Breathometer, once a promising startup, showcased a groundbreaking product that was projected to revolutionize personal alcohol detection, enabling users to measure their blood alcohol content (BAC) using a smartphone.
Gaining significant recognition after a successful pitch on the television show “Shark Tank,” it secured substantial investment and quickly became the subject of public attention and acclaim.
However, despite the initial success and potential, Breathometer encountered a series of challenges and controversies that led to its ultimate downfall.
This article explores the rise and fall of Breathometer, delving into the aspects that initially propelled it into the limelight and the subsequent events and decisions that led to its demise.
What Happened to Breathometer?
Breathometer, a startup famed for its smartphone-enabled breathalyzer, experienced a precipitous fall due to inaccuracies in its product. Despite gaining significant investment and attention after featuring on “Shark Tank,” the company faced regulatory backlash, as the device’s readings were found to be unreliable. Ultimately, these controversies led to legal repercussions and the company’s dissolution.
Image by Consumer Electronics Show 2016.
Founding and Early Days
Breathometer was founded in 2012 by Charles Michael Yim, a serial entrepreneur who had previously founded three startup companies, including Chatterfly, a mobile loyalty platform for businesses that was acquired by Plum District in December 2011.
Yim’s vision was to create the world’s first portable breath analysis program and device.
Shark Tank Debut
In 2013, Charles Michael Yim appeared on the popular TV show Shark Tank to pitch his innovative product – a small device that could be attached to a smartphone and connected to an app, enabling users to measure their blood alcohol content.
Yim’s presentation was well-received, and he managed to get all five Sharks to invest a combined total of $1 million in exchange for 30% equity in the company.
This marked a milestone, as it was the first time all Sharks had agreed to invest in a single business. At the time, the company was valued at $2.5 million.
The Breathometer quickly gained traction in the market with its unique smartphone attachment and app, providing an easy and accessible way for individuals to monitor their alcohol consumption.
The product was seen as a step forward in promoting responsible drinking and ensuring safer roads for everyone.
Accuracy and Legal Issues
Despite the initial success, Breathometer faced significant challenges due to the inaccuracy of its BAC measurements.
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that the Breathometer device was “seriously inaccurate” in its blood alcohol content analysis.
The company faced legal issues, and the FTC ordered a refund for all customers who had purchased the device.
As a result of the FTC’s ruling and settlement, Breathometer’s reputation suffered, and the company had to shut down its smartphone breathalyzer app.
While the company had pivoted towards Mint as an oral hygiene monitoring device, the legal issues and inaccuracy of its original product left a lasting impact.
Today, Breathometer’s BAC device is no longer available, and the focus appears to be on their oral health product line.
Shutdown and Aftermath
In 2017, Breathometer faced a significant setback when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determined that their device was seriously inaccurate in analyzing blood alcohol content.
As a result, the company had to shut down the app, and they were required to provide refunds to customers who had purchased the product.
Despite this failure, the entrepreneur behind Breathometer, Charles Yim, demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity.
Instead of giving up, Breathometer pivoted and transformed its technology into a new product called Mint, which measures bad breath and oral health.
The Mint device was released in September 2016, indicating the company’s ability to adapt and innovate in response to challenges.
Competitors and Market
Breathometer entered a competitive market with several other established players offering similar devices to measure blood alcohol content (BAC).
One of the main competitors in this space was BACtrack, which had already made a name for itself with a range of products designed for both personal and professional use.
The BACtrack C6 Keychain Breathalyzer is a compact and portable device designed to accurately measure blood alcohol content, offering users immediate results and the convenience of carrying it on a keychain.
The alcohol breathalyzer market has seen consistent growth, with products being sold through various channels such as online retailers, specialty stores, and big-box chains.
This scenario offered plenty of opportunities for Breathometer to gain a significant share of the market, especially with the support of Shark Tank investors.
In response to the competition, Breathometer aimed to differentiate itself with innovations, such as its portable nature and the ability to connect to smartphones through the audio jack.
Additionally, the company built user-friendly applications to help customers track their BAC levels and make responsible decisions based on real-time data.
Note: It is crucial for businesses like Breathometer to ensure that their products deliver accurate results and meet regulatory requirements. Inaccurate results could not only jeopardize the company’s reputation but also lead to severe legal consequences in certain situations.
FAQs About the Breathometer
How Did Breathometer Do on Shark Tank?
Breathometer performed exceptionally well on “Shark Tank,” securing investment from all five sharks, a rare occurrence on the show.
The product was well-received, and the company gained substantial financial backing and mentorship as a result.
Why Was Breathometer Shut Down?
Breathometer was shut down due to significant inaccuracies in its breathalyzer readings, which led to regulatory interventions and legal actions.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ordered the company to offer full refunds to consumers as the device failed to accurately measure blood alcohol content, rendering it unreliable and potentially unsafe.
How Much Did Mark Cuban Invest in Breathometer?
Mark Cuban invested $500,000 in Breathometer for a 15% stake in the company during its appearance on “Shark Tank.”
His investment was part of the $1 million total investment the company received from all five sharks on the show.
Is Breathometer Still in Business?
No, Breathometer is no longer in business.
The company faced considerable legal and reputational damage due to the inaccuracies and unreliability of its product, leading to its eventual shutdown and dissolution.
In retrospect, Breathometer serves as a compelling study of a startup that rose swiftly on a wave of innovation and promise, only to crumble under the weight of regulatory scrutiny and product inaccuracies.
The company’s journey highlights the critical importance of accuracy and reliability in product development, particularly in fields impacting public safety.
The downfall of Breathometer underscores the significance of ethical responsibility and the profound impacts that can occur when businesses fall short of maintaining integrity and ensuring the reliability of their products.
While Breathometer’s journey is marked by its untapped potential and unfulfilled promises, it leaves a lasting impression on the tech industry, cautioning emerging startups about the ramifications of compromising on product quality and reliability.
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- Wikipedia contributors. (2023, September 11). Breathometer. Wikipedia.
- Dilley JE, Nicholson ER, Fischer SM, Zimmer R, Froehlich JC. Alcohol Drinking and Blood Alcohol Concentration Revisited. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018.
- Garymonk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.