More than 150 years after Linus Yale Jr. invented the cylinder pin-tumbler lock (you know, the combination lock keeping your bike, locker, and luggage safe?), we are still stuck trying to remember those three-random-number codes.
As he struggled to remember the combination to open his pool gate, Todd Basche wondered if the lock industry wasn’t long due for innovation. His eureka moment prompted him to design and launch Wordlock, a word-based lock using four or five letter words to create thousands of word combinations. “We had to create something that was commercially viable, [so we used the] ten position [mechanism] and patented a number of software algorithms that maximized the number of words the lock spelled, while omitting the bad words,” says Basche, now the CEO.
This so-simple-why-didn’t-I-think-of-it idea is filtering into a niche one-billion-dollar, evergreen market. After winning the Staples Invention Quest in 2005, Basche sold the product exclusively in 1,200 Staple stores. Incorporated in 2007, Wordlock is now experiencing tremendous growth—six months ago, its locks were sold in 1,000 retail locations; now, you can pick on up in 12,000 distribution spots, including Walgreens, Target, and online at Amazon—and has potential to reach a $50 million annual revenue mark.
“In the world of hardgood products, software is often localized into different languages,” Basche says. In July Wordlock expanded its brand with a Spanish-language padlock. Basche and his wife, Wordlock president Rahn Basche, worked with translators to use their existing algorithm to determine the most probable-used letters in Spanish words. They are already selling in regions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore (Singapore Airlines distributes complimentary Wordlock luggage locks among business a first-class flyers). By next year they plan to expand to Mexico and the United Kingdom. And what’s next on the language horizon? A French- language padlock. Trés bien!