Crowdfunding / Entrepreneurs / Hardware

Meet the entrepreneur behind the world’s smallest breathalyzer

Shaun Masavage, who grew up in Loudoun County, Va., caught the entrepreneurship bug early.

To avoid the ickiness of sharing mouthpieces, DrinkMate employs the "pinch" method. (Photo courtesy of DrinkMate)

Shaun Masavage, the young inventor of a cheap, portable and popular breathalyzer called DrinkMate, loves, loves, loves gadgets.
“I always wanted to make objects that are high quality and fun,” he said.
And, Masavage joked, that might be in reaction to his childhood. He grew up in an entrepreneurial family — his grandparents had started a flight simulator company, he said. But still, he wasn’t exactly at the center of innovation.

From teenage lawn mower to crowdfunding superstar.

Raised in Middleburg, Loudoun County, Masavage grew up in “in the country with horses on the farm.”
And perhaps because he had to groom his mother’s horses, he began dreaming up different ways of being his own boss.
He started a lawn-mowing business in high school, kept a journal for all his ideas and by the time he was getting his B.S. in mechanical engineering at the University of Virginia, he was already filing patent applications.
In 2013, he was getting fidgety at his day job at ITT Corporation, a defense contractor now named Exelis.
So for a year, he worked on the side to design a breathalyzer — a cheap, Android-powered one sans mouthpiece: “If you want to share something, you can’t have everyone put their own mouth on it,” he said.
The secret to the 0.2-ounce, thumb-sized design is that he refused to use the decade-old circuitry and chips other breathalyzers were using, Masavage said.
“I wanted to design it from scratch using the technology that was available now,” he said.
In September, Masavage launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that more than doubled his $40,000 goal, making nearly $100,000.
Fear not, inebriated iPhone user.
Masavage’s company, with its core team of four, has just launched a new Kickstarter campaign for an iOS-compatible breathalyzer. It’s been up since Sunday, and it’s nearly reached its $35,000 goal.

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