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Fresh From Swimming in ‘Shark Tank,’ Breathometer Raises $2M for Smartphone Breathalyzer

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Posted Saturday, October 19, 2013 by Marie Watts in FUNDED

Being on the TV show “Shark Tank” was a lot like pitching venture capital investors in Silicon Valley, said Charles Yim, founder and chief executive of iPhone breathalyzer maker Breathometer Inc.

Breathometer Inc., Charles Yim, chief executive of Breathometer Inc.

“The only difference is all the lights and cameras, and you get your own trailer,” Mr. Yim said.

The Burlingame, Calif.-based company became the first startup ever to receive accolades and financial backing from all five “sharks” on the investing-themed ABC Television show when Mr. Yim pitched it in front of millions of TV viewers last month, he said.

Now the startup has raised $2 million in seed funding led by Mark Cuban, joined by Shark Tank’s other four investors and venture firms Structure Capital and Dillon Hill Capital.

The money will be used to begin filling thousands of orders for its Breathometer–orders that started coming in hot and heavy after the TV show aired.

The $49 device features an ethanol sensor, a chipset and a battery, and it plugs directly into the iPhone. Users can blow into the device to get an immediate reading of their blood-alcohol level.

The company’s accompanying mobile app can tell users how long it will take their body to metabolize the alcohol.

Mr. Yim said he filled out application to go on the show, then went on a casting call and pitched his product. He said you have to have a legitimate product or idea “but you also have to be charismatic, because it’s all about TV at the end of the day.”

He said there was nothing scripted or staged about his interaction with the sharks.

Mr. Yim has founded three previous companies, including mobile loyalty rewards company Chatterfly Inc., which sold to Plum District Inc. in 2011. “I have raised a few million in my time,” he said. “I’ve sat in the boardrooms…Shark Tank is the same but with 20,000 feet more pressure. It’s nerve-wracking.”

The sharks are very tough, he said, but they are supportive if they like you–”I have worked with all of them every day since the taping.”

Breathometer has larger plans for its technology, the CEO said. One of the company’s new investors, Structure Capital, was an early

investor in startup taxi service Uber Technologies Inc., he said, and is helping Breathometer integrate its service with Uber.

TheZuckerbergs

If and when that happens, a user who finds his blood-alcohol level too high for driving could summon a car from Uber with the simple press of a button inside the Breathometer app, Mr. Yim said.

Breathometer aims to start working on a new product that can test for halitosis and dehydration, and hopes to eventually create a mobile breath test for diabetes, Mr. Yim said.

Write to Timothy Hay at timothy.hay@wsj.com, courtesy blog.wsj.com

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