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Coveroo debuts laser-engraved artwork for handsets

Coveroo, a new electronic fashion accessory for mobile phones, officially launches today, with model and hotel heiress Paris Hilton already on the list of early adopters.

A Coveroo replaces the original back cover on a consumer's mobile device with a custom version that features lasered artwork from a consumer's favorite band, television show, movie or artist. Coveroo launches with more than 250 designs from various brands -- some of which are being made commercially available for the first time -- such as AC/DC, Star Trek, The Simpsons, Family Guy, SpongeBob SquarePants and Barbie.

"Most of what's been done in the space to date is having consumers take it in or send it in to have someone engrave the phone, which pretty big commitment on the part of the consumer -- it's like a tattoo," said Karl Jacob, cofounder/CEO of Coveroo, San Francisco.

"We thought if we customized cell phones' back cover, consumers could get them easily and inexpensively and change the design more than once," he said.

"They can have one design during holiday season, one for their favorite TV show or movie, one for their favorite football team and another for their favorite hockey team.

"Some of these logos are difficult licenses to get, so to have that library in one place so consumers can come and get the art that they want, is a great asset."

Coveroo owns licenses to a wide range of exclusive designs.

The portfolio includes logos for college and professional sports teams, The Godfather, Juno, Top Gun, Barney, Beverly Hills 90210, Futurama, CSI, the Talking Heads, the Wu Tang Clan, Pearl Jam, Sting, Iggy Pop, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Pink Floyd, Marilyn Monroe, Hot Wheels and Street Fighter II.

The company can also etch custom designs, including initials, family crests and other symbols and images.

Coveroo's prices start at $19.95 for simple, standard artwork and go up to $49.95 for custom 1200 d.p.i. pieces of artwork carved directly into the back cover of the phone.

"We plan to add stainless steel and gold treatments to make the artwork stand out even more," Mr. Jacob said.

Holiday delivery is guaranteed if the order is placed by Dec. 22.

Consumers can go to, choose a phone model and select their desired design or pick from a variety of fonts to have their name or initials etched.

Coveroo will handcraft a new back cover for consumers' phone and send it to them in the mail.

Once received, consumers slip off their old back cover and replace it with their new Coveroo.

Coveroo's target demographic is early adopters and trend-setters looking to stand out, promote a cause or carry a reminder of their favorite things.

Customers gained during the beta lead-up to Coveroo's commercial launch include celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman, Eva Longoria, Mario Lopez, William H. Macy, Good Charlotte's Benji Madden and Paris Hilton.

"We don't have a business relationship with these celebrities -- they are just using our product," Mr. Jacob said. "A lot of these trends start in Hollywood, people who are conscious of how they're perceived and want to stand out in the crowd or just want something to match their latest outfit.

"Whatever it is, people really seem to like it," he said.

As part of the company's debut, Coveroo also announced a partnership with electronics retailer Best Buy to provide its on-demand laser-engraving at select stores nationwide.

In addition to Best Buy customers being able to personalize their new purchases by adding custom Coveroos, they can also bring their existing devices into participating stores to be etched.

This is an attempt to address the Apple iPhone market in particular, since the iPhone's back panel does not slide off.

Currently, Coveroo is set up for business in Best Buy locations such as Bloomington, MN, in the Mall of America; Fairfax, VA; Schaumburg, IL; and West Hollywood, CA.

Coveroo has plans to extend its relationship and rollout to additional Best Buy stores in the coming year.
Its laser technology and engraving process, along with the exclusive licensing deals made with various brands and artists, allow Coveroo to personalize consumers' handsets.

Coveroo, formed from the merger of Wallop and Etchstar, was founded in October 2008 by Karl Jacob, Ben Katz and Mark Halstead.

"At Coveroo we combine the huge license library of Etchstar with the experience and background of Wallop," Mr. Jacob said.

Mr. Jacob was most recently founder/CEO of Wallop, funded by Bay Partners, Norwest and Microsoft -- all of which stayed on to finance Coveroo.

Mr. Katz, now president of Coveroo, was previously founder/CEO of Etchstar, where he specialized in the commercialization of on-demand customized consumer electronics.

Mr. Halstead, who has invented several ecommerce technologies, will take on the role of chief technology officer for Coveroo.

As for its enterprise business, Coveroo is doing engravings for Microsoft's Zune, including the Gears of War special edition.

Available immediately from the Coveroo Web site are designs for the Blackberry Bold, Curve and Pearl, as well as the Motorola SLVR 7, Samsung U410 and U340 and LG CU515.

Coveroo is planning to add new phone models and design choices on an on-going basis.

Coveroo designs for the Apple iPod touch are also available on the Coveroo site.

The Fox Shop, the CBS Store and other big studios and networks are also selling Coveroo etchings on their sites.

Customers can also get Coveroos for any of these devices, including the iPhone 3G, in person at select Best Buy stores.

"As far as the live engraving at the actual retail stores, we're excited about the repercussions for what consumers can do," Mr. Jacob said. "The back of the iPhone 3G doesn't come off, so we can give consumers a list of stores where they can have your phone engraved."

Coveroo's marketing strategy includes Internet advertising, including search engine marketing. The company is also relying on viral effects.

"We have a social media piece through Facebook and other social networks, and we'll do marketing through stores associated with different studios and properties," Mr. Jacob said. "There's also a pretty good word-of-mouth factor."

Coveroo also plans to explore mobile advertising and mobile commerce down the road.

"We are absolutely interested, it's an area we'd love to explore," Mr. Jacob said. "Coveroo is one of the few products where a person holding a cell phone is the perfect customer, so we're very interested to form partnerships in that space.

"We'll be using the mobile channel as well," he said. "Nobody's done this yet -- a combination between a high-end, high-quality design process as well as licensed artwork, which creates a special product for consumers."