on a family vacation.
“We were in Hawaii and he mentioned, ‘I have this idea. I really think it will work,’ ” Sperry remembered. “I said, ‘I think you’re on to something for finding privacy for college students, because that’s a niche market.’ ”
Sperry brought in Ninete; they had previously worked together at a mortgage company and they put up about $40,000 to get the company started. Sperry is the company’s chief executive and Ninete the chief operations officer. Mear is Privacypop’s president.
Sperry thinks the product has wide enough appeal for adoption beyond college dorms.
“The market really crosses into a lot of different people’s lives in situations people find themselves in, sharing a room with someone,” Sperry said, “summer camp, camping, military.”
Sperry also said he sees the Privacypop as a potential tool for relief for disaster recovery.
“Hopefully, (it’s) something families have for disasters as well,” Sperry said. “They might just want to have one in their closet, just in case.”
He hopes to sell the product through major retailers soon. They’re now in talks to get Privacypop into Brookstone’s online catalog.