Washington Post Readers Dump on LifeFuels

The Tom Heath Washington Post Article

The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath is a good guy. He writes puff, feel-good pieces for the Post’s Business Section. He’s written about a bunch of clients, a bunch of good people. He’s had a miss or two, for instance when he offered positive coverage to now-bankrupt Ponzi Scheme., Trustify. A company and two founders, Danny Boice and Jennifer Mellon facing multiple fraud and embezzlement charges (BTW, The Washington Post had to close the comment section because the comments against Boice were scathing).

Tom is usually a cheerleader and yet in a recent post about one of DC’s most embarrassing startups, LifeFuels, he’s not so Rah Rah. In a Friday the 13th article about Jonathon Perrelli and LifeFuels titled, “This water bottle knows how much you’ve had to drink — and it tells your phone,” he’s a little skeptical.

Thomas gives Perrelli, a noted embellisher of the truth the benefit of the doubt in a few instances… case in point,

“Perrelli has bet $1 million of his own cash and spent the better part of a decade on LifeFuels. After raising $25 million, the company is launching this month in league with its partner, Massachusetts-based beverage giant Keurig Dr Pepper. They hope the apparatus creates a new coolness vibe around healthful sports drinks.”

He should have said, Perrelli, says he bet $1 million of his own cash and says he raised $25 million. Those numbers are suspect and as believable as Trump’s inauguration numbers.

Another quote:

“Dehydration is a major cause of emergency room visits in the United States, Perrelli said.”

  • Sorry, JP but according to this article dehydration isn’t in the top 10 reasons for emergency room visits:
    1. Chest Pain – When you get your credit card bill after purchasing a Lifefuels bottle but not due to dehydration
    2. Stroke Symptoms – From finding out your wife bought a Lifefuels bottle but not due to dehydration
    3. Trauma – From things like hitting yourself in the head because you bought a LifeFuels bottle but not from dehydration
    4. Sinus Infection – From an allergic reaction to your LifeFuels fuel pod but not from dehydration
    5. Breathing Difficulties – From Perrelli stealing all the oxygen in the room but not from dehydration
    6. Back Pain – From the strain of carrying a heavy LifeFuels bottle around all day but not from dehydration
    7. Injuries and Accidents – From tripping over your LifeFuels bottle but not from dehydration
    8. Abdominal Pain – From indigestion caused by the crap inside that LifeFuels fuel pod but not from dehydration
    9. Infections – From the weakened immune system caused by the LifeFuels fuel pod but not from dehydration
    10. Lacerations – From cutting yourself trying to put a fuel pod in your LifeFuels bottle but not from dehydration.

Yet the ever-positive rarely-negative Heath displays signs of skepticism about the product in quotes like these,

“Why do I need some motorized water bottle with its R2-D2 blinking lights and its spritzes? Why surrender the one-liter plastic bottle of Dasani water that I drink at my cubicle each day?”

“I don’t know if anyone is going to get rich off this, but the spirited Perrelli thinks he is onto something.”

Which is as big an indictment of a company’s business model I’ve ever seen from Heath.

Some Good News at LifeFuels

The best news for LifeFuels is not found in the article. I hear that attorney, entrepreneur and actual reasonable, responsible adult Stephen Candelmo joined the team as General Counsel of the company… because a company that has less than $100K in revenue and is likely to face multiple lawsuits needs an in-house general counsel. But seriously, Stephen is a good guy and maybe he’ll add some adult supervision to the impish Perrelli (See this blog post on a Stephen Candelmo facebook comment that seems to describe his new boss).

Another positive story for Lifefuels is the company is now shipping product and generating revenue… all be it not much revenue. In fact, Perrelli is telling people he’s hitting his targets. While he’s forthcoming with that “hitting our targets” thing he’s not as forthcoming in what the target was, or if he set the target before or after he hit it and he’s not willing to share what that target is. So it could be that he planned on shipping 400 bottles from a four-year backlog ($71,600), was it two thousand bottles ($358,000) which would be impressive. The real tale of the tape will happen 120 days from now when the backlog works through the system after 5 years of hype and the visionary early-adopters are satisfied… how many bottles do they sell then?

Comments from The Washington Post Article

If we can count the comments in The Washington Post Article as a proxy for general market acceptance. Less than 24 hours after the post there were over 30 comments… all of them negative. Here’s the bad news for the folks who made negative comments. Jonathon Perrelli is not a real entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs have thick skin. You can tell the true entrepreneur… she is the person with arrows in their backs. Perrelli is a snowflake. If anyone says anything that is less than a glowing endorsement, like an overly sensitive child, he blocks them on social media. He puts his hands over his years and yells at the top of his lungs… yadaaaa yadaaa yadaaa. He doesn’t want to know the truth. Which is why he spent five years developing a product that only a handful of fools will buy. He didn’t listen to the negative input.

 

Here’s the best comment on the post article so far:

“Sadly, it took close to a decade, millions of venture capitalist dollars, “beverage scientists”, and a factory in China to finally brillo off the SodaStream decal…”

Other good ones

  • “This water bottle knows how much you’ve had to drink — and it tells your phone” So now we have to have our phones nagging us to take a sip? Hard pass. Every human has an alert system in place that tells them when they’re not adequately hydrated, honed over millions of years of evolution. It’s called “thirst,” and it’s frankly worked remarkably well. Did I miss a memo that it’s stopped working in the last ten years?
  • PT Barnum was right–there’s a sucker born every minute (and they will rush out and buy this silly gadget because how did they ever live without it???). A fool and his (her) money are soon parted., And Mr. Perrelli will laugh all the way to the bank. Good grief! How sad can things get? And meanwhile, a sophisticated business writer’ will continue to waste money and the planet on single use plastic bottles every day. Wow! Very impressive (not!).
  • Designed for people who have money to throw away and like the latest gadget. I’ll stick with my double wall stainless steel water bottle that actually keeps my water cold. And it cost a fraction of what that ridiculous thing cost.
  • The only way I’d buy these would be to have them on my personal 747.
  • Just another expensive gadget for people with too much money.
  • “Drinking about two liters, or half a gallon, of water a day is a common recommendation.” Too bad there’s no scientific rationale for that recommendation. When I tried to find the source a few years ago, nobody really knew where it came from. One guess is that it arose from a study that found the average person takes in about 2 liters of water a day from all sources, including food and beverages.
  • Another issue. Hmm, all made in China, so well known for fair labor practices they have to install netting so over worked wage slaves don’t pitch out to commit suicide, and the well known Chinese attention to materials purity. Scariest is the founders attitude that “all things fitness were worth tracking.” Big Brother indeed.
  • Good grief. The day they stop making things that aren’t ‘smart’ is the day I stop shopping. This is so pathetic.
  • Next up, my smartphone tells me when to pee. ENOUGH!
  • I’ve had a 20 oz metal, insulated cup with a top for years, when it’s empty I refill it, from (OMG!) A TAP. You know, no plastic bottles- – 3.2 fills meets the 8×8 guideline. Gee, that was tough. (At home I have an RO system.) I’m 71, in good health. Get over it.
  • Why. Why. Get a glass. Fill it with water. Drink. Repeat as needed.
  • i’m surprised i managed to live as long as i have without this important info: “Are you able to infuse vitamins into your Dasani bottle?” Perrelli asked me. “Do you know how many electrolytes you are taking? Are you aware of how many drinks you took yesterday?”
  • A Monty Python “Silly Bauble” concept.
  • “Entrepreneur Jonathon Perrelli is introducing an electronic smart bottle called LifeFuels that he hopes will do for hydration what Fitbit has done for walking.” ??? Cause nitwits to continuously look at their wrists? What’s the benefit of THAT?
  • have a big mug at work that holds 16 oz of water flavored with lemon slices. I drink three mugs a day, supplemented by tea and seltzer. The pinot grigo consumption begins at around 7:00 PM along with more water. By the time I fall into bed, I am hydrated and happy. I don’t need a $179 bottle to tell me anything… well, if it could tell me it would kick Don the Con to the curb, I would buy it.

There was one positive commenter, Maybe Perrelli, or his brother or his Admin:

  • Looks like there are 42 people here that are definitely not buying this product. Guess they should close up shop because of all these insightful comments. Don’t buy it. And of course you would never buy a single cup coffee maker for $200 or a phone that cost $700. If every product person went only by what the random person on the street thinks, we wouldn’t even have automobiles.
    • And someone responded to this person thusly (which is a word I love to use): Folks gullible enough to buy nonsense like this don’t have $$$ to spend on a computer to access this comment column, so your observation really isn’t very apt.

Summary

LifeFuels a company that was founded on April Fools Day and announced it’s release in a Washington Post article on Friday the 13th… hmmmm. It would be great if I was wrong. It would be wonderful if there were thousands of people who thought that they needed a water bottle that only uses half of its immense girth for water. Maybe millions of people want a water bottle that makes flavored waters and measures then reports hydration levels to a smartphone. That would be great for DC to have a consumer product win. It would be sad for humanity that humans fall for this crap but great for DC.

That being said the difference between Jonathon Perrelli and a real entrepreneur, you know like someone who doesn’t just say trust me I was a success but who has no documented history of success like Blackboard founder Michael Chasen. When Mr. Cranky took on Chasen’s new company Social Radar… he didn’t hide and pretend I didn’t exist. He called me up and explained why everything I said was wrong. I wrote a follow-up post agreeing with most of his points. Like 80 percent of all startups, even good ones, Social Radar failed. Even though Michael Chasen had guts, listened to the market and was open to criticism, Social Radar didn’t make it.

Perrelli only appears to listen to the voices in his head. That’s not a recipe for success.