Music enthusiasts can now carry their own light show with them wherever they go thanks to Reno startup Candel.
Candel is a tech-company run by its CEO and Founder Matt Sikora, 34, and the startup’s CFO and Co-Owner Ross Diedrich, 27. They invented a phone case that illuminates to the sounds of music, voices and ringtones while also protecting the phone and extending the battery life.
“We are on the expression side of cases,” Matt Sikora, CEO and founder of Candel, said. “There is not really anything that blinks and lights up with an image of your choice on the outside.”
The case can extend the battery life of a phone by 100 percent or more depending on the type of phone and the amount of time the light function is being used. Users can choose from three different images for the case.
“(The phone case) gets attention wherever you go,” Sikora said. “It is a little candle and everyone does see it.”
Prior to starting Candel, Sikora was working in a chemistry lab. He found that the introverted environment of the job did not fit his personality. In 2012, after attending Burning Man Festival and several other music festivals, he came up with the idea for Candel and decided to run with it.
Diedrich joined Sikora eight months later and today they are in the midst of their Kickstarter campaign to raise money to manufacture the product.
Candel launched their Kickstarter campaign January 20, which will run till February 24. Within the first 24-hours they were able to reach their goal of raising $25,000.
“It was pretty exciting,” Sikora said.
But this is just the beginning.
“The goal was just milestone one, really,” Sikora said. “And we have a ways to go.”
Their next milestone is to raise $100,000 to create new molds and to increase their supply of cases.
“We are really trying to rally everyone behind us and keep the momentum going,” Sikora said.
The public can pre-order Candel through the company’s Kickstarter page for $59. Sikora and Diedrich anticipate that the cases will be ready to ship this coming June or July.
The cases will eventually sell for a retail price of $109, which is comparable to some other battery charging cases like the Mophie case, one of the most popular battery charging cases on the market, said Sikora.
The phone cases are available for iPhone 6 and 6s. They are also working to make cases for Samsung Galaxy s6, Galaxy Note and HTC.
“We made everything so it can be applied to different phone models and we don’t have to change much,” Diedrich said.
The cases are manufactured in China and Sikora and Diedrich are looking into assembling them in the U.S. They spent a lot of time creating different prototypes of the case before coming up with their current design.
“It is a lot of trail and error and when something hasn’t been done before, not even the person you hired knows exactly what the solution is,” Diedrich said.
The increase of startups and tech companies in northern Nevada has benefited Candel.
“One of the things that ended speeding up the process was the evolution of Reno’s infrastructure here for the startup scene,” Diedrich said. “We started out with very few resources. We had to drive to San Francisco, fly down to San Diego to try to find engineers who understood the concept and had the capabilities.”
Now, they are able to take advantage of the resources the Biggest Little City has to offer.
Sikora and Diedrich frequently use the collaborative workspace at the Reno Collective on Arlington Avenue. They also work with business mentors from Summit Venture Mentoring Service, a program that matches entrepreneurs to a team of mentors in the community. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) founded Summit VMS in 2013.
Their mentors have helped them organize their business as well as taught them about manufacturing in China and how to measure their success.
“It made the path into Kickstarter a lot simpler for us,” Sikora said.
Eventually, they plan to expand the company in Reno by hiring more team members and developing other products that implement light and sound technology.
“Reno has given us a lot,” Diedrich said. “Our mentor program has been huge for us and our success. It would be cool to give back in that way to the community that helped us.”
Sikora is optimistic about the future of the start-up scene for Reno.
“I think with the rise of other companies like ours and some of the other startups that are in downtown Reno too, it will just bring this whole new wave of what we can do as a city,” Sikora said.