Justin Wang

Justin Wang

CEO and Founder | Larq

Industry
Consumer Technology/Wellness 

Location
San Francisco 


Justin Wang: How This Former LVMH Executive Created the Chicest Self-Cleaning Water Bottle and Launched a New Wellness Product During COVID

Justin Wang grew up in California, which led to his appreciation for the outdoors. The parks and bodies of water have always called to him, and that had a hand in the ideation of Larq. After graduating from college, he knew he wanted to pursue business and got his first big chance at L Capital (the investment arm of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), as an investor. It was there that he learned to see past the business fundamentals and rcame to understand the consumer—what they want, and how to realize it through beautiful design and technology. Wang wanted to learn more, so when he had the chance to join a beauty technology startup, Foreo he jumped at the chance. Foreo is an award-winning beauty technology brand, and as President, he was able to oversee product management and marketing, strategy and more, helping it become one of the leading beauty companies in the world in just over three years. In 2017, his friend (and now co-founder) and he had an idea—a brilliant solution to something that irked them both: reusable but stinky water bottles. From there, the rest is history. Introducing their flagship product, the Larq Bottle, the world’s first self-cleaning reusable water bottle. Using their proprietary PureVis UV-C LED technology, they are able to deliver clean, sanitized water in under three minutes from any fresh water source, eliminating 99.9999% of bacteria and viruses. In December 2017, they launched on Kickstarter, winning the hearts of thousands of supporters, ensuring our introduction to the global market, and reaching an incredible $1.6M in only 30 days. Today, they still have the same goals: to help people hydrate brilliantly, and lower dependency on single-use plastics. The bottles are just the beginning, and the brand has just announced their first Larq Pitcher, which features a two-stage filtration and purification process that removes more than 90% of lead, chlorine, mercury, cadmium, copper, zinc, VOCs, Radon, bio-contaminants, and more.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?

Like many businesses, we have had to make some changes since the onset of COVID-19. I think that as a community, COVID has helped businesses grow in many ways, if not necessarily in sales. For example, I have a greater empathy for my colleagues and peers at Larq, and stress helps to hone our creative minds. Demand for products like ours has certainly risen, meanwhile our manufacturing and supply chain has faced challenges in the new environment. Fortunately, our customers have been very supportive and understanding of the delays, and we do our best to keep a clear and honest communication channel open to them for any concerns. 

The Larq Bottle is the first portable water disinfection system, using proprietary UV-C LED technology to kill up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?

Our business has been doubling since the launch, and though we have had to make some changes to our plans for the year (mainly event attendance), we are still able to do what we do best: deliver accessible, self-cleaning hydration options that allow for a healthier more sustainable choice. In January, we had a plan for the year ahead. Naturally, we have had to shift some of our priorities, but we have been able to move those resources to other places, for example, expanding globally, to help more people get access to self-cleaning water bottles. We were already in demand before the crisis, and now we have the ability to give back to the community through donations and partnerships like 1% for the Planet, which is really fantastic. 

The brand new Larq pitcher eliminates more than 90% of toxins.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?

A year from now, I think we will still be seeing the aftershocks of COVID-19, and likely a newly heightened awareness of health and hygiene. I encourage my peers to think ahead, to think strategically, and like a consumer. We have the opportunity to change a lot of status quo in consumer products right now, delays and challenges in manufacturing aside. In our time spent at home, we need to rethink everything for the better. People say that this may be the “new norm” and we need to plan for that in our consumer products. The past “norm” is no longer relevant for today’s world, and we all need to help create a future where we thrive. 

While it is very true that “no good crisis should go to waste,” I think it’s equally true that teams should keep their mission and vision focused on the long-term goal as a beacon to navigate choppy waters.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?

I think startups are especially susceptible to external shocks to our economy and society—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I think it is more important than ever to understand the company and team’s mission and vision during times of crisis to help the team and company navigate choppy waters. While startups should be highly agile and adaptable to changes in the overall customer landscape and changing consumer needs, I think it’s also important to not pivot too quickly and jump at every would-be opportunity that sometimes can emerge from a crisis. 

While it is very true that “no good crisis should go to waste,” I think it’s equally true that teams should keep their mission and vision focused on the long-term goal as a beacon to navigate choppy waters. Sometimes, pivoting too quickly can mean you lose your core identity with your customer and your mission on the other side of a crisis. 

The bottles come in an array of colors, in 500ml 740ml and can keep liquids cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours.

Safe–and entertained–at home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime

 

Morning routine?
I’m starting my day by walking my dog, drinking tea (I’ve cut out coffee), and meditating. I find having a consistent morning routine is more important than ever for mental health and clarity to start out my day. The reduction in commute has allowed me to find a bit more time for reflection before starting out the day. 

Currently binging?
The Wire—still just as good 17 years later. Guilty pleasure: Space Force on Netflix. 

Currently reading?
Waking Up by Sam Harris and A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. 

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
I am using this time to try to pick up new hobbies and positive habits. I have been running about 5 miles every other day but that is being offset by my experimentations in the kitchen (I have been cooking up a mean Texas-style smoked brisket).

My family recently cut out one-use plastic household cleaning items in exchange for more environmentally friendly options as a way to sustainably wipe down surfaces and keep the family healthy. I have also incorporated morning and evening meditation sessions to help sustain mental health during this time. 

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Two months ago, I started practicing meditation for 10–20 minutes a day, up to twice a day. Though it can be challenging to find the time, it has helped me in many ways, personally and professionally. 

My mind has a tendency to race and wander, especially when stressed, and meditation has trained me to focus. I feel like I am more productive now, able to focus on what actually drives change and impact in the organization. 

Mental acuity and wellness can be so easily neglected in this time of COVID and social tension. This practice and routine helps me, and I empathize with my teammates who may have been having a tough time mentally with the lockdown. 

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
Destinations: Lake Tahoe: It’s my happy place, and where my partner and I got married. We’d love to do the Desolation Wilderness hike, get a pizza and beer at Whitecaps after. 

Restaurant/Bar: Lazy Bear in San Francisco. If I am going to dream, might as well dream big.