About two years ago, entrepreneur Laurence Hallier was sitting with his friend, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, and talking about their love of iPhones but their need to have a second phone with a keyboard for typing and correspondence.
"One night we just said, 'We've got to be able to get this keyboard experience on an iPhone," Hallier said.
The idea for TypoKeyboards was born. After two years of research and 20 prototypes, they developed a product to sell on Shopify that fit their criteria: First, you had to be able to type 60 words per minute on it; as fast as you can with a standard keyboard. Second, it had to be as unobtrusive, thin and light as possible.
Hallier and Seacrest shared the new product with close friends and colleagues to test it out for a month.
"We knew it was a winner because at the end of that month, no one would give it back to us," Hallier said. "We realized, 'Oh shit, people can't live without it now. People type on these things really fast."
Those using the TypoKeyboard spent 250% more time on their phone than they did without the keyboard.
Hallier's friend Jamie Siminoff - the founder of another successful Shopify store called DoorBot - recommended Shopify for TypoKeyboard.
"We looked at building our own shopping cart, but in the end it just didn't make sense," Hallier said. "Shopify has really thought through all of the issues, and we've been extremely happy."
Now that mass production has begun, the keyboard is being used by scores of billionaires and celebrities - including the Huffington Post's founder and editor Arianna Huffington who was given a keyboard by Seacrest a few months ago and has been a vocal supporter of the product.
Hallier said the key to the keyboard's success is how it builds on the usefulness of the iPhone.
"The iPhone is an amazing product," he said. "Apple bet the farm on touch, and they were right. It's ideal for 90% of everything we do, but the reality is that busy executives have to run their business on their phones."
And that means answering emails and typing notes - things that are notoriously difficult without a keyboard.
The biggest challenge throughout the development process, Hallier said, was organizing the many components involved - from engineering to part sourcing to manufacturing to distribution.
"If you get into the consumer product business and you really want a product that's going to change people's lives, it's going to be a long process and not a cheap one," Hallier said.
One hurdle remaining in the company's way is an ongoing lawsuit from BlackBerry who alleges that TypoKeyboard has infringed on some of its keyboard patents.
Hallier maintains that he checked many times throughout the iterative process to ensure they weren't using any patented technology.
Take a look at the TypoKeyboard:
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