Emerging startup ChargeItSpot looks back on Penn roots

ChargeItSpot is a free mobile phone charging station providing charging cables inside a locker

· December 2, 2013, 5:12 pm   ·  Updated December 2, 2013, 10:23 pm

Analyn Delos Santos | DP

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When Douglas Baldasare was a second-year Wharton MBA student, he took a trip over Labor Day with his classmates and dreamed up what was to become a successful startup.

“We had all forgotten to charge our phones the night before and we were low on phone battery. I was walking outside an Urban Outfitters store and was thinking, … ‘Why can’t I charge my phone in there?’” Baldasare said.

This led to the creation of ChargeItSpot, a free mobile phone charging station that allows users to charge their Android, iPhone or Blackberry phone using provided charging cables inside a locker. Customers get free battery life and, in return, companies get more business. The service is now live at more than 50 locations in Philadelphia — more than 10 of them are on Penn’s campus — and is expanding along the East Coast.

The company also launched a new mobile application sends users a notification of a nearby charging location when their phone has a low battery.

As a business, ChargeItSpot began at Penn. “This business is very much a Penn-slash-Wharton shaped business,” Baldasare said, adding that the idea for ChargeItSpot took shape while he was taking entrepreneurial courses with professors Patrick FitzGerald and Ethan Mollick.

Related: PennApps Accelerator to turn computer programs into start-ups

FitzGerald’s course treated each student’s work as if it were an actual business and walked students through the steps of building a viable company.

“It was almost like some sort of mini-incubator, where you were held accountable to develop a different part of your company every week,” Baldasare said.

Although Baldasare came to the course with several ideas, FitzGerald encouraged him to focus on ChargeItSpot.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” FitzGerald said. “I do like to look at big problems and [charging your phone] is a big problem that everyone can relate to.”

The course has helped foster many other successful startups, including software company Sqrrl and online luxury jewelry store Stone and Strand.

Through Wharton, Baldasare has also received guidance and funding from the Wharton Innovation Fund and the Wharton Venture Initiation Program. FitzGerald, who continues to advise the company, was a VIP mentor at the time.

Related: Wharton graduates’ startups take off despite the odds

FitzGerald was not the only Wharton professor who has helped shape the company, Peter Fader was also a mentor.

Though Fader was not initially interested in the company, he later realized it could provide data on relationships between companies and customers and the needs and wants of a customer.

“At that level [of functionality], I wasn’t really interested,” he said. “But it was seeing these relational aspects and the data and all — that’s what got me really interested in all this.”

According to Fader, the company helps foster relationships between consumers and stores which install a ChargeItSpot by providing “a subtle reward for good customers.”

And so far, an average of 750 people use ChargeItSpot per month, and the company has received positive feedback.

“By far, my favorite Tweet that I saw was a user who found it at the King of Prussia Mall at Urban Outfitters [calling the CharreItSpot] ‘a gift from God.’” said Baldasare.

ChargeItSpot has also made a few fans on Penn’s campus. Wharton sophomore Sandhya Jetty frequents the charging stations in Huntsman and Steinberg-Dietrich halls.

“My phone tends to run out of battery pretty quickly,” Jetty said. Since the charging cubbies include a key, Jetty does not worry about the safety of her phone and leaves it charging while she goes to class.

“I can just let it charge while I’m in class, and it’s really nice,” she added. “I think it’s a nice convenience that Penn has decided to include them in the buildings that I frequent the most.”

This article has been updated to show that there are 50 ChargeItSpot locations in Philadelphia, not 30.

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