The Story of Sid

Some origin stories are more interesting than others. Often it starts with an idealist, identifying a problem or a market opportunity, then trying to pave a path to success. HZO has a story like that, we think it’s pretty interesting, and this past Monday the team in SLC got a visit from the man behind the technology.

Sadly, the story begins with tragedy in 2007, and the death of a man who went over the side off a ship. Even though he had a two-way radio and a cell phone in his possession that fateful day, neither device worked after they had been soaked in seawater.

This terrible accident caught the interest of an electrical engineer named Sid Martin. At the time he was Director of Technology at Northeast Maritime Institute, and he was confident he could do something to protect electronics from damage and failure caused by water. Sid got to work immediately, getting approval and funding to build a machine that he believed would make electronics more resilient.

In the middle of a frigid East Coast winter, Sid turned an old garage into his workshop and started sourcing parts from around the country. Using industrial heaters from Home Depot to keep warm, and recruiting the help of other scientists and engineers as required, Sid astonishingly developed and built his machine in just under six months, completing the project in early 2008.

Through trial and error, and the destruction of many iPhones, Sid was now able to apply a thin film coating to electronic devices. But interestingly, he had a hard time finding companies that were interested in the technology. In the interim Sid started to try and monetize the technology, selling the coating service on eBay for about $100 a phone, and positioning the process as a way to make smartphones water resistant.

But as anyone at HZO can tell you, the process of coating aftermarket devices is complicated, and sensitive to end users. Imagine 48 hours without your phone (that’s how long the process took back then). By the way, that feeling of panic you just experienced thinking about being without your phone for that long, that’s Nomophobia.

While coating phones for the general populous was bringing in a little cash, it wasn’t a very efficient business model, and of course it came with some risk. As fortune would have it, Sid met a team from Zagg at CES in 2009. Blown away by the technology, Zagg decided to acquire Sid’s technology and machine and invest in further research and development.

A short time later HZO was formed. For two years the technology was further developed, equipment built and processes defined, and in 2011 HZO spun off as an independent company. The rest of the story has been pretty well documented so we’ll stop there, but it goes without saying that none of the 100+ employees would be here today without the vision and determination of one man.

While we’ve come a long way in developing scalable equipment that is capable of supporting mass manufacturing, the original machine, affectionately known by HZOers as Sid, still resides in HZO HQ, still humming along with amazing efficiency.

Here’s to you Sid.

Sid Martin and HZO

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