Plenty of chemicals on the market kill mosquitos and other insects we don’t want around. The problem is, a lot of people aren’t comfortable using chemically-laden products around their kids or pets. But the products they aren’t afraid to use usually don’t work very well.
But three guys from Boston had a brilliant idea. What if you could trap bugs discreetly, without using insecticides or pheromones, and keep them out of plain sight? What would you use to attract them to the trap? And the answer they came up with: light. Just looking up at a streetlight in the evening tells you how attracted bugs are to light. So, then all they had to do was add a sticky surface in a partially concealed cartridge that you can throw away.
It was a pretty good idea, and they even had a good start on what the product would look like and how it would work. But what they didn’t know was how to commercialize it. Nor did they really want to. These entrepreneurs liked inventing things, not running a business. So that’s where P&G Ventures came in.
When P&G Ventures first started working with this entrepreneur, the first thing they did was conduct research with consumers to understand the problem a little better. They found that people are tired of trading one worry (disease- and germ-carrying insects) for another worry (toxic chemicals in their home). So tired, in fact, that the idea of a non-toxic way to get rid of bugs tested stronger in appeal than the concepts for the billion-dollar brands Swiffer and Febreze.
The next thing they had to work on was the product. It was good, but not yet great. So they started working with entomologists at the University of Cincinnati to come up with better ideas. They had a “bug room” with thousands of bugs where they could test the traps. Each time they’d make a change to the product, they’d test the traps again. Today, they’ve run over a thousand experiments at U.C., in consumer’s homes, and in field tests, meticulously counting trapped bugs at the end of every test—over 60,000 at last count. And out of that research has come critical product improvements that took the traps from good to great.
Along with intensive research, P&G Ventures hired a world class brand naming agency, a trusted manufacturing partner, and top-rated marketing agency to launch the product direct to consumers. Then they got the product into 300 Home Depots.
Then the entrepreneurs got what they wanted: P&G purchased their technology, fully launched the Zevo product, and ran all business operations. The entrepreneurs wanted to go work on their next big idea.
From there, P&G Ventures partnered with a tech startup to move Zevo plug-in traps into a suite of non-toxic products for bug removal. Unlike the insect trap inventors who wanted P&G Ventures to take over, the spray inventors wanted to stay involved with the business side. So P&G Ventures created a joint development and licensing agreement that keeps them involved in ongoing product development and decision-making—exactly what they wanted.
In the end, instead of just going to a venture capital firm, getting seed money, and having to figure out how to do the marketing, supply chain, and R&D on their own—both sets of Zevo entrepreneurs, with very different needs, decided to go a different route with P&G Ventures.
They needed capabilities they didn’t have, like consumer insights, brand building, manufacturing scale, sales and distribution networks, product development, regulatory and legal know how. P&G Ventures was privileged to provide it, and dig into the process of trying to create another billion-dollar brand.