Why the Apple Store picked a Beijing startup’s Laser Egg AQI monitor

The Laser Egg on the shelf on an Apple store in Beijing (photo courtesy of Origins)
The Laser Egg on the shelf of an Apple store in Beijing (photo courtesy of Origins)

Less than a year after its release, the Laser Egg air quality monitor, made by Beijing-based startup Origins, will be sitting on the shelves of Apple Stores across China starting today.

The founder of Origins, Liam Bates, said he can’t share the details of their cooperation with Apple just yet, but the product is now available in 29 stores across China and Apple will be actively pushing the product. The Laser Egg will also be available on Apple’s online store starting March 24.

Origins is a small startup that was founded in January 2014 in Bates’ living room by Bates, a Swiss national, his Chinese partner, and his Canadian wife. Besides the Laser Egg, the company also makes air purifiers and filters. Their main sales channel is their WeChat store, though the Laser Egg is also available at several expat grocery stores in Beijing.

Bates says Apple picked Origins because they really liked the product. It got noticed by Apple when their staff started bringing Laser Eggs to their offices in Shanghai.

“We were very lucky that way – Apple came looking for us instead of the other way around,” says Bates.

Considering Apple’s push into smart home products and the increasing demand for air quality products in China, it makes sense for Apple to put the sleek and functional Laser Egg on its shelves. It’s been very popular with expats and Chinese consumers since it came out, with sales doubling per month on average since its launch in June.

Though working with Apple is an exciting step for a small company, there are challenges like scaling production for distribution on such a large scale. Origins sold out of Laser Eggs in December when Beijing issued its first ever red alert. Bates says they will avoid this by being better prepared in the future.

“We are ramping up production overall, so it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

Besides being a stamp of approval for the startup’s product, it’s also a good stepping stone for global distribution, says Bates. He says the company is preparing for distribution outside of China this year, and they may be considering launching in parts of Asia.

In terms of their competitiveness on the global market, Bates says Origins produces the best balance for quality and price. Firms like IBM with better technology may not be able to offer a consumer product for such a low price. Similarly, cheaper products may not be as accurate. Bates insists their made-in-China product is comparable in quality with global competitors, and says being based in China has advantages like allowing them to build products quickly.

“If you can make iPhones here, you can make Laser Eggs,” he said.

(Feature photo courtesy of Origins)

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