Good pepper spray startup 444 is again at CES with a significant partnership deal

A yr in the past, at CES, I broke out the snark-hammer at 444, a startup that was making an attempt to make a ‘smart’ pepper spray gadget. I got here throughout the identical firm once more at CES this year. To my shock, it had landed a major partnership, co-development, and co-branding take care of Mace, one of many largest names within the sprayable self-defense sector.

444‘s settlement with Mace is “a preliminary exclusivity agreement for purposes of jointly developing and bringing to market a smart pepper spray device that is GPS and Bluetooth enabled and which sends out current location to emergency contacts when deployed.”

“We were here at CES last year, starting with a rough-looking 3D print and an example PCBA board. We made a lot of connections, and we got some news articles from TechCrunch and many others,” says Logan Nash, co-founder at 444. “The wind just kind of took the idea out there in the self-defense industry. A few months after CES, Mace reached out reached out to us, and we’ve built a great relationship with them and finalized our partnership”

The samples 444 had at its sales space have been pre-production samples that regarded stellar: Nice design, well-made, and nearly prepared to enter manufacturing. The workforce tells me they hope to begin spinning up manufacturing within the subsequent few months.

“We did a lot of customer discovery to figure out exactly what the consumer wants, and what they need. One of the things we kept hearing was that the users want a sleek, aesthetically appealing device. So that’s what we have here. A great-looking device with great colors and high quality, it’s very strong. It has a metal frame to really keep everything together,” Nash explains. “But we also wanted longevity for the device. If the user does deploy their pepper spray, they can unscrew the back, and replace the canister so it’s ready for another use.”

The replaceable-cannister mannequin is novel; most pepper sprays are low-cost single-use units, however 444’s providing is a premium product that may price considerably greater than the $14-for-two units you possibly can order on Amazon. Its price ticket is more likely to be within the $75-100 vary, the workforce tells TechCrunch, so with the ability to reuse the gadget and the electronics is essential.

You possibly can open the again of the 444 gadget and change the Mace cannister if the gadget has been deployed. Picture credit score: TechCrunch / Haje Kamps

The corporate hastens to share that even when you neglect to cost the gadget, the Mace half nonetheless works – that’s absolutely mechanical – though clearly the GPS alert system to your help circle wouldn’t be activated.

“When you deploy the device, pepper spray comes out. It also sends a signal to your phone, which will send your current – and live – location to nominated emergency contact, whether that’s mom, dad, brother, sister, you name it,” says Nash. “That part is free. For an additional subscription, the app will connect you to a 24-hour emergency hotline which will then direct you to local authorities, whether that’s police dispatchers or campus security.”

As an organization, Mace has had a rough couple of years. From a peak market cap of $46 million in April 2021, right this moment, the corporate is price lower than $2.5 million. It stands to purpose that the corporate is popping to younger innovators to bolster its relevance out there.

“Mace Brand is very excited about this first-of-its-kind smart product for Mace. The spray is the most advanced of its kind and we believe the most significant release in the industry in decades,” Sanjay Singh, Chairman and CEO of Mace Model wrote in a press assertion. “This product is perfect for those who value personal safety while looking for the most technologically advanced product. The product’s high-end design should appeal to consumers on the move and at home.”

I’ll have the standard pie for one, please, sir.

Let me be the primary to say that I actually didn’t see that coming; I used to be genuinely stunned to be reminded of the corporate in any respect, and doubly baffled they have been nonetheless round. I missed one thing – and it’s a bit of refreshing to be reminded of that in such a person-to-person manner as working into the founders at the exact same commerce present a yr later.

I typically find yourself seeing startups at CES that appear fully pointless (this yr, my eyes did backflips over Direction 9. In the event that they get acquired by Samsung by subsequent yr, I suppose I actually need to reevaluate my position as an analyst), and after a few years of seeing startups do dumb issues, I do discover myself a bit of jaded.

This serves as a terrific nice reminder that, for true entrepreneurs, it takes greater than a snarky submit from an opinionated blogger to encourage them to throw within the towel. Think about this my “Hey, I’m wrong at least 20% of the time” confession, and I’m curious to see the place 444 goes from right here.

Read more about CES 2024 on TechCrunch