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The PowerPot can be used anywhere at any time.

The PowerPot is an amazing new product! It is a 5-15 watt electrical generator that is capable of charging any USB device! It’s waterproof, fire-resistant, and extremely portable, weighing in at just 12 ounces! Take it anywhere and use it day or night to charge cell phones, GPS devices, speakers, lights/lanterns, and more!

The PowerPot is one of the featured exhibitors at the DaVinci Inventor Showcase, which takes place on Oct 13, 2012 at the Denver Merchandise Mart.

After the jump, inventor David Toledo opens up about how he created a thermoelectric power generator for the masses, sourcing components for high temperature applications, and how he figured out all of the electronics needed for using the electricity generated by the PowerPot.

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What was the defining moment that led you to create this product? What problem does it solve?

The defining moment that led to the creation of the PowerPot occurred during the summer of 2007 when I was doing fundamental research at the University of Utah on thermoelectric materials. During the course of my studies I realized there was not a thermoelectric power generator anywhere that was sold directly to the consumers. I decided to buy some thermoelectric components and start building with them in my basement. I knew water was a great choice as a heat sink, and after attaching themoelectrics to the first cooking pot I knew I had created the practical generator I was searching for. The PowerPot will create on demand electricity, enough to charge any handheld USB device from a wide variety of fuel sources (wood, gas, petroleum, etc…) while heating up a pot of water.

After you came up with the idea, how did you size up the market and decide who your customers would be?

The first step we took in sizing up the market and which customers to pursue was to research and think about who we thought would want to use it – informed guess. The next step was to validate whether we were right or wrong by asking those who we thought would want to use the PowerPot. This was accomplished through some focus groups that we held. The focus groups allowed us to understand who actually wanted to buy it and what price point made sense to them for the value that is provided. We also attended two outdoor consumer expos, which allowed us to show off the PowerPot and pre-sell to interested parties.

How did you go about naming your product?

The name of our product, the PowerPot, came to naturally to us, because it transforms the power of a fire into electrical power for your electronic devices.

How long did it take you to create you initial prototype, and what problems did you run into along the way?

It took about 1 year from initial experimentation with thermoelectric modules until a working generator was made in the form of a cooking pot. The original PowerPot was made from a standard aluminum sauce pan. At this point we still had a lot of problems, such as the weight and power regulation to safely charge electronics. It took another 2 years to get to a production prototype with power regulation. The biggest problems have been sourcing components for our high temperature application, and figuring out all of the electronics for using the electricity generated.

Funding a new idea is always tricky. How did you go about lining up the money you needed?

Funding new projects and ideas is tricky, but we were lucky enough to find someone that was willing to give us some money to take the PowerPot from a prototype to a production prototype. After that step, we decided to get innovative with how to fund the initial production run. We decided to crowdfund through Kickstarter.com. On April 4th we went live, funding goal was $50,000 and the campaign would be open for 30 days. The reason we wanted to crowdfund, was because this allowed us to pre-sell PowerPots – collect cash for sell and then fulfill (order and create) the orders. We hit our funding goals in less than 10 days and ended up raising $126,214. We are now in the process of raising growth capital.

Is this a product you’d like to produce and sell yourself, or are you wanting to license it to someone else? And if so, who?

The PowerPot is a product that we would like to initially produce and continue to sell ourselves. We are very interest in building a strong brand in the personal energy space and we believe that building and selling PowerPots will help accomplish that. The PowerPot is our first product launch with more products in the pipeline.

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What all channels are you using to market your product?

We have used a couple different channels to market the PowerPot. One of the biggest and most successful channels was press releases. From a couple press releases, The PowerPot was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, Cnet, Engadget, Uncrate, and many others. Social media is also a big marketing channel with a heavy focus on Facebook and YouTube. Consumer Expos has also really helped inform our target customers especially because of the face-to-face interaction.

How many people do you currently have involved in your business?

Power Practical currently has 4 managers, 1 full time employee, 3 interns, and 1 investor.

How do you define success? What would hitting a “home run” look like in your mind?

A home run in my mind would be if the PowerPot spread across the globe and helped people achieve a greater state of energy independence. I believe that the PowerPot can help raise awareness about alternative energy sources, and spark new innovative ways of tapping into the natural power which is always surrounding us.

Where do people go to find out more about your product?

People can find more information about the PowerPot at www.thepowerpot.com. We are also on Facebook and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/thepowerpot and @thepowerpot1