CARLSBAD — Cellphone radiation is a rising concern among users and a debate about the long-lasting effects on a person’s health.
One Carlsbad resident and his business partner, though, are not taking chances and as a result, have created a budding business preventing radiation for smartphone and laptop consumers.
Cary Subel of Carlsbad and Alaey Kumar of Orange County, both 26, came up with a design during their tenure at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Soon thereafter, the duo launched SafeSleeve, which produces cellphone and laptop covers preventing radiation exposure to people.
“We decided to go for it,” Subel said. “We tried at least 50 materials claiming to block radiation before we found something. It was an interesting process for sure.”
Subel was inspired to create a safe alternative during high school through a friend’s father, who was an urologist. Subel would place his laptop on his lap, but the doctor kept warning him about studies finding radiation from such devices and placement could lead to fertility problems and others, such as cancer.
He met Kumar in college and from there the idea blossomed into a business. But first, the two secured research and funding.
Their first product was a laptop case, which uses military-grade materials to prevent radiation waves from emitting to the body. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certified their research reducing electromagnetic radiation up to 99 percent.
“We don’t hard sell on the radiation,” Kumar said. “If you go into the legal section of your device, the manufacturer will tell you to keep your device at least 5 millimeters away from your body. We just want people to be aware.”
The two went to the people for funding using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and solicited $22,000 to build a working prototype for the laptop case. About 18 months later, with the laptop cases selling, the duo went through Kickstarter and hauled in another $22,000 for their cellphone line.
Their cellphone collection started with iPhone cases, but has since expanded to Samsung and Android brands.
“There is a major audience out there,” Subel said. “We have seen really good organic growth. We have seen 10 to 15 percent growth every month since launching. We have grown at a perfect pace.”
As the two began developing their products, the idea to add additional features kept cropping up. The laptop case has a flap to secure the device, but it also acts as a mousepad.
Their cellphone cases, meanwhile, are wallet-style and also include a kickstand.
In addition, the case has a slit at the top to listen to a caller and an open space at the bottom for the microphone when speaking. In yet another addition, the two added RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) protection, which thieves use to scan credit and debit card information from just feet away.
“At least you are being protected from that,” Subel said. “Our goal from the beginning to make something super convenient. There are a lot who are on the fence, so if it’s not convenient, they’re not going to do it (buy a SafeSleeve).”
As for the future, Subel said he and Kumar have received numerous requests to create cases for tablets. Subel, though, declined to go into specifics whether the company is preparing to launch or create such an item, not wanting to give away their business strategy.
As for the present, the company is expanding as their products have reached more than 40 countries and are looking to break into the Middle East. Their distribution includes major retailers in the U.S. such as Amazon, Best Buy, along with SafeSleeve’s website and distributors in Europe, Australia and working on the Middle East.
The two tech savvy partners, though, have been aggressive with their digital marketing and word of mouth to spread the word.
“Part of it is awareness,” Kumar said. “Our product stands out because it is multi-functional. Our price point, a majority of the time, is a lot less than our competitors.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Subel and Kumar, though, is the ongoing debate of the effects of cellphone, laptop and tablet radiation.
There is no debate, however, those products do emit certain radiations. Subel and Kumar, though, both compared the possible dangers to cigarettes, which for decades was believed to cause no harmful effects until a massive scandal in the 1990s blew open the case.
As for Subel and Kumar, they are firm believers that radiation does cause damage. However, because of the relatively new technology, the long-term studies do not exist.
“Cellphones have not been around that long,” Kumar said. “As we start using them more and more, we believe there will be a correlation to cellphones and harmful affects to our health.”