Cut the Cord

No need to carry around an emergency phone cord when there’s a MobileQubes nearby.

Sean Carrigan was waiting in a bar one night for his friends when he noticed his phone was dying.

“I asked if I could charge my phone behind the bar, but the bartender said no,” he says. “So I was stuck. I just sat there thinking, ‘I bet there’s gotta be like five or six other people in here who’ve asked to do the same thing, and they’re sitting here stuck like me.’”

That is when inspiration struck for the experienced entrepreneur.

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“All I wanted was something where I could pay a couple of bucks, charge my phone quickly and be on my way,” he says. “So I came up with a business model and found the smartest guy I knew, Jason Palmer, an engineer by trade, and together we founded MobileQubes.”

MobileQubes are small, cordless battery packs that are dispensed from automated, self-service kiosks, much like Redbox DVDs. For $4.99 for a day and 99 cents for every additional day, a user can rent a battery, plug it right into their phone, and charge it on the go. If a user keeps the battery more than seven days, they are automatically charged the purchase fee of $39.99.

MobileQubes’ small cordless battery packs — dispensed from automated kiosks — can be used to charge any device with a USB port, including cell phones, tablets and iPads.

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“When we looked at what was currently out there as far as options for mobile charging, there were really only a couple of things — charging polls that would lock your phone away while it charged, or cradles that would sit on a bar and charge your phone, but again, you were stuck to that spot,” he says.

Currently headquartered at the BioInnovation center on Canal Street, MobileQubes, on the other hand, enables customers to charge not only their phones, but any item with a USB port — including tablets and iPads — and be on their way.

“You can return the pack at any kiosk in the U.S., where it is then recharged and put right back into inventory,” he says.

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Like Redbox, however, the concept depends on a prevalence of locations.

There are currently 110 kiosks nationwide, but Carrigan plans to have up to 500 locations by the end of this year.

“We launched our pilot in 2014 with 12 units, partnering with key locations like the New Orleans airport, Hyatt Regency, Harrah’s Casino, Ochsner, Walk-On’s, the Superdome and Smoothie King Center,” he says. “We needed to see how the technology worked in the real world.”

Getting the companies to agree to host a kiosk, he says, wasn’t difficult.

“For big venues, mobile power is the No. 1 consumer demand,” he says. “If you think about it, not that long ago our phones were just phones. But now, with all the apps and features, they literally run every aspect of our lives. We don’t know what to do without them. And to do this, they pull more and more power every day.”

Carrigan says MobileQubes offers vendors the chance to provide this most valuable service to their clientele at no cost to them. “Plus, they do get back a portion of every transaction,” he says. The freestanding kiosks are maintained and constantly monitored by MobileQubes, feature the ability for custom branding and require nothing more than a standard 110 outlet.

“Mobile power is the No. 1 consumer demand. If you think about it, not that long ago our phones were just phones. But now, with all the apps and features, they literally run every aspect of our lives.” – Sean Carrigan, CEO of MobileQubes

MobileQubes’ testing phase lasted about six to eight months. “We tracked things like user adoption and got feedback,” Carrigan says, “the result of which were some minor tweaks to the hardware and software.”

The company’s national rollout began in September 2015.

“Since we had already established some great relationships with national companies, it was easy to expand,” he says. In addition to multiple Hyatts, and properties managed by SMG and Caesar’s Entertainment, MobileQubes also scored a national contract with Amtrak last fall and solidified a partnership with the Nashville International Airport last month.

According to the company website, Lousiana currently boasts the most locations — 20 in Greater New Orleans alonge — followed by 16 in Chicago. The next most populated area lies from Boston to Washington D.C. thank to the company’s partnership with Amtrak.

By positioning themselves strategically in high-traffic venues, Carrigan says they’re aiming to establish MobileQubes as the market leader in on-demand mobile power.

“We’re just in the U.S. right now,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the international marketplace, but I really think we need to focus right now on really solidifying the U.S. before we move into other markets.”

Asked what kind of growing pains the company has felt, Carrigan says there’s been a few.

Automated, self-service kiosks allow users to easily rent a battery pack that they can return to any of the other currently 20 kiosks in the city. Fees are $4.99 for a 24-hour rental and 99 cents for every day up to seven days. After seven days, the user is charged the $39.99 purchase fee.

“With any startup you’re definitely in the role of problem-solver,” he says. “For instance, there was the time we had to deal with a power outage at Union Station in Chicago, but mainly I think the challenge is to recognize that working with big corporations requires some patience. They tend to have many layers of leadership — unlike someone like us — so sometimes they don’t move as fast on things as we would want or need. As a startup, we’re very flexible and agile. With them, things can take a while.”

Carrigan says the goal of the company has always been to eventually sell.

“We are positioned for acquisition at some point,” he says. “To really be a global solution we’d have to under the control of someone really big, like a Fortune 100 company. That kind of business is the only one that would have the infrastructure that something like this needs.”

For the more immediate future, Carrigan says it’s all about adding locations, but his mind is always spinning with new ideas.

“Eventually I think we could create a membership or subscription service, something where when you bought a cube you were part of a network — an ecosystem,” he says. “Moving more from a Redbox style of doing business to something more like Uber, where you could access power everywhere, on demand, no matter where you are.”


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