#007: The Philosophy Behind Popsockets with David Barnett

Listen to the episode:

David Barnett, the CEO & Founder of the wildly popular consumer product, PopSockets, joins Todd Stewart and Bob Calise to discuss why he started PopSockets, how he made the jump from a full-time college philosophy professor to entrepreneur, and what it takes to create a successful consumer product. You’ll learn things like how to grow as a CEO as your company grows, why it pays off to not pay attention to the industry, and what transfers from the field of philosophy over to his business life.

David Barnett’s Quick-Hit Career Timeline

David’s path to academia

David had a lot of businesses when he was a kid. During college, he realized that he didn’t want to be a businessman his entire life. There was much more about the universe that he wanted to learn. So he decided to study physics. He did that at The University of Colorado for 2 years and then walked out of the physics lab, in the middle of the lab, because the physicists were not willing to seriously discuss the basic questions about the university. He walked straight over to the philosophy department and ended up getting a Ph.D. in that. Amazing, right?

David is a big thinker and liked philosophy because it addressed the largest questions that he had.

David got his Ph.D. in Philosophy from NYU and started his teaching career

He started as a professor at Davidson, then moved to the University of Vermont in Burlington. There he was deeply obsessed with these questions of philosophy. At that point in David’s mind, there was no chance that he was going to become a businessman. David then moved from UVM to the University of Colorado Boulder.

BUT! As the years went by he started to run out of questions to ask, couldn’t answer the larger questions, and was only coming up with answers to boring questions. At that time David was getting burned out, which is when PopSockets came along.

Enter PopSockets

David started PopSockets out of his garage. His initial idea of success was to walk into a store on Pearl Street in Boulder Colorado and see his product on the shelf. Early on, that was success to David.

PopSockets really took off in 2016

During the holiday, they had explosive growth online. That summer, they were doing 30x more than the previous month. They had to let customers know to go to Amazon to place their order. They had 40,000 orders in the queue and were getting another 8,000 orders a day. During that time, David went to the second floor of his warehouse, looked out the window and thought to himself, “this is nuts,” and then thought, “this is the tipping point.”

Who’s the coolest person David has seen with a PopSocket?

Serena Williams.

Who is someone David would like to see using a PopSocket?

Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell.

We cover much more in this episode and learn about David’s tips for building successful consumer products, what parts of philosophy helped him in business, and why the word “why” is his favorite business word to use.

Connect with David and say hi!