Meet the Slovenian engineers pushing the ‘first’ magnetic charging dock on Kickstarter

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When you think of Slovenia, you don’t necessarily think about new types of tech. Heck, many Americans don’t have any impression of the country. But the local scene is strong and Drop Dock shows that there is a gadget market there that needs nurturing.

Starting their Kickstarter campaign this week, the company is marketing its magnetic charging dock. It is the latest in a long line of magnetic phone chargers hoping to grab a little market share from the far more ubiquitous cables and trending wireless chargers.

“The magnetic charging technology is something new to market and it works surprisingly well,” Co-founder Tini Podkubovšek told Geektime. “We are also working on magnetic cables.”

Podkubovšek has a background in mechanical engineering from the University of Maribor, located in Slovenia’s second largest city. The company was only founded last year and has moved quickly to get the charger onto the kickstarting platform. They’re a small team of three based in Tepanje, a small town some 60 kilometers outside the capital Ljubljana where you might expect to find the core of the country’s smaller tech community. Alongside Jernej Podkubovsek and Matic Bera, Podkubovšek has bootstrapped the effort thus far, using two of his dad’s CNC milling machines to help the effort.

But magnetic chargers? How do they work?

The dock works with iOS and Android via Apple’s lightning port or a micro-USB port. It also works with or without a case.

Tini Podkubovšek shows off the Drop Dock
Tini Podkubovšek shows off the Drop Dock

However, wireless or magnetic charging doesn’t work with every device. It’s heavily dependent on the hardware setup, whereas creating a magnetic field can in turn create an electric current in a coil built into newer phones.

That has led to a number of crowdfunding projects claiming to be the “world’s first” version of some form of magnetic charging. The biggest campaign around was Toronto-based ZNAPS, which is a magnetic adapter for different kinds of mobile chargers and garnered over $3 million in funding for a $120,000 goal. Welsh project Spooly claims to be the world’s first magnetic charging cables, although that line refers to the cable itself being magnetic, not using magnetic charging. The XVIDA Smartphone Mounting System completed its Kickstarter campaign just last week.

Tini used 2 CNC milling machines owned by his father to build the prototypes himself, using the mechanical engineering knowhow he acquired at the University of Maribor (courtesy)

The wireless phone charging market will be valued at $33.6 billion by 2019 according to WinterGreen Research. That doesn’t touch on the growing charging market for other IoT devices.

“Magnetic connection helps you placing your phone on the drop dock, once the phone is needed again, you can instantly detach it with one hand, without having to lift or even touch the dock. Just grab and go.”

Drop Dock's designers said they were going for something sleek and simple, that could blend in visually with its surrounding environment while allowing for grab-and-go de-charging
Drop Dock’s designers said they were going for something sleek and simple, that could blend in visually with its surrounding environment while allowing for grab-and-go de-charging.

Tepanje might demonstrate how small the scene is in Slovenia. The country is pretty small, so going across it for business meetings or acceleration programs doesn’t necessitate moving around too much if you are trying to keep your base of operations in the country.

Drop Dock works for iOS or Android
Drop Dock works for iOS or Android

 

“The startup scene in Slovenia is actually pretty good. But [the] Slovenian market is very small, that is why we went to Kickstarter,” Podkubovšek said, reflecting a strategy many smaller startup ecosystems use to reach global markets. Besides the capital, there’s a growing tech scene in secondary cities Maribor and Novo Mesto. Some of the country’s more prominent successes that have joined foreign accelerators include DoubleRecall (Y Combinator), 2ndSight (Wayra), Toshl (500 Startups) and Zepppelin (Techstars). Others worth noting are Zemanta, Celtra and Vox.io.

Drop Dock has a number of combo packages, including mix-and-match styles for the dock itself as well as the type of charger (iOS or Android).

They have their manufacturer lined up hoping for $45,000 worth of orders. They still have 32 days to go but have 122 backers and over $8,000 worth of buys thus far. You can buy into the project here.

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