From Grapes to Graphene – The story behind Graphene-X
SSACHS’s Innovations Editor Ruth Kelly recently caught up with Jorge Barros, Founder and CEO of Graphene- X, to learn all about his amazing journey so far, how living in a 60 square metre apartment in Hong Kong fueled his business, and how he’s challenging the status quo.
“We are a Materials Science venture that engineers all-round performance apparel from the strongest material on Earth to empower you to live a boundless life. We believe in quality, not in quantity. Our products are “scienced” to last.”
Four years ago Jorge and his architect wife Claudia moved from their home country Chile where space is not an issue, to Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places in the world. Suddenly they were faced with the lack of space, that they had never encountered before, were decisions such as buying a new bike, are not only based on financial, technical and aesthetic criteria, but also on space. “Do I have the real estate to house this purchase?”
The Omega Pant | Photo Credit Graphene – X
Jorge started to look at his closet, to really analyze the amount of clothing he owned, and thinking about the space it was taking up. He asked himself – do I really need all of these 10 jackets? Are they actually performing a separate purpose, or do I have multiple versions performing the same function? If technology is moving so fast why do we keep adapting ourselves to our clothing, rather than the other way around? Surely technology should be able to help us simplify our lives?
Reflecting on his own lifestyle, and his love of trail running – (Jorge describes himself as a “normal active guy” not an elite athlete or adventure) he was disappointed with the durability of some well-known brands products. Having spent $600 on an adventure jacket, that ripped on a branch, he wanted more durable product.
So unlike some of the big name brands that obsess with providing for the 0.001% of the population (i.e. the elite of the elite) Jorge wondered what it would be like to focus instead on the regular consumer and try to optimize product for them – with durability as a corner stone of anti fast consumption. Thus their business idea was born : streamline our closets down to key durable apparel pieces to enable an unrestrictive life with greater mobility.
With this notion in mind, Jorge visited the Canton Fair (the bi-annual massive trade fair held in Guangzhou China with more than 25,000 exhibitors, and 200,000 buyers). His mission was to find a supplier who believed in his vision. He’d recently come across Graphene and was interested in using this material with its marvelous properties to create a technical durable jacket with heat management capabilities. After meeting with a bunch of suppliers, he did exactly that, and despite his lack of funding and experience, found his garment supplier. The Alpha jacket was born 2 years later via the partnership formed with that manufacturer.
Having invested his time and created his proto jacket- “the right product”, the question was now “How do I get the right product to the right people?”
Jorge knew he didn’t want to work with investors, which would mean him compromising on his vision for his new brand, so he turned to crowd funding.
After evaluating the top performing brands in the Kickstarter world, Jorge was able to connect and talk with one of these successful founders. The biggest takeaway from that conversation? The most relevant element of your business to focus on is the product.
October 19 the Alpha jacket was launched. In just 30 days 2,000 customers in 70 countries pledged $250 (for a total campaign of half a million USD to the Kickstarter campaign of the Alpha Series jacket. Jorge saw this as a huge promise and responsibility, as these new customers had given their money without even touching the product!
With the second successful campaign for the graphene pants and now 5000 customers across 70 countries, Jorge is starting to need 48 hour days. However he hasn’t forgotten that advise and has worked very hard to obtain his 4.9/ 5.0 Kickstarter rating.
Customer service is so fundamental to his brand, that his first employee is looking after customer service.
So what’s next for Jorge? Well he’s not looking for or accepting investment. The plan is to grow, but keeping true to his core values and beliefs. In order to work with a diverse and engaging talent pool, Jorge has created the Backers Board of Directors. This is an innovative program were interested people (Data Scientist, Product Developers, CFO’s to name just a few) can apply to be on the board of directors for 1 year. In return for their time and knowledge, they will be rewarded with a 1% share of the revenues.
We can’t wait to see the new products that will be launched 2021-2022 from the Graphene-X team, that will take graphene integration to a whole new level.
Graphene-X is a corporate member of the Graphene Council. You can read more about Graphene-X’s Supply chain here.