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Innovation & Job News

Kickstarter campaign nets $90K to build pocket breathalyzer

DrinkMate, a Chapstick-sized breathalyzer that plugs into your smartphone, is a pocket innovation from Rockville-based Edge Tech Labs that has already raised more than $90,000 in its Kickstarter campaign. Company CEO Shaun Masavage gave a talk last week about crowdfunding at WeWork Shaw, seeing as he has reached 200 percent of his initial $40,000 goal.

DrinkMate, which costs $25 for Kickstarter backers, works in conjunction with an app on a user's phone. One end plugs into the phone's microUSB port; a user blows into the other end, and the app determines her blood alcohol content (BAC). As with any breathalyzer, users can't eat or drink anything for 20 minutes prior to using DrinkMate in order to get an accurate reading.

Masavage says that ultimately, the goal of DrinkMate is "to take away the stigma of [BAC] testing. No one likes police breathalyzers," he says. "But pass them a DrinkMate and they are curious and fascinated. They want to use it. And they have to stop drinking to use it."

"Breathalyzers aren't preventing people from driving [while they're drinking]," Masavage says. "We want to get them into the hands of people while they are in the bar. If you are drinking, you shouldn't plan to drive."

After the campaign wraps on Wednesday, patrons will be able to order directly from Edge Tech's website. DrinkMates ordered from the Kickstarter campaign will ship in December. Masavage says he is exploring other retail possibilities for DrinkMate, as well as in-store options, but nothing is finalized yet.

Masavage says he will use the extra money from the Kickstarter campaign to "enhance the [DrinkMate] app features," adding that he didn't add stretch goals because he "didn't want to cause delays to the extremely aggressive production schedule." He is also planning on hiring "a couple of sales guys and a data scientist to improve the BAC calculation algorithm."

As for that Kickstarter campaign advice, Masavage says Facebook was "useless. Twitter, on the other hand, was very useful. I would find forums where people were talking about [about drinking or breathalyzers]." He also reached out to blog owners and prototyping companies, including 3D printing company Sculpteo, which printed the DrinkMate prototypes.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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