This spring should be a memorable one for Yellow Jacket, a year-old Baton Rouge company that developed the first iPhone stun gun case.
The first 1,000 cases were shipped out a few weeks ago to customers who placed advanced orders through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.com. Those advance orders brought in $100,000 for the company.
Yellow Jacket recently moved out of the Louisiana Business & Technology Center at LSU and into an office in downtown Baton Rouge.
On March 1, Yellow Jacket’s website will go live, allowing customers worldwide to order the cases. That same day, the stun gun cases will be available for sale at Academy sporting goods stores across the U.S. And while the first cases are designed to fit the iPhone 4 and 4S models, one for the iPhone 5 will be available in late May. A model for the Samsung Galaxy will be introduced this summer, and Yellow Jacket plans to introduce cases that fit other popular smartphones and possibly devices such as the iPad.
Sean Simone, CEO and cofounder, said Yellow Jacket is on track to sell 50,000 cases this year. “The interest from distributors is really why I’m confident,” said Simone.
Seth Froom, president and inventor of the device, said a lot of people are excited about the stun gun iPhone case. Apple and some defense contractors have reached out to Yellow Jacket and expressed interest in the product.
“I was at a trade show recently and not one person who came to me questioned the device,” Froom said.
The Yellow Jacket cases, which are patent pending, have a retail price of $139.99 and contain a 650,000 volt stun gun inside. Simone said that’s the “lower end” for stun gun power. That’s because the case is so small — about the thickness of an iPhone — and lightweight.
“This isn’t going to throw a grown man across the room or severely injure someone,” he said. “The main purpose is to cause pain and create a diversion. It’s one more tool in a fight against an attacker.”
Layers of special material separate the stun gun’s electrical charge from the iPhone, keeping the current from frying it. Froom said all of the parts in the case are iPhone compatible. “We’re not doing anything to the phone itself, we’re doing something to what is ... around the phone,” he said.
Froom got the idea for the stun gun case after he was the victim of an armed robbery at his home in the summer of 2011. An intruder entered his house, pulled a gun on him and took his wallet, car keys and smartphone. While Froom had a gun in his home, and military training, including a stint as an Army MP, he wasn’t able to access something to repel the robber.
“I noticed that he left the rubber case I had on the phone behind, I guess he didn’t like it or thought it was cheap,” Froom said. That got him to start thinking about a self-defense device that was integrated into the case. After all, smartphone owners keep the devices close to them at all times.
Froom, 24, started designing a combination phone case, stun gun and iPhone charger. He took the idea to Simone, 23, who he met when they were freshmen at LSU. At the time, Simone had his own online marketing company.
“I guess Sean thought I was crazy, but he slept on the idea and came back to me about a month later,” Froom said.
Froom didn’t have any knowledge of weapons, outside of what he learned during basic training. But he immersed himself in research and learning about stun guns. He took apart a stun gun he bought that was camouflaged as a smart phone and discovered it was manufactured by Personal Security Products of Little Rock, Ark.
That led Simone and Froom to visit the company on New Year’s Eve 2011. “We connected with the engineers and it was kind of an evolutionary process,” Simone said.
Billy Pennington, president of Personal Security Products, said Froom and Simone are young guys with a good idea. “They seem to be real smart with a lot of energy,” he said.
Personal Security has taken over manufacturing the cases to Yellow Jacket’s specifications, and a plant in China actually builds the products.
“By spring, they should be really rocking and rolling with the product,” Pennington said.
Simone said adding a self-defense component takes care of the one thing that’s missing from an iPhone.
“You have a calendar, you have your pictures, you have a calculator, you have your notes, your clock, you have your wallet now. Now you have your self-defense. We really feel like this was the next progression,” he said.
Both men describe themselves as strong Christians, and Simone said the time is right for a self-defense case.
“We’re making the world a better and safer place,” Froom said. “One day, this is going to save someone’s life.”
Froom said he’s already used the case to scare off a man who confronted him while he was walking his dog.
“I pulled out the case, zapped it off and he ran away,” Froom said.
Yellow Jacket has plans to take the cases outside of sporting goods stores. They want to sell the cases alongside other iPhone products in smartphone retail outlets.
“We want to be there either way,” Simone said. “Whether you walk in Verizon store to buy a new iPhone and see it hanging there or you’re looking for a gun in a sporting goods store and see it’s a better solution.”
The two men say the stun gun case is the first in a series of self-defense products Yellow Jacket plans to introduce. Froom said the company hopes to have a highly diversified line of products in the next five years.
“We want to keep developing bigger and badder projects,” Simone said.
Said Froom, “Keep watching.”