Dr. Jeff Chang (FEMBA ’12) is the CTO and co-founder of Doblet. Using a patent-pending technology, Doblet is the world’s first fully app-driven portable battery network. Chang is the youngest radiologist in the U.S.; he earned his M.D. from NYU at age 20 and, aside from his MBA, also studied artificial intelligence at the University of Edinburgh. As Chang puts it, he’s “just a guy looking to change our world for the better.”
Q: Tell us about your business and the inspiration behind it.
Doblet solves the battery problem.
We’re building a network of smart portable batteries so you can charge your phone anywhere. We put our batteries in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, gyms, hotels, libraries, museums, co-working spaces and all sorts of other venues — now expanding into over 1,000 venues in the Bay Area. When you run low on charge, just pick up a Doblet, charge your phone, then drop the Doblet back off.
Doktor Gurson, my co-founder, was at a bar in San Francisco charging his phone with an external battery. The guy next to him asks, “Mind if I borrow that battery after you’re done? I’ll buy you a beer!” The guy on the other side says, “I’ll buy a beer for both of you, if you can charge my phone, too.”
Doktor wondered why charging wasn’t just readily available, right where and when you needed it. And Doblet was born.
Q: What resources at Anderson and the Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation have been most beneficial to you and why?
The biggest benefits of Anderson are in their sheer variety. Unlike almost any other kind of postgraduate program, B-school lets you explore as many fields and industries as you wish and learn from classmates with a vast range of backgrounds. Realize how rare this melting pot is, and be intentional in taking full advantage.
For me, the Price Center was key in finding internships in VC and PE. Elaine Hagan (’91), Angela Klein and the wonderful people at the Price Center were always helpful in exploring new startup ideas, and the first people we’d talk with when looking to create new Entrepreneur Association programs and student startup initiatives.
It was at Anderson that I came across the first few dozen business plans I’d ever seen. Of course, the business plan is a relic of a forgotten past in both Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach, but for certain kinds of businesses, it helps founders really think through their ideas, revenue models and product-market fit before approaching investors.
Q: How has the Silicon Valley environment impacted your business?
Silicon Valley is unlike any other startup ecosystem in the world. One big key is the pervasive startup mentality — the drive and focus, the acceptance of a startup ramen-profitable lifestyle, the embrace of an ability to move fast and break things, and the extraordinary range of disruptive ideas, upended industries and many types of potential. The Bay Area doesn’t work for everyone — we all have friends who’ve tired of it quickly and moved elsewhere — but it can definitely help when you’re building up a startup.
Amazing talent can be found everywhere, but talent that’s been primed to launch or join startups, talent that isn’t still stuck in the corporate/large-industry mindset, is often tough to find. That’s where being a part of such a deep startup ecosystem helps. Of course, fundraising is also easier in large ecosystems — keeping in mind that the process of fundraising can be a tricky thing for any startup.
At the end of the day, where you build your startup is often a personal preference, or dependent on where you first got started. Some founders enjoy the ambiance of Silicon Beach or have businesses that make a presence in NYC nearly mandatory. Others really appreciate the startup communities and people in London, Toronto or Tel Aviv.
Q: How did you receive funding?
We both put bootstrap funding into Doblet. We were then fortunate enough to become a part of Y Combinator in the summer 2014 batch. YC is an experience, a family and a network unlike any other, at least at this moment in startup history. If you get a chance to be part of YC, go above and beyond to make it happen! :)
After Demo Day, we raised $1.3 million from a group of VC and angel investors, led by SoftTech VC. Six months later, our V1 hardware was approved by Apple MFi (as the world’s first Apple-approved smart portable battery), and we launched in venues across the Bay Area. Now we’re expanding the network, signing on new corporate partners, and getting Doblet V2 ready for production and launch.
Q: What challenges have you faced while starting this business?
Hardware is interesting. It’s become simpler in the last eight years, since the days of Fitbit, but there’s still a broad assortment of tripwires to snag the unwary and inexperienced. Manufactured timelines generally aren’t meant to be met; everything that can break will break, especially in the field, and you can never do enough testing. Hardware has a fun learning curve.
At the same time, the experience you gain from building and scaling a hardware startup is incredible, the people and providers you get to know are awesome, and it’s definitely more exciting and panic-inducing than pure software startups. These days, it usually involves building an app, firmware and hardware startup all at once.
We need bright people to build physical things, objects we can interact with that act on the things around us. Software’s still eating the world, but hardware’s the stuff that holds our world together.
Q: What is your long-term vision for your company?
Doblet’s building the world’s first truly mobile power network. We’re forming relationships with thousands of local partners, and hundreds of large corporate partners, so you can charge your devices everywhere.
Long-term, in the six-to-eight-year horizon, we’re rolling out continuous wireless charging across our network. That means in hundreds of thousands of venues all across the country, your devices will just stay charged. No more cords, extra batteries, adapters, battery worries — they all become relics of the past. Doblet will become the mobile power and data network for the rapidly expanding universe of Internet of Things devices, controllers and sensors.
Read the Doblet founders’ TechCrunch blog on wireless power.