It took years to get the technology right and contain it all in a sleek travel mug and coffee cup. Alexander says he invested about $500,000 of his own money, money he'd earned on the GE light bulb, but he had several hurdles to overcome. "The biggest problem that you have is waterproofing, wash-proofing, drop-proofing," he says.
Alexander then bombarded Starbucks for two years before he got his product in front of top management, and the first Ember products started being sold in Starbucks in 2016. "We sold about 110,000 units in the first six weeks." Ember mugs are now sold in Apple Stores as well. According to Alexander, the company has raised $45 million, all from individuals, and it's valued at $140 million. Revenues this year are well north of $10 million, though Alexander won't be any more specific. He does say the company is forecasting profitability by the end of 2019, and the long-term plan is to go public or be acquired.
Joe Jonas says his management team knew Alexander and brought the idea of investing in Ember to the Jonas brothers. "Over the short amount of time, the company has grown so much," he says (Jonas says his other investments include Lime rental scooters and bikes, and alcohol delivery service Saucey).
Up next, Alexander wants to expand the technology to temperature controlled baby bottles, temperature controlled apparel, and, yes, those self-heating plates. He's also submitted patents for self-chilled water bottles and wine glasses.
The company is based in Westlake Village, California, where Clay Alexander works in an office surrounded by famous inventions: an Alexander Graham Bell telephone from 1902, a Thomas Edison phonograph from 1904, a patent Walt Disney received for Mickey Mouse. "I am honestly very inspired by these inventions, and that's why I keep them literally surrounding me in my office."
Joe Jonas says he's in the company for the long haul. "Ember is going to do some ground-breaking stuff," he says. "I can't speak about everything, but what they've been working on and their technology, it's unbelievable."
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