This is serious business. Dave Samuel and Scott Pinizzotto are telling me why they're pushing a better toilet seat. A way better toilet...
SAN JOSE, Calif. — This is serious business. Dave Samuel and Scott Pinizzotto are telling me why they’re pushing a better toilet seat. A way better toilet seat.
“Since everybody goes to the bathroom every day,” Brondell Chairman Dave Samuel tells me, “you might as well make that experience better.”
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“We want to be No. 1,” Samuel says, “in the No. 2 business.”
(Hey, it’s a better motto than “Don’t just sit there … “)
Pinizzotto, chief executive of the San Francisco company, takes me through the features of the Swash 600, which sells for nearly $600.
Heated seat with temperature settings. A built-in his or hers warm-water wash with temperature and water-pressure settings. A remote control box. (Hon! Where’s the remote?). And a warm-air dryer.
“It actually blow-dries your bottom,” Pinizzotto says.
Yes, Pinizzotto, 35, a product-design guy who has worked for Sony and Indian Motorcycle, and Samuel, 32, who founded pioneer music site Spinner.com, know people have trouble taking high-tech toilet seats seriously.
“Our friends, at the beginning, were making fun of us,” says Samuel, who can afford to take some ribbing after selling Spinner to America Online in 1999 for $320 million.
But after using whiz-bang toilet seats in Japan, where they are very popular, Samuel and Pinizzotto say they found a business opportunity right under their, uh, noses.
They were sure high-tech toilet seats would be a smash in the United States, with some adjustments.
“You’ve got just different proportions,” Pinizzotto says.
Beg your pardon?
“Proportionally, just creating more space for the large American body,” he says.
Suffice it to say Samuel and Pinizzotto are looking for the next big thing — no offense. They see a new market that they say is growing by 40 percent a year. (No, not you. The customer base. Oh, forget it.)
Pinizzotto has done the math: 220 million residential toilets in the United States; 58 million of them in homes with incomes of more than $75,000 — the kind of disposable income needed for a $600 toilet seat.
“If we could just get on one in 1,000 toilets,” Pinizzotto says of the high-end homes, they’d have a business worth tens of millions.
The company has moved between 250 and 300 seats since it started selling them in January. The key, Pinizzotto says, will be to expand a distribution system that soon will include HomeDepot.com and some Expo Design Centers.
Brondell has been relying primarily on its Web site, www.brondell.com, and word of mouth.
The Swash is even getting blogosphere buzz.
“I have been using the Brondell Swash 600 for a few weeks now and I’m having a hard time leaving the bathroom,” San Francisco marketer Auren Hoffman writes on his blog.
Hoffman recently formed the Silicon Valley 100, a group of valley hot shots who’ve agreed to take products for free and try them.
Pinizzotto says about 50 of the group have requested a Swash. The testimonials have been slow in surfacing. Maybe others are having trouble leaving the bathroom as well.
Pinizzotto says building buzz is only one reason he wanted valley luminaries to try the Swash. These are people with money and Brondell is going to be looking for cash to grow.
It never hurts, Pinizzotto figures, to get your product in front of, or even in back of, those who can help it along.
Mike Cassidy is a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.