Dave Mayer is runs Clean Designs, LLC, a sports bottle startup out of Portola Valley, CA. As an elite amateur cyclist and Ironman triathlete, Dave has been using sports bottles for years and always hated how difficult cleaning them could be. Until one day in 2008 Dave had a thought, why not use a removable bottom? Since then, sports bottles have never been the same and now the Clean Bottle is available in over 2,000 stores in the U.S., including REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and in 14 different countries.
Prior to founding Clean Designs, Dave worked for Cisco as a product manager and at Goldman Sachs in investment banking. Dave has a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University.
What are you working on right now?
Aside from the day-to-day tasks of supplying Clean Bottles to our customers, we recently launched our custom program, so we are ironing out the process. Getting our factory up to speed is very time consuming, so I also spend a lot of time working with our production team.
What does your typical day look like?
I get up with my 2 kids, check email and work until lunch. Then I typically I ride my bike or run. I founded Clean Designs so I could join the noon bicycle ride in my neighborhood and even when work can get a bit overwhelming, I make sure to get in at least a little exercise. It also serves as product testing time. After all, the best product testing happens in real life situations.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve actually been pretty lucky in that all the jobs I’ve had I’ve been happy with. I had bosses that I was less enthusiastic with than others. This taught me how important it is to have a boss that you respect, get along with and can learn from.
3 trends that excite you?
The proliferation of social media is changing the way we do business as a society and has allowed us to succeed as a small company. We still only have 3 full-time employees, so having a community to reach out and directly communicate with is fantastic.
Viral marketing is another exciting trend and enables small companies to gain a toehold in an industry of giants. We have done a good job marketing through more traditional media, but the possibility of getting a viral video is enticing, to say the least.
I am excited to see green technology really maturing. Part of the reason I designed the Clean Bottle was to cut down on wasted plastic bottles. Cyclists tend to buy new water bottles every season so I wanted to do my part to keep bottles from piling up in landfills.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Once I think of a good idea, I wait at least 24 hours. If I still think I have a sound idea, then I think about how to execute it. With the Clean Bottle, that meant getting in touch with industrial engineers and patent lawyers to protect my design, deciding if the market has space and determining if consumers were ready to accept my idea.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Your product or idea has to be the cheapest or the best, preferably both.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Some laws are certainly made to be broken, but it is very interesting to look at your company from Ries and Trout’s perspective. They stress focusing your brand’s vision, and even though they cite large companies in many of their examples of how following the rules pays off, their message is easy to relate to a startup.
What do you read every day and why?
Cyclingnews.com. As a cyclist and consumer, cyclingnews is a habit I never want to kick. Even during the off-season, cyclingnews offers great product reviews and features. Plus, Clean Bottle is marketed towards cyclists and we have our biggest month during the July running of the Tour de France, so it helps to keep my finger on the cycling community’s pulse.
What is your best marketing advice?
Be extreme. The best way to make an impression is to stand out. The best way to accomplish this task is to push towards one end of the spectrum. Be the most relatable, the most outrageous, the most grassroots; just be sure to fully commit.
What is the one gadget you could not live without?
My iPhone is just a fantastic piece of equipment. It keeps me connected, entertained and on track.
[highlight]This interview was brought to you by Duncan Murtagh, co-founder of Vetter, a system that helps managers get more ideas from employees. Who knows what employee ideas can lead to.[/highlight]