In an increasingly mobile society, having a dead battery can put your day on hold.
Lana Ibragimova wanted to change this and help people maintain their productivity on the go. Ibragimova is the CEO of the startup ChefCharger, which makes it possible for people to maintain their mobile phone access while they are away from home. Most bars do not offer plugs for customers, and ChefCharger allows bar-goers to create their own.
“People were asking about charging their phones 20 times per day at minimum,” Ibragimova said, referring to the complaints she constantly heard while working in the restaurant industry. “I started thinking that this would be a great opportunity.”
The main function of the products offered by ChefCharger is to provide a battery source at the table in bars and restaurants without inconveniencing other patrons or putting a person’s phone at risk charging at an unguarded outlet. The startup makes products that appear nearly identical to tabletop items in restaurants and bars, but include built-in USB ports and charging cables.
Ibragimova got the idea just prior to coming to the United States from Russia to attend the MIT Sloan School of Management, and was immediately ready to put her plan into action. At MIT, she found Alec Smetannikov who would become her partner. He quickly became a huge asset to ChefCharger, as Smetannikov focused more on the prototyping side of the business.
Smetannikov’s affinity for programming is essential to ChefCharger’s success, especially since a startup can have a hard time finding the capital to invest in good prototypes without contracting out the majority of the process.
“We used a few developers, of course it was just a span of two weeks, three weeks participation—something like that because it is a startup and if you know the nature of startups, it’s all about keeping costs low,” Ibragimova said.
ChefCharger has been working hard to avoid the cold feel of the technology in its products.
“No one wants to see blinking electronics on the table, but everyone likes to see our designs,” Ibragimova said.
She has worked with some professional designers to perfect the products offered. Currently the company’s website has three main product types: the candle holder, the salt & pepper holder, and the drink coaster, all of which allow patrons to surreptitiously charge their phones at the table. ChefCharger is also willing to customize products for different venues which fits with the company’s philosophy of truly integrating technological features rather than creating an intrusive influence.
Ibragimova believes in the depth of her products. “I would say that ChefCharger is something like art meets technology,” she said. Ibragimova wants to focus on the aesthetic beauty, which she tries to instill in each new design, working to create a product that is not merely focused on functionality but also contributes to the atmosphere of the dining establishment.
“I would definitely say that ChefCharger is unique because of all the designs and all the design solutions which are totally integrated in a restaurant environment,” Ibragimova said. “I think that’s our biggest thing and the biggest achievement is that all the devices are really indistinguishable from conventional tableware.”
Ibragimova feels that when people duck into a restaurant or a bar for a quick rest after a long day, they should not be burdened with worrying about their phone batteries. She recognizes that people rely on their phones to such a high degree, that this is just the next step for facilitating a mobile lifestyle.
ChefCharger is currently piloting its devices in various restaurants and bars in New York. For Bostonians, the company is currently working out terms in a confidential deal with a popular chain restaurant and hopes to be implementing its products in December. The service is intended to be totally free for patrons with costs for restaurants just being the initial purchasing price for the product.
“It’s like a glass of water—it’s your right to have your phone charged so it should be expected in every venue,” Ibragimova said.
ChefCharger is currently pursuing a few patents for new designs and ideas that will expand the functionality of its products beyond just battery life. Looking forward, Ibragimova has big plans for her chargers to be on tabletops everywhere.
“It’s not just a power bank,” she said. “It’s not just a battery. It’s integrated solutions for restaurants.”
Featured Image Courtesy of ChefCharger