Lysol for Jerks - The New Pepper Spray
Joe Anderson grew up on a Montana ranch that was developed before statehood, spent his undergraduate at Stanford, and attended Georgetown’s law school. As a young adult, Joe had lived in a variety of cities from coast to coast.
Joe ended up back on the West Coast when he moved to San Francisco to work for the law firm Pettit & Martin. There, he gained friends and family away from home while working on entertainment law.
But, on July 1st, 1993, Pettit & Martin was the scene of San Francisco’s infamous 101 California mass shooting. Eight people died in the shooting, and another six were injured. Although Joe lost some of his newfound family, luckily he was not physically injured in the shooting.
After the terrible loss Joe suffered, he decided to leave the world of law for a bit. He followed a childhood dream to start a rock band. Joe’s band was called August West, inspired by The Grateful Dead’s song Wharf Rat (however they were not a cover band). Joe’s experience in entertainment law helped his band do well in the city. “We weren’t famous, but we didn’t starve either.” Joe says.
After his rock and roll days, Joe moved on down to Silicon Valley to work on numerous startups. This was in the Napster era. Napster, you might remember, is a file sharing platform much like Soundcloud. Once again, Joe’s entertainment law experience was coming in handy for him.
Joe also worked as a record label producer and a film producer on some of Hollywood’s feature films at the time. He played a hand in creating one of the first social media platforms, Super Dudes, which was later sold to MySpace.
We asked Joe what he contributed to his success on many different projects from many different niches. “Sometimes it’s pure BS, sometimes it’s smoke and mirrors, and sometimes it’s luck.” Sounds too humble to me, but Joe assured us that they took into account what worked and tried to keep replicating it along the way.
“If you get a good idea and try it out, but learn it’s not a great idea, that’s okay. Ideas need to come at the right time.”
During his time in Silicon Valley, Joe describes his change from the corporate law world to working on whatever project came his way as “[Going from] black suits and black Ray-bans, to hoodies and flip flops.” Not a bad image to most of us.
For a period of time, Joe ended up in Wine Country, California, where he went to work on a novel. Someday Joe hopes to retire to a place where he can write novels all day long even if nobody ever reads them.
Joe ended up in Carbondale, Colorado working on a solar tech company. The company had designed aesthetically pleasing panels that were more ornamental than the typical, clunky plates we see now. He and his business partner were having trouble deciding on what exactly to do with this product. Did they want to become an energy company or did they want to sell their products to other energy companies? High tension and emotions led the partners to split up, and the company to dissolve.
When we asked Joe how he handled the ever-changing nature that comes from this kind of work, he said, “Well, you could say I didn’t.” Although Joe was indeed having fun with his time working on many startups and projects, he developed addiction problems along the way, which admirably brought him back to Montana for rehabilitation.
Joe credits Montana for sending him signs and signals to stay, which led him to meet Paul Gladen, the Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at the University of Montana. Here, Joe became a part of the legal counsel offered to students and alumni through the LaunchPad. Being able to work with students who had their own startup ideas, Joe was able to provide years and years of experience to students.
The less-technical advice Joe would give to students sounded like the following:
“If someone tells you you’re going to fail and you know they’re wrong, don’t listen to them and keep working harder.” On the flipside, Joe warns to be weary of listening strictly to your emotions. If you don’t see a real, logical potential with your idea, he says - with a laugh - to “quit as early as you can.”
Joe believes that ideas are what is important in any business. “If you get a good idea and try it out, but learn it’s not a great idea, that’s okay. Ideas need to come at the right time.” He then told us about a startup he worked on in the 90s called Click Movie. The app essentially did what Netflix does, but it was before its time because people didn’t have access to the internet the same way we do now. It was obviously a great idea, but did not come at the right time for the Click Movie team.
A better bear spray
While working at the LaunchPad, Joe was brought on to a team that was trying to develop a better bear spray. The team had inventor Steve Mangold and a team of chemists in its corner, but needed an entrepreneurial figure - someone who knew how to create a business - which was where Joe stepped in.
The team eventually ran into some certification issues with the bear spray, so they decided to restructure their plan, using the Business Model Canvas from Strategizer - the one Joe learned about at the LaunchPad.
The Business Model Canvas is a tool that helps entrepreneurs see exactly what it is they need to do to get their business started. The first steps include identifying customer problems, and what is needed to solve them. Then, you are able to create a more business-plan-esque strategy. What partners do you need to make your product or service a reality? How do you deliver this to your customers? What will your revenue streams be and what’s your cost structure? This exact model is what is taught at the Blackstone LaunchPad.
“If we had a guide like this, we would’ve known exactly which direction to take that company.”
“Using the Business Model Canvas made us realize there was a whole new array of opportunities for the company to turn to,” says Joe. The team was then able to see what there was really a need for out in the world: better pepper spray.
Changing the self-defense game
Pepper spray has not changed much since the 1960s, so Joe and his team decided to come up with a redesigned version of the self-defense tool. Working closely with his potential customers, it was brought to Joe’s attention that hospitals were in need for a better self-defense tool that was non-lethal to help detain people in psychiatric distress, who posed as a threat to others.
Pepper spray was not an option for hospital staff because it fogs up the space it’s used in. Many innocent people in the area can be harmed, and it can even get into the ventilation systems. So Joe and his team, now branded as Reflex Protect, set out to build a pepper spray that stuck to its target.
The product they landed on was Persidia Gel. Essentially, it's a tear-gas in gel form which sticks to its target, so nobody else in the area is affected by the spray.
But Reflex Protect still had one issue. Joe explained it, saying, “As a hospital employee, you don’t want to hurt anyone anymore than absolutely necessary to detain them, because you’re the one who has to fix them back up.”
So how do you get rid of the Persidia Gel?
Well, Reflex Protect has developed an anecdote that is the first of its kind. With Reflex Remove, hospital staff is able to clean the Persidia Gel out of the patient’s eyes, reversing the effects in minutes. The hope is that once a person has experienced Persidia Gel once, they won’t do anything to get in its path again. The removal process gives staff time to detain anyone farther if necessary.
Check out this video here of Joe getting test-sprayed with Reflex Protect!
Since Reflex Protect has been live, the Persidia Gel spray has only been used twice in hospitals, but the threat of spraying it alone has stopped over 50 altercations before a person could act violently.
Joe quotes a nurse who carries Reflex Protect with her at work, saying, “You use Lysol to get rid of the germs, and you use Reflex Protect to get rid of the jerks!”
Reflex Protect is also available for personal use as a self-defense tactic. Currently, the company is working on a pocket-and-purse sized unit for easier protection on the go. This option will be available for purchase soon.
What do we owe to the Business Model Canvas?
Joe talks about how the Business Model Canvas saved their company. In the developmental stages, Reflex Protect was trying to decide how to proceed after developing the product. Should they sell the technology to similar companies and collect passive income, but be done with it? Or should they create their own company and keep things on their turf? The Business Model Canvas told Joe that they needed to keep control of their product, because nobody else would do with the technology what Reflex Protect was doing. It was up to them to best serve the needs of the market.
“The Business Model Canvas acts as a guide for all the conversations that we have as a company. If an option does not fall in line with the Canvas, it is no longer an option.” Joe says. He wishes he would have known about this tool when working on the solar tech company in Colorado. “If we had a guide like this, we would’ve known exactly which direction to take that company.”
Reflex Protect is now working on enhancing their line of products even further by creating different canisters for different situations, adding lasers to help someone aim the can more effectively, and they are finally able to release their own better bear spray.
We love Joe’s story from the beginning all the way to Reflex Protect. It is clear that Joe has always been an ambitious person with many interests. He has overcome many struggles in his days, but is using those not very pleasant memories to provide the world with something that may stop other people from ending up in situations similar to what Joe has experienced.
“We need to accept the fact that we live in a world where violence happens,” starts Joe. “So why don’t we empower people to be their own first responders? We all have an underlying fear that someone could walk through the door and we’re toast.”
Unfortunately, many people know exactly what Joe is talking about from a first-hand experience. But hopefully, with this new product, people are able to feel safer and protect themselves in moments of violence.