Pour It On

Dan Mayer is fueled for the energy boom.

"They were writing things like, 'I'm going to cut your fucking head off and pour Vamp down your throat, which would probably kill you anyway!'" Mayer remembers. "Eventually the president of Vamp got ahold of me and asked if I could take down a lot of the comments to sort of put out the fire, which I did. He sent me a bunch of free stuff for that."

Mayer's site also recently enjoyed the dubious honor of being featured on its first porn site -- at least, the first Mayer knows of.

"They sent me 4,500 hits in three days," he says with a grin. "I have no idea what the correlation is between porn and energy drinks. Maybe if you're drinking a bunch of energy drinks, you can stay up longer and look at more porn."

Rich Barry
Department of energy: Dan Mayer displays his can-do 
Tony Gallagher
Department of energy: Dan Mayer displays his can-do spirit.

Although that's an aberrant number of hits, Mayer estimates that over the past year, his site has averaged around 3,500 hits a day. And while he doesn't like to discuss actual figures, the ad revenue generated by his website funded a new server, which Mayer uses to design and support websites for bands.

"It pays for my tech and toys," says Mayer, who has also dedicated an entire site to his personal beard experiments.

People around the world have been studying Dan Mayer's site. Especially Damon Lawner.

Lawner, a Los Angeles entrepreneur who made his fortune by investing in the popular celebrity hangout Koi -- Entourage has shot in the restaurant on numerous occasions -- and recently opened a second restaurant, Bridge, in L.A., had been thinking about energy drinks for a while. He'd watch Paris Hilton types come into Koi and suck them down, bottle after bottle.

"I started researching all the drinks, what the ingredients are, what makes them work, what differentiates a product," Lawner explains. "And in doing my research, I got inspired. I became totally obsessed with creating the ultimate energy drink. That's how I found Dan."

By Googling "energy drinks."

"I looked at the whole site, and I thought it was just really interesting that this guy was so obsessed with energy drinks," Lawner continues. "It was also interesting that so many people were paying attention to him."

So Lawner contacted Mayer, discovered the kid had a good head on his shoulders, and decided to have him design his own energy drink. "When I invested in Koi, I was investing in a friend of mine who was opening the restaurant," Lawner says. "And everyone thought it was a crazy idea, but I thought, whatever. I had faith in my friend. I had a hunch. And I was investing in a person, not in a restaurant. I have the same feeling that I had then about Dan.

"When I started talking to Dan, I felt like, someone needs to give this guy a chance to create his own thing. Here is a guy who is truly obsessed: He drinks all of the energy drinks, he tastes all of them, he probably knows more about energy drinks than anyone. I thought it would be really neat to give this person a chance."

While he and Mayer try to find a time when Mayer can go to Los Angeles to start creating his baby, Lawner has already begun copyrighting and trademarking names, and lining up chemists to help with flavors and ingredients. He's also come up with his own idea for a new type of drink, for which he plans to solicit Mayer's opinions. But Lawner intends to give Mayer complete control over his own separate energy drink, from taste to name to market niche.

"In creating my own drink, I'm learning a tremendous amount and going through the motions of learning the business," Lawner says. "Dan's probably about a half-step behind me right now, so when he's ready, I've got the people in place. In Dan's world, I'm just someone who invests in him, but he has full creative control. I really believe that he's going to come up with something that is going to be a killer product, and we will both profit from it. It's a $100,000 investment and risk for me, but I've been fortunate and done well enough that I can afford to take that risk."

Lawner's wife is less convinced. She recently asked her husband why, exactly, he was sinking money into some kid from Colorado. When he explained that Mayer's site appears first when you Google "energy drinks," she wasn't impressed.

"Who types in 'energy drinks'?" she asked.

"And I told her, 'Well, imagine typing in "automobile," and the first thing that comes up is this guy's rant about cars,'" Lawner remembers. "It's kind of a big thing. I don't know how it ended up where this guy is in this position, but that he is says a lot about him."

But making a splash with a new energy drink won't be easy. The $1.1 billion industry is saturated with over 500 choices -- Steven Seagal has a drink out called Lightning Bolt -- and last year, 790 million cans were sold in the U.S. alone.

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