As soon as Zhe Wang placed my phone into the Vivienne Tam pouch that had recently made its début in New York Fashion Week, the LED lights behind the pouch’s golden plated edge started fading in and out as if they were breathing. The next thing I knew my dying phone was already charging. This is not the first time that Vivienne Tam is cooperating with tech companies to merge fashion and technology. She has always had a keen eye for evolutionary technologies as a designer; some of her previous partners include world famous companies such as, HP, Lenovo, and Beats. But this time, Vivienne Tam has chosen to work with a small Chinese startup consisting of only ten people. What’s the story behind this startup that had fascinated her as well as leading angel investors in China?
Zhe Wang is the co-founder of ZEUSÉ, a company that aspires to bring a new wireless-charging era to the global community. After studying Electric Engineering at Tsinghua University, Zhe Wang developed a passion in wireless charging technology and continued to pursue this area as a PhD student at Columbia University. Two years ago, he and his close friend Hu He saw great potential in wireless charging in the prospective years, so they decided to put their knowledge in electric engineering into real life application. As soon as they successfully received angel investment from the Zhen Fund, Zhe Wang dropped out of Columbia and returned to Beijing, China, in pursuit of his dream to revolutionize traditional wireless charging technology.
It is exactly this passion and commitment that had allowed ZEUSÉ’s first product to shine on the global stage. ZEUSÉ now offers two styles of wireless charging devices that are fashionable and practical: the ZEUSÉ Classic pouch and the ZEUSÉ 2015 Vivienne Tam Limited Edition pouch. Both use British full-grain leather and pure cotton lining. Simply by sliding your phone into this multi-pocket pouch or placing it on top of the pouch, you can have your phone charged fully about 2.2 times a day without worrying about your bankcards being de-magnetized. On September 7th, ZEUSÉ presented its product to the public for the first time during Vivienne Tam’s Spring 2015 Runway Show for the New York Fashion Week. On November 11th, “Single’s Day” in China, ZEUSÉ released its pouch for sale on one of the largest Chinese shopping sites called JD.com. In a single day, ZEUSÉ achieved $171,000 USD of sales.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Zhe Wang before his talk at the “Who’s the Next Alibaba” event at Columbia’s Business School. We talked about the upcoming boom in wireless charging technology and the difference between ZEUSÉ’s products and other wireless charging devices. According to Zhe Wang, his team noticed some inherent problems in traditional wireless charging technology: i) charging efficiency is low, ii) temperature rise is very high, iii) any slight movement is prohibited during the charging process. To address the first two problems, ZEUSÉ invented a new algorithm based on temperature rise feedback. This algorithm not only increases charging efficiency but also keeps the temperature of the pouch below 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In traditional technology, the temperature of the circuit embedded in the pouch cannot be controlled, so the pouch can heat up to approximately 118.4 degrees. Moreover, traditional technology is not user-friendly because the phone has to be fixed at the same position while being charged. The reason is that the center of the coil on the charger has to perfectly match that of our phone. ZEUSE’s new technology, however, used multiple coils to largely increase the wireless charging transmission area. So now our phone can freely move in all directions inside the pouch as it is carried around.
Why did you choose to cooperate with Vivienne Tam on this first product?
This is actually a quite interesting story. So as we were first constructing marketing plans for ZEUSÉ Classic, we found that it would be very hard to widely promote this new semi luxury brand without any partnership with well-known luxury brands or famous designers. Vivienne Tam stood out as the perfect choice for us because she is at the forefront of technology and fashion integration.
How did you manage to get in touch with Vivienne Tam? What aspects about your product attracted her into working with you?
Haha. It took us a couple of months to look for people who might have the right connections, and it is absolutely amazing how the “Six Degrees of Separation” actually enabled a small company like us to reach her. We met with Vivienne in her studio at Hong Kong. When we showed her the ZEUSÉ Classic pouch, she was both astonished by our new technology and intrigued by certain details in our design philosophy, such as the pouch’s distinctive golden plated edge and the breathing LED lights that show the pouch’s remaining battery life. Then, she was delighted to do designs for our limited edition pouch and also sell our products in her retail stores.
Your attempts to obtain support and early rounds of investments for ZEUSÉ seem to be very successful. How did you pitch your idea to those early investors and convince them?
Well, the emphasis of your pitch may need to vary depending on different investors’ areas of interests. For instance, when we talked to investors from SoftBank, they were particularly interested in the unique technology embedded in our chip. They believed that the product was not as important as the technology itself, so we primarily discussed the irreplaceability of our new algorithm. But when we approached Chinese celebrity Xiaoming Huang for a personal investment, we focused more on showcasing the high-quality pouch as a fashionable, unique luxury good. He thought it was a very cool product, so he was happy to invest in us.
What’s your long-term vision for ZEUSÉ? What is the next step that your team is going to take?
Our long-term goal, we believe, is to recreate the wireless charging experience in order to ease people’s daily lives. The next thing on our agenda is to apply our technology in heart pacemakers so that we can greatly alleviate people’s pains in surgeries. (A heart pacemaker is a small metal box containing a battery and a generator; it is placed under the patient’s chest to control abnormal heart rhythms.) Every couple of years, the doctor has to take out the pacemaker, get its battery recharged, and then put it back under the patient’s chest. This requires another painful surgery, so wireless charging technology could be the perfect substitute for this agonizing process.
Traditional wireless charging technology, however, is subject to the risk of high temperature. Since our inner body environment is very sensitive to temperature, it would be very dangerous to use the traditional technology on heart pacemakers. With ZEUSÉ’s new algorithm based on temperature rise feedback, we are pretty confident that we can keep the temperature of the pacemaker between 98.2 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit when the doctor is charging it wirelessly from outside the patient’s body. As many clinical trials are required for applying new technology to medical devices, we hope to see our technology become used in the next two to three years.