Electronic cigarettes, also known as vapes, have seen a meteoric rise since their creation in the mid-2000s. The use of flavored nicotine products in e-cigarettes has become especially popular among Millennials and Gen Z, despite the haziness of long-term effects and recent state bans on vaping. Two Broad Spartans saw a solution.
Brendan Wang, a supply chain management sophomore, and Jake Roach, a marketing junior, founded CAPNOS in September 2019 to create a safe alternative to vaping. Instead of using smoke or nicotine, their product allows the user to take a deep breath of pressurized air with a satisfying flavor.
“We’re addressing the oral fixation,” Wang said. “We know it’s an issue and that everyone is constantly reaching for a vape and it’s becoming a habit.”
Soaring to CES 2020
Last month, Wang and Roach took their venture on the road to Las Vegas for CES 2020 — the nation’s largest consumer technology show — hosted by the Consumer Technology Association. CAPNOS was one of three Spartan entrepreneurial endeavors representing MSU at CES, alongside student startups SKOOP and PhenoLogic and staff from the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
“I was really nervous at first with the amount of people we were talking to,” Roach, CMO of CAPNOS, said. “After the first day I felt really prepared and was just excited to talk to people and answer their questions about what we’re doing.”
Wang said the conference encouraged him to push forward with CAPNOS’ mission. “Overall it was a tremendous experience,” he said. “I’ve met so many people who’ve shared their own stories about family members who struggle with addiction, and it makes me wonder how we can get [our product] on the market quicker and help people sooner.”
Vision to change vaping
Wang said he was originally inspired to make a difference after seeing how serious the vaping crisis was becoming, specifically on campus. “I came back to MSU in September and I just saw how big of an issue it is,” he said.
Both partners have some personal experience with vaping. Roach picked up the habit in eighth grade; Wang describes on the CAPNOS website how he had been addicted to vaping but noticed that he was addicted to the habit of vaping itself, not the nicotine. Avoiding the potentially serious health consequences of vaping spurred his idea for the business and, when Wang approached him, inspired Roach to get involved.
“I have a little sister who’s in sixth grade, and she’ll come home talking about how there’s kids vaping in class; it’s just getting worse and worse,” Roach said. “I realized that this will continue to be a problem until someone takes action to stop it from getting worse.”
Wang and Roach were grateful for the Broad College and the MSU Hatch for the resources they’ve provided in the development of their education and the growth of CAPNOS. Both said that they acquired their first internships through the Broad College.
“From an entrepreneurial standpoint, the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Hatch have helped me tremendously with the help of things like 3D modelers, designers, legal and funding. I wouldn’t be where I am without their assistance,” Wang said.
What’s next for CAPNOS
“Right now, we’re really focusing on the product that we have and getting it perfect before we take it to market,” Roach said. “We’d really like to secure partnerships with schools, and educating kids on the harmful side effects of vaping would be really great for the company.”
Wang noted that company representatives from all over the world spoke to him at CES, asking how they could get CAPNOS to their communities. He doesn’t have anything set in stone, he said, but would like to “take CAPNOS on a global level.”