By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Rob Skelton was happy when he got his iPad. Then he started using it. That's when he discovered a weakness and the entrepreneur went to work inventing a better way to clean screen-touch e-gadgets.
"It was simply a matter of necessity," he said. "I was given an iPad when they came out - as a gift - and quickly discovered that every time you did any activity on it you were putting fingerprints on the screen."
Mr. Skelton, a lifelong entrepreneur, owns Best iProducts.com, one of about a dozen upstarts at the University of Central Florida's Business Incubator at the Daytona Beach International Airport, 601 Innovation Way.
Back in 2010, when he wanted to clean his new iPad, he did what most technologically-savvy folks do.
"I did a search on Google for an iPad cleaner, and only came up with five hits," he said. "Not five million. That told me there's a market out there."
Much of the groundwork for cleaning touch screens had been done long before there were touch screens. Mr. Skelton remembered a product from before anyone heard disco and folks were worried about fingerprints on their LPs.
"It was called the Discwasher," he said. "It's a wooden block with a core pulled out and filled with a pad. It was invented in the 1970s and still selling to this day."
The wooden core allowed for applying a cleaning pad pressure evenly on a surface, much like a sanding block does with sandpaper. He also remembered a little-known fact. Audio cassettes seem to fit perfectly in just about any hand. Mr. Skelton figured that wasn't coincidence - someone did a bunch of research to find out what the perfect size for a handheld item was. Put them together, and the iEraser was born - at the perfect time.
"Tablets, which the iErasers are designed for, are an emerging technology," he said. "A substantial amount of technology has been put into this emerging technology."
With sales rapidly flying through the hundreds of millions.
"We're waiting for the market to catch up to this product," Mr. Skelton said.
He started Best iProducts at the Business Incubator in January of this year.
In 2010 the Volusia County Council approved $1.4 million to renovate a 10,000-square-foot facility to house the incubator. Additionally, the county gave the university $750,000 to run it for three years.
"The business incubator is a place to start a company," Doris "Connie" Bernal, the business incubator's Daytona Beach site manager, said in a previous interview. "The entrants have a lot of resources to work with here. They have professionals who help them with a number of areas."
Mr. Skelton said his years of business experience didn't prepare him for the legal nuances of a product such as iEraser, and lawyers at the incubator have helped him.
"I've gained a lot of insight into running a business in today's times - intellectual property, trademarks, patents," he said. "That alone is a tremendously important part of protecting your intellectual property. The attorneys not only protect us, but advise us what not to do so a large company doesn't come in and crush us like a bug."
Mr. Skelton now employs five folks to make the iEraser in Edgewater.
"Five years down the road, I'm predicting a workforce between 20 and 50 people," he said.
His goal, he said, is to employ Volusians first, Floridians second and Americans third. He said all his raw supplies providers are American companies. To learn more, visit theiEraser.com.