With his latest business, Boulder entrepreneur Tom DeFrancia is trying to grab a piece of the fancy cooler market pioneered by outdoor wonder-brand Yeti.
Gearing up for a spring launch, his startup, Rovr, is hoping to get its $500 coolers into the hands of customers in time for warm weather.
The company has 11 retailers carrying the product, but DeFrancia aims to sign 40 by 2017.
DeFrancia dreamed up the Rovr’s features camping with his family.
“I was just always amazed with how cheaply (coolers) were built,” DeFrancia said. “I was thinking about different functions that would be useful … I just started adding features that make a lot of sense.”
DeFranci’s Rovr 80-quart cooler has beefy wheels, 2 inches of foam insulation and compartments for easy storage separation. DeFrancia says the cooler keeps meat below 38 degrees for seven days. The cooler also has detachable cutting board tables, and its compartments enable food to stay cold and dry.
“It’s really like a refrigerator inside of a freezer,” DeFrancia said. “It compartmentalizes a cooler.”
DeFrancia designed the cooler to be easy to haul around, with a pop-up wagon to carry other items like chairs and tents inside.
While many coolers require two people to carry them, Rovr has an aluminum pull handle for easy transport.
“My 10-year-old can tow this with 100 pounds in it,” DeFrancia said.
The cooler costs $450.
DeFrancia, who also co-owns Alamo Drafthouse, was born in Venezuela but grew up in Colorado and attended CU. After spending his youth following music festivals, skiing backcountry, and mountain biking in Moab, the 47-year-old father said he is looking for “more mature” outdoor experiences.
“I love getting out there, but it’s about cooking and eating and drinking,” DeFrancia said. “We bring a lot of luxuries. I want to make everyone comfortable.”
DeFrancia made his first run of coolers in September, giving them out to friends and family before making changes in time for the holidays. Since then, he has sold about 200 units. The cooler’s body and lid are assembled in Colorado, while smaller parts are manufactured in China.
The company has seven design patents, with one utility patent pending, DeFrancia said. In May, Rovr is launching a Kickstarter to help fund its 60-quart cooler.
While Yeti Coolers have become the industry standard, DeFrancia said, Rovr serves a slightly different function, as Yeti was intended more for preserving freshly-caught fish.
“Ice retention is one big component of what we do,” DeFrancia said. “It’s more of a lifestyle that we’re catering to.”
Rovr is available at Jax Outdoor Gear, Summit Canyon Mountaineering and Colorado Love Outdoors.