“This is kind of an epidemic,” he said.
Pimiento was born in Colombia and produced digital content for pop music concerts in Los Angeles for 13 years. He secured the licenses for the technology in May. The startup unveiled its product at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The company has five employees in Los Angeles and recently moved into a West Hollywood office behind a Kitson clothing store. The company has one coating center in Beirut, Lebanon, and is setting up another in Miami in the next month to help demonstrate the technology to potential customers.
Angel investors and silent partners have financed DryWired, and Pimiento said he’s in the process of raising more money. He would not say how much money the company has raised.
Pimiento often demonstrates DryWired by sinking his iPhone into a jar of water while it plays a rock concert video. He had his phone treated at DryWired’s Beirut coating center.
Still, making a phone waterproof does not fully solve the problem of people accidentally destroying their devices. Most cellphone destruction comes from people dropping them on the ground, not from water damage, Shay said.
“But we’re for anything that makes these devices more durable,” he said. “A lot of people say it’s the possession that they’re least able to live without.”
Belgium’s Europlasma only recently began making nanocoating for consumer electronics. Europlasma licenses to companies such as DryWired to sell its technology in designated markets, said Filip Legein, managing director at Europlasma.
“We’re licensing to companies more familiar with the end-user market,” he said. “You need good branding and good distribution channels.”
DryWired’s main target is emerging markets, especially in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. India and Brazil, for example have developing economies where the demand for smartphones is growing. The Miami coating center will position the company for selling to distributors who send products to South America, Pimiento said.
Humidity could also drive demand in areas where phones might be more vulnerable to water damage, he said. Taking a shower in the summer with your phone in the room, especially in a climate with high humidity, could quickly ruin the device.
DryWired is entering into a competitive market with several companies already taking market share. P2i in Abington, England, and HzO in Draper, Utah, make and sell similar technology.
HzO makes its technology in-house. The company’s chief executive, Paul Clayson, said his company created its technology specifically to protect phones from submersion in water.
“We made our technology for that very purpose,” he said.
Not every seller of protective nanotechnology courts manufacturers and distributors. Liquipel LLC, a Santa Ana company founded in 2010, offers a coating service directly to consumers – it’s the company that charges at least $59. People can mail their devices to the coating center to have them protected.
DryWired has no customers yet, but already envisions areas where the company could take hold. It might sell coating services to government contractors – especially aviation companies that want to protect their electronic components from water damage caused by storms and humidity. As military personnel increasingly use electronic devices in the field, they might need additional ways to keep their devices water resistant.
Pimiento said he’s not done testing the capabilities of the coating technology. He’s put phones into mango and pineapple juice, and even vodka.
“We’re doing everything you can imagine to push the limits of this,” he said.