This Founder Was Inventing a “Touchless” World Before We Knew We Needed One

Simplehuman's Frank Yang was envisioning intuitive, design-centric home products long before they became instrumental in saving lives.

Date: August 19, 2020
By: Frances Dodds

Image credit: Courtesy of Azione PR

Before the pandemic made “touchless” technology a matter of life and death, it was a matter of convenience. But convenience is something that Frank Yang, the founder and CEO of Simplehuman, takes very seriously. Yang, 48, immigrated from Taiwan with his parents in 1981, and started the Los Angeles-based company in 2000. Over the past two decades, Simplehuman has developed a reputation as the “Apple of Housewares” because its designs operate on the principle that technology should enable human behavior intuitively — and look good while doing it. The brand’s star product is its voice-activated trash can, which you can ask to “open” — or “stay open” — from six feet away. 

In March, Simplehuman’s touch-free wares were “nice-to-haves” that became “must-haves.” Sales soared, and Yang quickly realized the role that touchless soap dispensers and trash cans could play in keeping families and frontline workers safe. So he marked down prices on all the touchless products and began donating products to healthcare workers.

Yang’s vision for intuitively touch-free, design-centric environments has proven prescient, which is why we included him as one of 137 inspiring entrepreneurs on our July/August cover. You can read all about it in Jason Feifer’s editor letter. But since the issue came out, we’ve been catching up with our cover stars to hear a little more about how this unprecedented year has played out for them. We spoke with Yang about what he did or didn’t see coming, how the company handled the surge in demand, and all the places he envisions Simplehuman products becoming a staple in everyday life, post-pandemic.     [FULL  STORY]

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