Episode 504 brings Charles Michael Yim and his breathalyzer app into the Shark Tank. Every once in a while, the Shark Tank sees a business that can really benefit society and this could be it. The breathalyzer app, called Breathometer, allows any smart phone user to calculate their own blood alcohol level and, hopefully, make an informed and responsible choice before getting behind the wheel of a car. An estimated 10839 people in the United States died in drunk driving crashes in 2012, accounting for 32% of total traffic deaths. There are also over 1.2 million drunk driving arrests each year and it's estimated that drunk driving costs each American about $500 per year; that doesn't even count the tremendous emotional costs of losing a loved one in a drunk driving accident. If a breathalyzer app can help reduce those statistics, that's a very good thing.
Basically, the Breathometer is a key fob sized attachment that plugs in to a smartphone's headphone jack. When you breath into the device, the breathalyzer app calculates blood alcohol content. The device is much smaller and less expensive than other personal breathalyzers on the market, so it has a convenience factor going for it too. The breathalyzer app is free, but the Breathometer attachment costs $49 – not much when you consider the costs of NOT using it in the appropriate situation.
Will the Breathalyzer App Save Lives?
You could make the argument that if one life gets saved by this device, it is a huge success. Unfortunately, there aren't statistics for when people choose not to drive while impaired. For the product to make an impact, it needs to be used. You could presume that someone who buys the Breathometer is responsible to begin with, and perhaps less likely to drive drunk in the first place but if it makes a difference that one time, it is a worthwhile investment. The financial cost of a drunk driving arrest can go into the tens of thousands of dollars when you factor in lost wages, attorney fees, and increased insurance premiums; a $49 investment in the breathalyzer app plus cab fare is miniscule by comparison.
Should Breathometer make inroads in the marketplace, the sheer fact of increased awareness may make others take pause before driving drunk. Bars could also potentially utilize a breathalyzer app before over serving someone and there may be law enforcement applications as well. Breathometer is an app, and a business, with tremendous potential for positive social impact.
Do the Sharks See the Big Picture?
Certainly none of the Sharks will criticize the intentions and potential social benefits of a breathalyzer app, but the discussion will inevitably end up revolving around the money. The app is free, so the money is in the margins on the hardware. If there are a lot of downloads, you could assume there will be many hardware purchases too. That will be a key factor in whether the breathalyzer app gets funded.
One business will get a million dollar offer and I believe Breathometer is the one that gets it. This is a pretty big time company that has already gone the VC route and having all 5 Sharks on board would not only further the capitalization, it would bring the positive social impact to the masses. Breathometer could be a $100 million company in less than a year, so all five Sharks will be “IN.” So am I!