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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 8, 2013 at 12:34 PM

CES: A Seattle guy’s bamboo boombox

LAS VEGAS — Microsoft may have pulled out of the Consumer Electronics Show, but there are still Seattlelites all over the 1.87 millon-square-foot show floor.

This morning I detoured through the “Sustainable Planet Zone” when a bamboo boombox designed to look like an old suitcase caught my eye.

Sure enough, a Seattle guy is behind the product.

The boombox was developed and manufactured by Reveal, a company started by Seattle native Terry Omata.

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Omata grew up on Capitol Hill and attended Lakeside, then went to Claremont McKenna College in California and spent four years in the Teach for America program. After that he backpacked around the world, attended grad school and ended up working for multinational companies, managing overseas manufacturing.

Omata still considers Seattle home, but he’s now living in Shenzhen, running a business called Trade Passages that helps companies get their products manufactured in China. Two years ago he started a subsidiary called Reveal that began designing and manufacturing its own products, starting with handbags.

Reveal is now moving into tech accessories with sustainable flair, including iPad and smartphone covers, speakers and headphones made from products such as bamboo and cork. The covers range from $58 to $98.

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Omata said he had long encouraged clients to consider more environmentally friendly options, such as switching from virgin plastics to recycled material. Reveal’s move into the category was also inspired by living in a smoggy Asian metropolis after “growing up in Seattle, where it’s so beautiful and clear,” he said.

Reveal calls its new line “Nature Tech” and pledges to donate a portion of proceeds from each unit sold to the conservation nonprofit American Forests.

Prices for the boomboxes aren’t final yet, but they may retail for $400 to $600, depending on whether they’re made with bamboo or cork. They’re expected to go on sale later this year.

The biggest sellers so far are the smaller items such as a bamboo iPad case and a bamboo Bluetooth speaker that looks like a big salt shaker. The best named product is the company’s $38 “Bambuds” earbuds, which have bamboo trim.

Omata didn’t have a lot of time to chat on the show’s opening day. First I had to wait for a crowd of potential partners to clear. Then I didn’t want to keep him too long because a representative of a large accessories company was hovering nearby, waiting to sit down and talk business at the little table in Reveal’s booth.

That’s what CES is all about, after all.

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