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HoboHookah Interview with BlogdoArguille.com.br

In the beginning of all, how was the acceptance of the product?
Not great, to be honest.  We didn’t really know how to market the HoboHookah initially.  Basically, we had had about 10 prototypes that we shared with friends, and they really loved the pipe.  So about 100 friends and friends of friends were the first buyers, because they had seen the pipe in action.  Convincing people who weren’t our friends that the pipe worked, was hard, especially on the big web boards (like hookahforum.com).  Most of them thought it was too non-traditional.  They didn’t understand yet how well built, portable and easy to use the Hobo was.

How you got the idea of HoboHookah?

I fell in love with hookah back in 2004 when I was living in Egypt and actually bought my first pipe.  A year later I moved to New York City and brought my old Egyptian hookah with me, however, for the first 2-months that I was in New York, all of my stuff was in storage, including my hookah.  One day, I was bored (I didn’t know a lot of people in New York yet), so I went to the store and bought some things to make a hookah with (copper pipe, gaskets, soda bottle, etc).  It wasn’t pretty, but I actually built my first hookah.  A few days later, a friend of mine brought a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin over, and the first thing that popped into my head was, “That bottle would make a great hookah!”.

What do “hobo” means?
Ha, good question!  Hobo in English is like a traveling bum.  It’s an old word that isn’t used much anymore, but there is some nostalgia still (at least in my mind) for the old hobos who would pack up their things in a bindle and hop on and off trains with no destination in mind.  For us, hobo just means low-maintenance or spontaneous traveler:  “Have hookah. Will Travel.”
Why HoboHookah became HoboNargile?
We wanted people to know that the HoboNargile was a new pipe.  The HoboHookah was great, and we learned a lot, but the HoboNargile is so different that we wanted to make sure people realized that this is a new hookah.  In the future, if we do come out with another hookah called a HoboHookah – it will be our very top of the line model.
What are the differences between the HoboHookah and the HoboNargile?
The biggest problems we heard from customers were that the HoboHookah was too tall (didn’t fit on some bottles) and there was no release valve.¬† We fixed those issues with the HoboNargile.¬† In addition, though, we also added color (black and down the road red, blue, etc), a removable downstem (it unscrews so it can be cleaned / replaced) and a shorter but much better performing hose.¬† Over all, the HoboNargile is everything that we learned from our HoboHookah customers.
Besides the U.S. and Brazil, what other countries is sold the HoboNargile?
US and Brazil are the big ones.  We have sold hundreds of HoboHookahs across the world and to every continent (including Antarctica).  We are working with people in Europe, Canada, Turkey and Asia to also carry the HoboNargile in their markets.  We’ll see.
What is most unusual place you ever took your HoboNargile?
We were at South by Southwest in Texas (which is a big music festival) and I got invited onto a party bus with Tony Hsieh (he‚Äôs a famous entrepreneur, CEO of Zappos.com).¬† Of course I set up the HoboNargile, shared it a bit.¬† It’s a little weird smoking a hookah while in the back of a bus, but we had a 1-gallon water jug to put the Hobo on, which made things pretty enjoyable.¬† Also, Ashton Kutcher was on there, he didn‚Äôt seem to dig hookah.
Besides its portability, why the HoboNargile is a success?
I think a big thing was customer service.  We didn’t have many problems with the HoboHookah or HoboNargile, but when there were problems, we always fixed them.  This built a lot of trust in our customers, who have always been great about telling their friends about our product.  I think also the fact the product is different made a big deal (like a purple cow in the midst of normal cows – Seth Godin).
Glass bottles and plastic has some difference to smoking?
Plastic bottles can collapse on you when you take a pull, but they wont break.  I think glass bottles don’t get stained as quickly.  I only use plastic when I’m traveling, and always glass when at home.
I read in some hookah blog that the old HoboHookah hoses were not exactly a good hose. Is that true? Which improvements you made in the new HoboNargile hoses?
The main issue with the original hose was consistency.  About 30% of the original hoses were awesome, as good as anything out there.  50% worked.  They worked okay, but not as good as the competition.  And the last 20% we didn’t ship.  We had to throw those away (each original HoboHookah sold on HoboHookah.com was hand assembled and tested by me!).  The new hose is a completely new manufacturer.  The details are boring, but essentially we’ve fixed the problem that made the hoses hard to pull.  There have been no issues reported with inhaling on the new hoses.
You even made a homemade hookah? How did you reach perfection?
It’s a lot of trial and error.¬† I made by hand originally 10 HoboHookahs.¬† They were all different in some ways, which I liked.¬† I think the way to reach perfection is to keep trying new combinations and think outside the box.¬† It also helps to have a mechanical engineer to take your ideas and polish them.
I saw some pictures of a blue and red HoboNargile, but I couldn`t find it for sale. There is such hobos for sale?
When we were designing the HoboNargile we knew we wanted to add color to the body.  So, we had a bunch of different colored hookahs sent to us, including red, green, black and blue.  We liked the black the best, but down the road I think we’ll eventually offer other colors as well, but currently black is it.
Do you already have a plan for the next HoboNargile version? Which improviments a hobohero can expect for a new version? Better Hoses? Another material? A 3 nipples HoboNargile?
I think for the long term, the HoboNargile is going to be pretty much the same.  We’ll offer a few new colors and there are a couple of small tweaks we’ll make (that the user won’t even notice) but more or less, the product is great as is.  We plan on selling that model for a long time.  The next new products we will come out with will be accessories.  We are working on a few, really great ideas that we hope to launch later in 2010 or early 2011.  Our next “new hookah” will be called a HoboHookah and we will sell both HoboHookah and HoboNargiles.  There aren’t any details right now on what the next HoboHookah will look like, but I’d like to see it have 3 nipples!
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