Research Foundation News

January 6, 2017

Purdue alumnus’ idea could reduce AirPod theft

Ma pod Purdue alumnus Ryan Ma shows the design for his sticker that makes an Apple AirPods’ charging case resemble a pack of dental floss. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Curt Slyder) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.  – A Purdue entrepreneur’s idea could help owners of Apple AirPods prevent theft of the devices.

Ryan Ma, who graduated from Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts in 2015, has created a sticker that, when applied to an Apple AirPod’s charging case, makes the device resemble a pack of dental floss.

Unveiled in September, Apple AirPods are a pair of wireless smart earbuds that fit inside a user’s ears and connect to an iPhone, iPad or other Apple device. They can be stored and charged in a small, white, unmarked case.

Costing about $150 and currently on back order due to consumer demand, the devices in their chargers are attractive targets for theft.

That’s how Ma got his idea.

“I had heard back in December of people comparing AirPods in their chargers to a pack of dental floss,” he said. “So it occurred to me that making the AirPods’ cases look like a package of dental floss could be a deterrent to theft. Who wants to take a pack of dental floss?”

Ma, who already has created two startups, decided to commercialize his idea.

He rushed to a nearby store to get some dental floss to take measurements so he could create a sticker of his own.

After getting the measurements of both dental floss and AirPods, he created a generic dental floss design and submitted his idea to Etsy, a peer-to-peer e-commerce website. He decided to sell the stickers for $4.99.

“It started out as kind of a joke,” he said. “But people loved it.”

Gizmodo, a design, technology and science fiction website, published an article about Ma’s idea. Other websites and bloggers were quick to follow.

When initial orders surpassed 100, Ma ordered a batch of translucent stickers from a manufacturer and will start shipping to customers by Jan.12.

Ma is the co-founder and CEO of OWL LLC, a smartphone app and fitness tracking device aimed at encouraging children to be more physically active. He also co-founded MeeMees, a startup that developed a social networking application that is advertisement and spam-free. MeeMees is now inactive.

He refined his entrepreneurial talents at the Anvil, a co-working space at Purdue University that is managed by Purdue students, and at the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator.

“My entrepreneur-in-residence, Keith Williams, helped me a lot in developing my business sense,” he said. “He gave me a lot of good tips, which I’ve carried over into other things that I do.”

A link to Ma’s Etsy website is available here.

About the Anvil

The Anvil is a co-working space at Purdue University that serves the unique needs of student and community entrepreneurs. Acting as a center of creative culture in West Lafayette, the Anvil focuses on providing local and student run startups affordable office space. 

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Writer: Curt Slyder, 765-588-3342, 

Source: Ryan Ma, 765-413-1803, 

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