Ryan Goldman held his hand to the mouth of the roaring blow dryer, feeling its power and heat.
It didn’t matter that the prototype was held together with duct tape, or that he wasn’t sure how a battery pack would fit inside its frame.
He and Jonathan Friedman, co-founders of Volo Beauty, had the bare bones of their first product: a cordless hair dryer.
Advances in battery technology have made it possible to engineer a dryer that delivers the same power as the corded versions used in salons and at home while being light enough to use, the Volo founders said.
They plan to begin selling the product this year.
Goldman, a San Diego native, has been in the beauty industry for 20 years. His connection is familial: He runs Empire Beauty Supply, which his grandfather founded in 1945. (His brother, Bryce Goldman, runs San Diego beauty brand Kopari, which sells coconut oil-based products.)
“Walking through our salons, I saw cords hanging out of drawers and at stations,” Goldman said. It was the same at home, with his wife’s beauty appliances.
“It dawned on me one day: Why isn’t there a cordless hair dryer?” he said.
Weight of Battery
The answer, he soon found out, had to do with the weight of the battery that would be needed to provide enough power and heat for a reasonable amount of time.
No one wants to hoist a five-pound blow dryer, or recharge it every 30 seconds.
To help solve the quandary and provide guidance as to how to build, rather than run, a company, Goldman recruited Friedman. An engineer by training, Friedman consulted in the areas of information technology and supply chain before going to business school to focus on entrepreneurship. Subsequently, he ran a medical device manufacturing company and started a software company, both in San Diego.
A typical blow dryer uses more than 1,800 watts of energy to power a motor-driven fan that pushes air across a wire, the device’s heating element.
“Our challenge was to reduce the power consumption in order to have something that somebody could hold,” Friedman said.
They decided to instead use an infrared bulb, which requires less energy, coupled with a lithium-ion battery.
Volo advisor Art Salyer, who has run a number of lithium battery companies, said he was initially skeptical the engineering challenge could be surmounted.
“You’re looking at something that has the power requirements of an electric drill,” he said. “I didn’t think there was a battery pack small enough to power that.”