Juul, Labs Inc., and its products, the Juul device and accompanying Juul pods, are the brainchild of Stanford University graduates James Monsees and Adam Bowen. The two met while product design graduate students at Stanford. In 2004, Monsees and Bowen co-authored a thesis presentation where the precursor to Juul, a product called Ploom, was first introduced.
Since then, Monsees and Bowen’s entrepreneurial desires led to the development of Juul; a highly profitable and highly panned vaping device. Juul is embroiled in ever-growing litigation and investigation due to its teen-centered marketing and misrepresentations regarding the safety of its products. This article delves into the history of Juul, its rise to fame, and its fall from grace.
After graduating, Monsees and Bowen turned their thesis into a reality and founded their first vaporizer startup, Ploom, in 2007. By early 2008, venture capitalists had invested nearly $1 million. While Ploom sold for a significantly steeper price ($75) than the Juul device known today, it functioned in largely the same way. The vape operated in conjunction with single use “Ploom pods.”
Ploom continued to grow. After securing nearly $5 million in venture funding, Ploom debuted a new product called “Pax” in 2013. Among its multitude of investors were Japan Tobacco (maker of Winston and Salem cigarettes), Originate (a San Francisco software company), Japan Tobacco, Inc. (a foreign cigarette manufacturer) and Bay Area based angel investment group Sand Hill.
Pax debuted at a launch party in San Francisco; a marketing tactic that would later be employed en masse by Juul. A notable difference between Pax and the present day Juul device is Pax was designed to be used with both marijuana or loose-leaf tobacco.
Approximately two years later, in February of 2015, Monsees and Bowen sold Ploom – both the brand and vaporizer line – to minority investor Japan Tobacco, Inc. Monsees and Bowen then rebranded in America under the Pax brand.