Interview: Mike Kane the Black and Gold Bleeding CEO of cellhelmet

Mike Kane the CEO of Cell Pig in Pittsburgh

Sally Wiggin beat us to the punch, but right after she left the cellhelmet headquarters (watch the news later), we had a quick chat with their Burgh Verified co-founder and CEO. Read the interview below as Mike Kane (@cellhelmetmike) talks about their flagship product, manufacturing in Pittsburgh, launching a Kickstarter project, and more…

What is your Pittsburgh background?

I’m a born and raised Pittsburgher, plus a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Cliche, but I bleed black and gold.

How was Cell Pig (now cellhelmet) started?

cellpig.com was born out of an initial investment of $700, between Bryan (@cellhelmetbryan) and I. We dabbled on eBay for a few years, until we were up to the challenge and financially ready to take the next step. It’s been a process, but we’ve managed to multiply that $700 a few times now.

Your big-hit-viral product is the cellhelmet iPhone case, what’s so special about it?

cellhelmet is the only case in the world to guarantee the iPhone. In other words, if your iPhone breaks inside, we will repair or replace it. Is it indestructible? Not at all. We just saw a need in the market for a slim pocket-able case, with a monster hook included.

Where are cellhelmets being made?

Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh. Well, actually Latrobe, Cranberry and Greensburg.  Can I call that Pittsburgh?

Why not overseas where you could probably do it for less and make more money?

We don’t like to make children sweat. Plus, we found very competitive pricing close to home. You can also refer back to the answer for question #1 – cliche, but I bleed black and gold.

Someone should tell Levi’s that it is possible to manufacture in Pittsburgh, and not just use it for a backdrop!

If you get me the phone number to the man who makes the decision I’ll gladly give him a call.

Not only did you reach your Kickstarter funding for cellhelmet, the money raised was double the original goal. When you first posted the project did you think you would reach the goal?

We honestly had no clue what to expect, being that the product is a totally new concept. We got a bit of traction though and things have been going well since. The Kickstarter community is amazing – I highly suggest that you give it a try. Maybe self brand some Boring Pittsburgh sausages and launch the company on Kickstarter? Seriously – I highly recommend it.

Can you offer any words of advice to others thinking about starting a Pittsburgh based Kickstarter project?

1. Don’t think about it – do it. Thinking will get you no where. Step out on the ledge and jump. 2. Buy us some lunch – we’d love to pay our experiences forward.

In your YouTube videos, you guys are constantly dropping and destroying iPhones. Please say those aren’t real!

Some have been real. Some have been display phones, with real glass swapped in for effect. To answer your question though, yes I have had to repair my phone quite a few times now… but it’s all for the customer!

Do you guys have any plans for a retail store?

We do not have plans for a retail store – we’re just looking for more stores to retail the cellhelmet. Currently, the cellhelmet is being sold locally at MacOutfitters and various Wireless Zone – Verizon Authorized retailers, plus at cellhelmet.com and through various other websites.

Let’s just say if you did, where in Pittsburgh do you think would be the ideal first location?

If we did? I’d have to say we’d move into Oakland or somewhere in the South Side. Somewhere in walking distance of food. Mmm.

What are some other Made in Pittsburgh products that you know of?

The GoPano, which was created by Michael Rondinelli, who was our mentor during our Kickstarter campaign. Vapor Guard is pretty cool too, out of the Johnstown area. Also, who doesn’t love some Heinz?

Where can we find the Cell Pig team hanging out in the Burgh?

We frequent Emilianos in the South Side – it’s our regular go to meeting spot. We’ve also been spotted walking around Mount Washington in the pig suits a time or two.

So, what do you think about a trade: super soft Cell Helmet shirt for a Burgh Verified tee?

Pick your color (green, blue, orange) and size and let’s hook it up!  I’m a large…

Do you think Pittsburgh is boring?

I think this is a trick question.  Boring good or boring boring?  We’ll put it this way – I’m not going anywhere anytime soon…