Meet The Philosophy Professor Behind The Evolution Of The Selfie – David Barnett, Founder at PopSockets

David Barnett

PopSockets is a company that started in my garage in Boulder, Colorado. It all started with the product that we’re most well known for – the PopGrip. The grip has changed the way in which people use their phones, and that’s due to its functionality.

The grip provides a more secure, comfortable grip, which allows for one-hand texting and the ability to prop your device to make calls and watch video content. We have expanded our product ecosystem to include cases, mounts, wallets and more as we continue to innovate empowering and expressive products. Today we are a global brand, selling in over 70 countries.
PopSockets - Digital and Brand Manager for UK

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

I took to being an entrepreneur from an early age, but the original idea for what eventually became the PopGrip started out of frustration. It was in 2009, and I was looking for a way to stop my earbud cord from getting tangled. I achieved this by glueing two big, ugly clothing buttons on the back of my tiny iPhone 3 and wrapping the earbud cord around the buttons. As ugly as the buttons were – a fact that was kindly highlighted to me by my friends and family – they worked. In the course of improving on the idea, I developed about 60 different prototypes, eventually making the buttons expand and collapse via an accordion mechanism so that they could function as both a stand and a grip.

In 2012, I started a Kickstarter campaign for an iPhone case that would have two PopSockets grip-stands integrated into the case. During the process of developing that iPhone case, I started developing an individual PopSockets grip-stand that would attach to most phones and cases by way of a thin, reusable sticky-gel pad. This individual PopSockets grip-stand went on to become the flagship product of the company – the PopGrip.

But the first couple of years were out of my garage, during which time I made my first hires – War Bear, fresh out of prison, and Little Big Hands. Great guys who didn’t necessarily have a lot of business background. After launching our website, we started seeing tremendous growth in the second half of 2014. We also started seeing the product in hands of celebs organically, which really made a huge difference as we went into 2015.


How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

Because of the pandemic, last year was the first year that we actually had a reduction in revenue. Before COVID, we were globally in over 120,000 stores. During the pandemic, a large majority of those stores were closed at some point last year, if not the entire year. Those were some of the roughest days that I have had in the brand and we had to be prepared for a decrease of about 40-50% in our sales projections.

We ended up missing by only about 20% at the end of last year, and that was in large part to our online business, as well as our retail partners that remained open. This year will be our biggest year – we recently sold our 200 millionth grip. We have shifted our approach in terms of building a brand that sells direct-to-consumer around the world – especially as we grow our business in Latin America and Asia – and continue to resonate with the Gen Z demographic. Instead of simply pegging our products in a large store, our strategy is to continue to grow brand awareness through social media and authentic creator collaborations.

What can we hope to see from PopSockets in the future?

We’re really transforming the way in which people use what is an essential tool to go about their daily life – the smartphone. Think about it, we pick up our phone around 58 to 166 times a day, spending approximately 3 hours 15 minutes actively using it. These numbers have only increased through the pandemic. In terms of product, this year we not only introduced the MagSafe collection, which features a number of MagSafe PopGrips and wallets, but we also launched our own PopCase collection for iPhone 11, 12 and 13.

PopCase MagSafe – and the MagSafe range itself – are a response to how devices are evolving around wireless charging. We want to ensure that we continue to provide a solution to our customers that truly enhances how they use their phones today, tomorrow, and in the future. This year I was delighted that we were able to introduce PopGrip Plant. A PopGrip that consists of a number of plant-based materials such as corn starch, castor beans and canola oil. We’re looking to expand this plant-based approach to as many products within our ecosystem as we can.

More broadly as a company we’re in the position of most consumer products companies, in that we’re a business that is fulfilling consumer needs. But we’re working to turn PopSockets into a business that does so much more than helping people have a better experience with their phones. Our vision is for PopSockets to be a force for good that perpetually enhances the health and wellbeing of the planet and all living beings.

We aspire to do that by creating (and co-creating) innovative, empowering and expressive custom products, prioritizing sustainability in our decision-making, volunteering in our communities, building a boldly curious and diverse global team and collaborating with our ecosystem of customers and partners to generate meaningful and long-lasting impact. As a philosophy professor turned entrepreneur, I’m committed to leveraging our business as a vehicle for positive change. It’s been my life’s mission to maximize the net happiness of all living things, and I have a deep personal interest in ending factory farming and addressing the global climate crisis, and I hope to drive progress in both areas through PopSockets.