COAlition Smart Back Packs

coalition backpackLaunching a successful brand with Kickstarter isn't easy, but Jeff Popp and Casey Lorenzen did it for two different brands: MHM Back Packs and COAlition Smart Back Packs. Back in 2012, Popp “launched” his then three-year-old brand, MHM Back Packs, to the crowdfunding public. The successful campaign helped propel the brand into one of the more sought after back pack brands. The products can be found at REI and Amazon.

When you know how to build brands, it makes a lot of sense to piggyback on past success to leverage more sales and more brand recognition. Success can also help with developing new brands, and that's what Popp and Lorenzen are trying to do with COAlition. The new line of back packs is chasing a different demographic. MHM targets campers, hikers, and other outdoorsy types. COAlition is branding itself to appeal to the “urban back packer.”

Their “smart” back packs feature wi-fi hard drive capabilities and built-in power chargers for phones, laptops, and other devices. The packs are designed with tech in mind: there are special foam reinforced pockets for electronics, along with a “standard” cargo area. Their slick and sleek designs, coupled with high-tech functionality are sure to appeal to the gadget geek on the go.

They're dubbing the new backpacks as “the evolution of carry” and they use the same factory they make the MHM packs in. Their successful 2014 Kickstarter enabled them to fund the first round of production and acted as a pre-sales mechanism. Now, COAlition packs are becoming the darlings of the tech industry. It appears the branding exercise was successful and the business is well on its way.

My Take on COAlition

We have gone through countless back packs in the last 20 years. With five kids, we've seen nearly every iteration of the back pack. COAlition is something new, however. With increasing reliance on technology and with many people's need to “get connected” while on the go, having a remote power source and portable wi-fi hotspot has a lot of appeal. Having all that integrated into the thing you're carrying everything in makes perfect sense.

I think the styling of the COAlition bags is very clean and sleek. The compartments appear to be well organized and the packs look like they are well made. Without the “extras,” COAlition would be just another back pack, the high-tech capabilities set them apart.

“Wearables” are the hottest thing in tech these days, and luggage that has technology built in is one of the “next big things.” We already saw high-tech luggage in season seven when Trunkster did a deal with Mark and Lori. The COAlition packs are a more everyday type of luggage. I can see college students and urban professionals using this product in a big way. Popp and Lorenzen have a lot of credibility in the space, since they already have a top quality brand under their belt. I think the business will be very successful.

Do Sharks Evolve and Invest?

One thing is certain: the Sharks will be impressed with the ability of Popp and Lorenzen. They've successfully launched two brands and have solid sales numbers. In most circumstances, I'd say they were a slam-dunk to get a deal with a Shark.

ABC, in its press and PR material for episode 716, are making a big deal about this pitch. It seems Popp and Lorenzen are looking for partners for COAlition, not MHM – which is a far more established and profitable brand. The Sharks are going to try to get them to put MHM in the deal. Whenever there are competing loyalties from entrepreneurs in the Tank, the Sharks get testy about it. As investors, they want to know the entrepreneurs' focus is totally on what they're investing in. They also want to maximize profits!

This is similar to when Scott Jordan appeared in season three. He wanted to get an investment in TEC without giving up any interest in the successful ScotEVest brand. The rules were different then: if Jordan even mentioned his other company, he would have been subject to giving a 2-5% piece of the business to the production company; that rule has since been revoked. There have been others with multiple companies in the Tank, and they haven't fared well.

If the COAlition guys are willing to carve out a slice of MHM for the Sharks, they will definitely field offers. If they don't, we should see some wild action in the Tank during this pitch.

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

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