Is Money A Bigger Turn On Than Looks?

Glowstone – How To Make Innovative Products

Glowstone specializes in reimagining everyday products using cutting-edge technologies, particularly wireless power. While this may seem like a narrow focus, it’s astonishing how much product innovation can stem from it.

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Thomas Gostelow, the founder of Glowstone, and I am the inventor of the smart mug.

It is important to me to create products that are not only useful but also unique, rather than simply following trends. I believe that we only have one life, and I intend to make a statement through my work – expressing myself through the art of product design.

Before delving into my story, I want to share some valuable rules with you:

First, don’t engage in business just for the sake of it. Take your time to carefully choose your field of business. Your business is an extension of yourself. It will consume a significant part of your life and become central to everything you do. In many ways, it defines who you are. So, similar to a marriage, ensure that you choose the right type of business to commit to.

Secondly, eliminate all ego from the process. This may seem contradictory, as we are all driven by the desire to be “The Boss,” which satisfies our egos.

However, in business, glory should not be the goal; survival is. It’s about meticulously attending to every detail and never settling for what you have achieved. Rather than comparing yourself to competitors, strive for perfection and acknowledge that it can never be fully attained. This realization will continuously fuel your frustration and drive for improvement. It’s truly a humbling experience.

Thirdly, cultivate gratitude. You have the opportunity to express yourself on your terms. You are liberated. Embrace this freedom. Running your business and leading the people within it should not be seen as a burden but as a privilege.

Founders Story and Motivation

 I was watching a TV feature on wireless power, and it instantly sparked my excitement. The concept of transferring power through the air and even solid surfaces seemed truly magical. It opened up possibilities for bringing everyday products to life, enhancing their functionality without altering their familiar forms.

As the famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” With the use of wireless power, I could now indulge in the role of a wizard, exploring new possibilities and creating innovative products like the smart mug.

Immediately, my mind focused on the mug. It was an essential item that needed to be waterproof since it is designed to hold liquid. Recently, I had acquired a new Nespresso machine at work, and the coffee it brewed was delicious. However, I faced a problem—the coffee would quickly turn cold. Whenever I microwaved it to reheat, the taste would be altered, leaving me frustrated with my coffee routine. I questioned why my mug couldn’t keep my drink warm. Despite putting so much time, effort, and money into preparing the coffee, the delivery aspect had been severely neglected. There was a pressing need for a better mug, one that could maintain the temperature of the drink.

This issue I encountered was real and tangible. Although I had invented several products for other companies in the past, I desired something that I could call my own. The smart mug seemed like an ideal invention for me to create. To my surprise, when I searched the internet, such mugs didn’t exist. It struck me as an obvious product that should be available.

After a year, I finally mustered the courage to leave my career as a product designer. I had been working on the Smart Mug in my spare time, but I realized that it was the kind of project that required my undivided attention. If I didn’t focus on it, someone else might invent a similar product, and I would forever regret not taking action.

So, how did I transform the idea into a business? It was simple, really. I approached it by tackling one problem at a time. By breaking it down like that, it didn’t feel overwhelming. Nothing is ever perfect, so don’t let that distract you. The lack of sufficient funds or time shouldn’t deter you from doing what needs to be done. The only thing that matters is finding a solution to the problem right in front of you.

Since I didn’t have any investment, I needed partners. I decided to give a share of my company to a talented electrical engineer named Dr. Stephen Mangan and another share to an equally talented production engineer named Mr. William Tan. Together, we had the skills and expertise to design and launch the project.

The next stage involved partnering with a mug company called Hudson and Middleton. They possessed the necessary sales channels and expertise in mug design. Despite lacking any investment, I now had a team equipped with the required skills to bring the smart mug, the future of drinking, to fruition.

However, Hudson and Middleton eventually ceased operations, leaving me with only four prototype mug bodies. To make the most of this situation, I created a video and initiated a Kickstarter campaign utilizing these prototypes. I believe I speak for all aspiring entrepreneurs when I express my gratitude for Kickstarter. It allowed us to receive upfront funding, which I utilized to develop the product. This approach spared me from accumulating debt by purchasing inventory that might or might not sell later. Every item I crafted was for a customer eagerly awaiting its arrival. It proved to be an efficient process, and when resources are limited, efficiency becomes crucial.

Now, residing in tea-loving Britain, I believed that the self-heating mug would garner interest. Therefore, I crafted a press release and distributed it via PRwire. Simultaneously, I began sharing the story with various news outlets.

Fortunately, my local newspaper, The Manchester Evening News, picked up the story. Subsequently, it gained traction in the national press, with The Mirror reporting on it as the “Tea mug of the future.” Finally, my campaign started receiving attention, and pledges began pouring in. It seemed like this project was on its way to becoming a reality. As a result of the media coverage and the successful campaign, I had the opportunity to meet my investor, Terry Sheldon.

Challenges Faced

In 2016, we entered the market with our smart mug. Since then, several more smart mugs have emerged. This is a mixed blessing. It’s good because we no longer need to educate the market about the life-enhancing benefits of a smart mug. Small improvements to your daily routine can directly contribute to overall happiness. Daily luxuries hold great value when facing the daily grind. However, the increasing number of competitors has posed challenges for us as we struggle to stand out among them.

Our competitors have access to significantly more funding than we do. However, we have one powerful unique selling proposition (USP) – our mugs are made from china, unlike the coated metal mugs chosen by our competitors. Let’s be clear: other materials can alter the taste of tea and coffee. If coated metal or plastic mugs were superior for drinking, our cupboards wouldn’t be filled with ceramic mugs.

I also lack the purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for components. Since my mugs are already the most expensive in the market, I have shifted my goals from offering a mass-market product to creating the most desirable and best-performing mug available.

As a result, I am currently in the process of designing a new range that will be announced through crowdfunding in the spring. If you are interested, there is a link at the bottom of this article where you can sign up. I am truly excited about the progress of the new range. I now have a better understanding of what the market demands, and I am given the time and space to deliver a refined product.

Alongside this, I’ve been working on my new product, the Flat Form Flashlight. This presents a different challenge. The market is already flooded with hundreds of flashlights, and although this one has a fundamentally different feature – its modular design that allows it to be attached to almost anything – it may not be as captivating or exceptional as a smart mug. Nevertheless, it is incredibly useful and stylish.

For example, since it’s wirelessly powered, I’ve sealed the electronics into a solid body of silicone. This design choice makes the flashlight inherently strong and waterproof. It’s a welcome addition to scuba divers’ kit, offering much more portability compared to the bulky options they typically use. I’ve received positive feedback from wheelchair users who appreciate having a light they can attach to their wheelchairs. Additionally, elderly customers have found it useful for sticking it to their sewing machines, thanks to its clean and easy-to-work-with light output. Regardless of how ordinary or extreme the application may be, the Glowstone Flashlight serves a purpose that existing lights fail to fulfill. It appears to be enhancing the quality of life for some individuals, and that brings me happiness.

The decision to release a second product without properly commercializing the first one was unusual. As we’ve all heard before, focus is the key to success. In reality, we faced significant challenges with manufacturing and selling the smart mug in the first few years. I needed something to provide a lifeline, to keep our investors and team optimistic about the future and the direction of the company. Launching our flashlight on Kickstarter brought renewed energy and much-needed funds during those difficult times. Unfortunately, the flashlight ended up being an even more challenging endeavor than the smart mug. We raised approximately $100k, but we spent $400k-$500k on its development. For a business that wasn’t generating significant revenue, this was difficult to absorb.

I have a few more new products that I would like to release, but for now, I need to shift from being an engineer to becoming a salesman. It’s not an easy transition, as I have discovered. I will share with you a few useful tricks that I have learned.

While people often discuss costs-per-click and sales funnels, which are important aspects to master for business success, obtaining free attention is always the best strategy whenever possible.

Advice To Others in the Industry

If you create interesting products, there will always be an outlet, somewhere, that would be interested in hearing about them. This includes social media. Content creators are constantly in need of engaging content. A well-crafted post that genuinely interests the public can generate sales without any spending. I refer to this approach as ‘guerrilla marketing’.

One particularly enjoyable example of this was when I applied to be on the TV program called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ on BBC1. In each episode, five families were invited to review three products, scoring each one. The product with the highest score would win the episode. To make a long story short, I received a score of 44.5/50, which was the highest score ever achieved on the show. I was overjoyed, and it even brought tears to my eyes.

I understand it may not be very humble of me to mention this in the article, but it was a significant chapter in Glowstones’ story. The episode was aired three times and resulted in over $100k in sales of the Flashlight. It was a decent return from just two days of filming.

I consider both product ranges as significant advancements in the functionality of mugs and flashlights. However, they were my initial attempts in those markets, and since then, I have had the opportunity to reflect and absorb the feedback from our customers. Therefore, similar to the smart mug, I will be launching a new crowdfunding campaign in Spring 2023 for the flashlight.

I aim to introduce some nice new enhancements to these already polished products. Let me remind you that the challenge is not merely to be the best product on the market but to create the best product possible.

If you are interested in joining me in this creative process, please sign up using the links below. I actively engage with my backers and welcome all their inputs as they contribute to improving the result. Having a say in shaping the future is a privilege, and it can also be a fun experience. Witnessing an idea transform into something tangible and valuable is immensely satisfying, especially when the product concept is strong enough.

Glowstone’s products are available at 

Sign up:

New Glowstone Flashlight campaign. 


New Glowstone smart mug campaign.

Monika Wassermann is a doctor and a freelance writer based in the UK who lives with her cat Buddy. She writes across several verticals, including life, health, sex and love, relationships and fitness. Her three great loves are Victorian novels, Lebanese cuisine, and vintage markets. When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to meditate more, weightlifting, or wandering around in town.

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