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Friday
Mar102017

Weego: Rethinking the Jump Starter

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Weego's N Series family. From left to rigiht, 44, 66, 22 and 22S.Gerry Toscani is the CEO of Paris Business Products, a leading supplier of paper and business products for sale to both the general public and commercial customers. Things like DocIt organizers, PrintWorks paper, DocuGuard Security products and more. The company was established as a continuous forms producer in 1964, but has branched out since. However, its latest venture is somewhere out in left field, having nothing to do with its main line of business.

“Our business is still very strong, but the paper industry is in decline,” says Toscani. “Branching out into a new market, one with a lot of room to grow, made sense for our long-term viability.”  And that business is portable power products. Things like jump starters and battery packs. Products with very little paper, even in the packaging.

“I got into this business,” says Toscani, “because there are nearly one billion batteries in use between cars, trucks, boats, notebooks and tablets. There’s a lot of opportunity.” A lot of opportunity that you’d expect established names like Energizer and Duracell, who dominate the throw-away alkaline battery market, to take advantage of by using their size, name brands and position in the market. However, as Toscani discovered during the research phase of building his business plan, the established players were more than happy to stick to what they were familiar with, and license their brand names to others.

“It reminded me of Kodak,” he says thoughtfully. “Here was a company that basically invented digital photography, but didn’t know how to monetize it because it didn’t follow what they were familiar with. Where was the film, paper and chemicals you sold as people used up their supplies? Plus, their margins on film alone were close to 85%, so there was no incentive to change to a technology that had the potential to eliminate that revenue stream.” To keep their risk low by transferring it to others, Energizer and Duracell licensed their brands to “foreign companies that trashed their business” and, in doing so, left the door wide open for Toscani and Weego.

“From day one we emphasized quality, quality, quality,” he says passionately. “I currently contract the manufacturing of the batteries (to Samsung in China), but we do all of the design and R&D in the U.S. I do testing in New Jersey, in the factory with my own people, and have third party testing done as well. Plus — unlike most of my competitors — our batteries produce the rated power.” He knows this because he not only tests his own product, but those of the competition. And what he’s discovered while doing so has been nothing less than startling. “I had one product that was rated at 400 amps but barely pulled 180,” he recounts, “and the maker had to recall the batteries because they were catching fire. Even those that reached their stated output were a mixed bag.” Shockingly, 90% of competitors’ batteries Toscani and his crew tested did not work as advertised.

In light of this, Weego’s 18-month warranty, 1,000 charging cycle rating (full charge to full discharge) and continuous lab testing, must mean its jump starters and batteries sell themselves, right? Not so. “Right now,” laments Toscani, “99% of the general public has no idea what a lithium-ion jump starter is, and will never believe that something this compact will start their vehicle.” In addition, the needs of women, half the potential market, are not taken into consideration. That’s why, though Weego has more conventional jump starters that are less expensive, its tour de force is the new N Series family of Weego 22, 22S, 44 and 66 jump starters.

All come packaged in an orange and white metal lunchbox, with the 22 and 22S aimed at the motorcycle and powersports segments. Slightly larger than a smartphone they deliver 300 amps of peak power, though the 22S is a stripped down jump-start-only design and, therefore, is slightly less expensive. The Weego 44 is the volume model, and capable of jump starting gasoline engines up to 7.0 liters or diesels up to 3.5 liters, while the 66 can handle engines up to 10 liters. Like the rest of the lineup, its “Smarty Clamps” resemble the clamps you’d find on basic clamp-on light fixtures, and have power to both sides of the jaws for a better connection. In addition, there’s only one way to plug the jumper cables in — you can’t reverse polarity — and the lights on the case walk you through the process. “If you put the clamp on the wrong terminal,” says Toscani, “the built-in circuitry cuts off power and flashes to tell you that you’ve reversed the terminal. If you over crank the battery, as you might if starting a car that’s been in storage, there’s a temperature monitor that shuts it down when the battery begins to get too hot. And if you try to jump a six-volt or 24-volt vehicle, it’ll read that it’s the wrong voltage and not send the power. You can’t,” he says triumphantly, “blow this thing up because of the safeguards we’ve built in.”

But these are only some of the N Series’ party tricks. Under the gasketed and hinged top lid are 500 lumen LED lights, a 12-volt output, a 19-volt output, and a USB connector. On a full charge, the lights on the Weego 44, for example, can run for 14 hours in continuous mode, and up to 28 hours in strobe and SOS modes. The integrated 12-volt output can power accessories, including SAE electronics (an OBD II memory saver is one option), air compressors, camping equipment, etc., while the 19-volt output can be used to charge laptops. And the USB connection uses Qualcomm 3.0 technology to automatically detect the fastest charge it can send to your smartphone, tablet or other device. “We want to make this a ‘go-to’ device that people will use for multiple things,” says Toscani, “but we also understand that a lot of folks will charge it, put it in the glovebox and forget it. So we’ve included a master on-off switch that cuts off all the electronics and reduces the drain on the battery from the typical 5%-6% per month of our competitors to 2%. That means you could go three years before ours is completely discharged.” Recharge time for the Weego 44 is three hours.

“Our goal,” says Toscani, “was to make very sophisticated technology available in a very simple, approachable form. And it took a lot of effort to pull that off.” The effort, however, has been well spent, and has resulted in a return rate of less than one-half of one percent. Combine the built-in features and capability, and a liberal, customer friendly return policy with guaranteed pricing — the price is the same everywhere — and you can see that Weego is playing the long game. And that Energizer and Duracell may wish they’d never left an opening for Toscani to enter the jump starter market.

The Making of the 44 from Paris Corporation on Vimeo.

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