Sino Spec & Cauldryn at Outdoor Retailer In Salt Lake City.




Hawaii-Based Inventor Of Sino Spec Discusses New Water Bottle Boiler & Energy Evolution At Outdoor Retailer In Salt Lake City

The Cauldryn Water Bottle That Can Boil Water In The Wilderness. [Courtesy: Cauldryn]

Generating an idea for a product is one thing. Actually designing and building it is a complete other. Joe Ganahl has been an inventor all his life. He cut his teeth in the underwater digital camera industry, leading the field in innovation. Now with his own design shop based out of the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, he helps development for other companies while still pursuing his own concepts. Joe sat down at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City with The Buzz to discuss the evolution of energy including his new self-boiling water canister from Cauldryn.

The Buzz: How do you look at inspiration when you are designing something like the self-boiling water canister?

Joe Ganahl: To talk about inspiration, Cauldryn's a good point. Last year I came to the show and walked around. Every other booth had water bottles in it and all of them were doing the same thing.  And what struck me was that it's a massive category. There's a huge opportunity there if there was a way to do something different. So we came up with a modular concept, and the most popular module by far was the heating element. So with a little bit of refinement-- every factory we talked to said you can't do it --it's just too much energy. We were able to fine tune it --- we have the only water bottle on the market that can boil water with a battery. [And] you can maintain the temperature.

The Buzz: Can you talk about your background?

JG: The background is a small company in Hawaii trying to compete against big multinational corporations. It's a classic David against Goliath story. If we don't have a stone in our sling, we don't have a chance. And the stone in our sling is differentiation. I started in the camera industry - competing against Kodak and Fuji - and actually coming from Hawaii we're always surrounded by water literally (laughing) and figuratively so waterproof stuff was big. We made [the first camera] that could go 30 feet, 45, 75, 100 feet under water. We were the first company to preload cameras - make them reusable but sell them in the disposable category. The first one with a flash, and a flip up view finder, color filters, all kinds of stuff. That's roughly 30 years ago when we started. The camera business was kind of a fun testing thing with the earlier models. One of our tests was literally to go out in the warehouse and throw them against the wall. Throw them high so they'd hit the wall and they'd bounce and hit the floor. That was a survival test (laughing). Then we made a lot of stuff for the dive industry. That was sort of where we started.

The Buzz: Are you a diver?

JG: Yeah. Then we started making video lights, and lighting. We're a very small company, always under-capitalized. We were limited to maybe three products a year that we could develop, just because that's all we could afford to bring into inventory and sell. We had a warehouse in Hong Kong, a warehouse in LA, a small one in Honolulu. Managing all of that was just a nightmare. I hated it. And I wasn't good at it. What I always loved to do was make products. I always say there's three elements to bringing a product to market. The first is the idea. The second is making it, the actual production of the idea. And the third is selling it. And the third is the hardest of them all (laughing). Doesn't matter how good the idea is or how good your production is…if nobody's going to buy it, it's no good, right? So it was tough. And what we do now, by accident-- I wish I could tell you it was a brilliant idea – now we just make stuff for other people. We design the product. They have the distribution. They have the warehouses. They have the sales people. We can focus on what we're really good at, which is conceptualizing, designing, and building products.

Joe Gernahl heading out to surf on Oahu. [Courtesy: Joe Gernahl]
Joe Gernahl at Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]
Inside Joe Gernahl's inventor workshop on Oahu. [Courtesy: Joe Gernahl]

The Buzz: Did you grow up loving to do this stuff?

JG: I haven't grown up yet. I'm matriculating (laughing).  I grew up in a very, very rural community that was pretty isolated.  A town called Mokule'ia on the North Shore of O'ahu, which is the surf capital of the world. So at an early age, we all were making surfboards and repairing our own boards. We were fairly poor so anything I wanted I'd have to work for or make, so I'd buy really cheap cars and fix them. I was always kind of tinkering with stuff.

The Buzz: Can you talk about energy evolution because now it's all about battery power?

JG: Well, as we got into the digital arena in particular, you've got to have a battery to power it. And then we started making flashlights which draw a lot of power, and that got us involved in power storage. And Hawaii's a unique environment for that.  NASA, 25, 30 years ago, made their first windmill, their first wind-powered turbine, and they chose a town right near where I was. Out of all 50 states, they chose a town near me to put their first wind generator up. The state has ocean thermal energy conversion, creating energy from the difference in temperature between deep and shallow water. There's geothermal energy there. There's solar. I think, per capita, it leads the country in solar penetration. So Hawaii's always had this energy-independent-research type of mentality. Many products we make, particularly on the electronics side, require power. For me, personally, it's a fascinating arena. When I was in college, I wrote a paper for futuristics class. And somehow it was all about how electrical energy would be the basis of our lives. And I still remember one line from it, and it was like, "Batteries of wondrous design, what power all of these things (laughing).  I did that when I was 18. But I really believe that electricity is going to be a bigger and bigger part of our future as we ween ourselves from our reliance on fossil fuels. And there's just tremendous advances about to occur, particularly, in the portable energy storage area. Batteries are getting more efficient. Companies like Tesla are doing some very interesting things.

The Buzz: But the evolution of a product like the water boiler, is important, especially for our industry, the campers and the RVers…

JG: So what we look for in the outdoor industry --  take camping for example…camping's changing. It's not carrying everything on your back anymore. It's become much more of a leisure activity where you can involve friends and families. Pack up the car, drive up in the mountains, have a barbecue, look at the stars, and just have a great night out together in a very healthy environment instead of going and hanging out in a bar. But there's a lot of power requirements there, or there could be. Our concept for the Cauldryn system is that we want to make a base station that will provide power for lighting, heating water for showers and washing dishes, music, and cooking which draws a tremendous amount of power. The problem with the outdoor industry with batteries is that you use up the battery and you're done. But you can recharge it via solar. Solar’s another area that's really interesting because we're getting Silicon Valley involved. It's going to progress tremendously. So you have one source of power generation – the combination of wind and water. So we're also working on a dynamo that you pop the cap and the tail off, change them, one goes up in the wind and the other, throw it in the river (laughing). And both of those will generate power for you.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

Make Sure To Check Out:

Sino Spec, which is based out of Oahu in Hawaii, and helps develop compelling, high quality products with the right features and pricing  for today active outdoor systems including create complete supply chains and quality assurance including the new Cauldryn portable water boiler.

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