1667 – The Important Lesson from Flexscreen: Innovation Drives Success with Flexscreen’s Joe Altieri

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the President of FlexScreen, Joe Altieri.

Joe highlights that FlexScreen is the market's first and only flexible window screen. Unlike traditional aluminum screens that are difficult to handle and easily damaged, Flex Screen is easy to install and incredibly durable. It can even withstand being run over by a car!

The idea for FlexScreen started as a hobby in Joe's garage about ten to twelve years ago. Being in the window and door industry, Joe saw a need for a better solution and took it upon himself to create it.

Joe discussed how FlexScreen has scaled their business and protected their intellectual property. They purchased a digital marketing company to help spread the word about their product and have changed their business model to rely on licensing their technology to window manufacturers.

This allows them to scale without the pain and capital investment of opening new manufacturing locations. Joe emphasized the importance of having the right attorney to protect their patents and ensure non-compete agreements are in place with licensees.

He acknowledges the concern of cheap knockoffs and mentions the need to protect their intellectual property actively, even if it means going to court. Joe also talked about the importance of educating window manufacturers on how to sell their products as a differentiator in the market.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Description of FlexScreen as a flexible window screen that is easy to install and durable
  • Comparison of FlexScreen to traditional aluminum screens
  • Explanation of why aluminum screens are still used despite their drawbacks
  • Origin of the idea for FlexScreen and its development in Joe's garage
  • Discussion of how FlexScreen has scaled their business and protected their intellectual property
  • Importance of having the right attorney to protect patents and ensure non-compete agreements
  • Need to actively protect intellectual property, even through legal action if necessary
  • Importance of educating window manufacturers on selling FlexScreen as a differentiator
  • Encouragement for entrepreneurs to seek education and support in entrepreneurship

About Joe Altieri:

Joe Altieri's journey began as an independent window industry salesman, where he notably excelled in selling window screens. His ability to persuade manufacturers to outsource screens led to annual sales exceeding three million dollars. Frustrated by the flaws in traditional window screens, Joe took on the challenge of innovating the century-old technology.

His breakthrough came with a flexible frame design using spring steel, solving the issue of fragile aluminum frames. He further improved the product by bonding mesh with PVC for durability.

Joe was invited to present his flexible window screen to the Sharks, and he appeared in Season 11, Episode 10 to a national television audience of 30+ million.

About FlexScreen:

Founded by Inventor & CEO Joe Altieri in 2013, FlexScreen introduced the pioneering concept of the “world's first flexible window screen.” Developed to address long-standing issues with traditional aluminum screens, FlexScreen revolutionized the window industry. After obtaining multiple patents, the product entered the market, initially targeting window manufacturers and dealers.

However, due to industry hesitance, Joe shifted his focus and engaged in direct consumer sales through a strategic digital marketing campaign. The brand's rapid growth and innovative design captured the interest of ABC's Shark Tank, further propelling its recognition.

FlexScreen's unique approach and adaptability represent a significant advancement in window screen technology, marking a transformative milestone in a previously stagnant market.

Tweetable Moments:

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out FlexScreen website at

Check out FlexScreen on LinkedIn at

Check out FlexScreen on Twitter at

Check out FlexScreen on Facebook at

Check out FlexScreen on Instagram at

Check out FlexScreen on TikTok at

Check out Joe Altieri on LinkedIn at

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Speaker 1 (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now. It's the president and founder of FlexScreen. It's Joe Altieri. Joe, thank you so much for joining us. My pleasure. So, so glad to be here. I should point out that when our friend is listening to us goes to FlexScreen, they're going to see you're a Shark Tank brand.

Speaker 1 (00:01:18) - So we are. I'll have you let's let's have you first kind of talk about just generally what FlexScreen is and then I'll have a I'd love to have you talk about maybe the Shark Tank experience, but whenever we get to that. Sure. Yeah. So FlexScreen is the first and only flexible window screen. So as crazy as it sounds, yes, we are. Our window screens flex. So, you know, typical window screens are made out of painted aluminum, which. Yeah, they're horrible. They're terrible. You know, they're hard to get in and out. They damage really easy. Our screens are the opposite of that. So very easy to get in and out. You can run them over with your car. Put them right back in your window. So kind of a cool product. I hope that everybody logs on, at least checks it out online. We have a lot of cool, fun stuff. We throw them off of buildings and throw stuff at them and and have a lot of fun trying to destroy our screens.

Speaker 1 (00:02:11) - The good news is we haven't been able to so but but yeah, so we that's that's what our product is. So where did the idea I mean the I mean. Okay let me ask it this way. Why are we still doing the dumb aluminum screens, which are a pain in the butt and like, you know, and then a lot of times, like you have to like if you as a consumer, we're going to talk about the B2B component here in a moment. But, you know, the generally like the problem is like if you have a screen that goes bad, then you have to go to the store and then you have to custom make it yourself. Um, you know, which we and it's a hassle. It's a nightmare to do. So why are we still using aluminum frames? What's the advantage? There really is no advantage other than we've been doing it for 100 years. That's really what what that's really what's happening right now. You know, metal window screens with a rubber spline, which is probably what you have on your house today.

Speaker 1 (00:03:07) - They were invented in 1907, so well over 100 year old technology. And it's just been around forever. And there hasn't been an alternative up until up until FlexScreen. So yeah, and you know, we're growing very, very quickly. So we're hoping over the next couple of years, those those go by the wayside. But but for right now, if and from our side, if somebody wants to replace those ugly screens, we actually make them all custom size. So you actually go on, you measure and then they they get delivered to your house. So a lot different than going down to the hardware store trying to have one made. Then you take it back and it doesn't fit or whatever the case may be or it doesn't match. You know, it's a different color, you know, all that, that fun stuff. So but they are they are a pain in the butt. They really are. Yeah. So you have this So so you had the idea and then obviously you got to like, okay, well, how do I get this thing made? Yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:04:04) - And so this was a hobby in my garage, you know, about ten, 12 years ago, I cleared out a little spot in my garage, you know, told my wife that her SUV, SUV would be parked in the driveway for just a week or two. Two years later, I came out with this this prototype, and I happened to be in the window and door industry. And so I you know, that's one of the lucky things. I didn't invent something that was in the auto industry where I didn't have any contacts, you know, things like that. But I showed it off to to some people in our industry and they want crazy for it. And so, you know, we went from prototype to our first unit being made in a little over a year, which is crazy fast, um, for especially for a, you know, really an independent. I had some, some investors but, but you know, there weren't a lot of people helping to get this developed so but but yeah, so we started manufacturing about eight years ago in our Pittsburgh location.

Speaker 1 (00:05:02) - Now there's seven FlexScreen manufacturing plants across North America. Wow. Yeah, that's great. And how did you so again, talk about the I mentioned this earlier. So when you again, when our friend goes to a FlexScreen, they'll see they'll see some clips of you in Shark Tank. How did the Shark Tank thing come about So. From the man about a year and a half in. What we realized was that, you know, the old technology had been around for so long. We were battling, you know, trying to get people to understand what a flexible window screen was. And we needed to get to that to the end users. And we didn't have millions of dollars for a Super Bowl ad, So we started really going heavy in social media and started doing like the fun clips and and, you know, just some crazy stuff. And Shark Tank actually found us. We didn't know apply on the show. Oh, my gosh. It's kind of a cool thing. They only do this for for 2 or 3 companies a year where they actually reach out and say, we saw what you're doing, we saw your product and we'd like you to be on the show.

Speaker 1 (00:06:09) - And so we thought it was a joke, you know, thought it was one of my buddies giving me a hard time, you know, that, you know, we got a voicemail and an email from somebody that says that they were, you know, from Shark Tank. And and one of the things you hear as an inventor all the time is you should go on Shark Tank, you should go on Shark Tank. And so, like I said, I thought that this was I thought it was a joke. And then we got a follow up phone call the next day and it came up Sony Pictures on the caller ID and was like, oh, well, either somebody's going really far for this joke or or this is real. And so, yeah, they, you know, from the first time they contacted us six weeks later, I was filming in LA. So. Crazy. Crazy, Yes. And how did how did what ended up happening? So we got to deal with Lori Greiner.

Speaker 1 (00:06:56) - So we actually had a couple of the sharks fight over us. Barbara Always a good situation. Always a good situation, yeah. So Barbara dropped the F-bomb when I chose Lori, which is really cool because it ended up being one of the, the biggest clips of the whole season, you know, on YouTube and stuff like that. Because, you know, of course they had to bleep it out and but they couldn't they couldn't like eliminate it because of where it was in the segment, you know. And so it was really a cool, cool experience. But yeah, we had Mr. Wonderful Barbara and and Lori all battling for for us, which is which is surreal. Even thinking back now, it's still humbling and and totally surreal that that we that that happened. Yeah so so tell me about a little bit more about your organization now and like what it takes and distribution sounds like you're do you obviously you sell at the website are you in the retailers. Yeah So we're in Home Depot and we're working on, you know, the other big box companies.

Speaker 1 (00:07:57) - Most of our business, Lowe's get on it. Yep, Lowe's, you know, Menards, you know, we're we're working on Walmart and Amazon as well. So we'll you know, we we started with Home Depot. We were kind of friends with Home Depot and so, you know, gave them a little head start. But but yeah, we're branching out into the other ones here as well. But most of our business is selling B2B, so we sell to window manufacturers. So every window that gets sold in the US has a window screen on it. And so we that's most of our most of our business and that's also why we have such a large manufacturing presence. We're a just in time supplier. So a window manufacturer sends us orders on Monday. Some in some cases they need those orders on Tuesday for the windows that they're producing on Wednesday. So we have to be geographically close to to our to our customers. Wow. Wow. Yeah. So I guess at this point then, when you are looking, is it obviously, you know, you're reaching out to the manufacturers, like how do you build those relationships? How do you deepen those relationships and how do you move them toward a deal? Like what are you observing? So, you know, for us, a lot of it is, you know, creating the value with our product, right? And that's what that's been the that's been the the task for the last several years.

Speaker 1 (00:09:20) - Right. Is is going out and and trying to get the homeowners to want our product which then ends up with pull through demand and of course Shark tank helps all those types of things like we have we have window manufacturers that contact us now. They're like, you guys are the Shark Tank Company, the Shark Tank screen, right? Our customers want you know, our homeowners want that screen. So that's that was the biggest challenge through the years, especially with the mature market. You know, the window and door industry is not quick to move. They're not quick to change. And, you know, again, you have 100 year old technology that has been embedded in the culture of our industry. And so we've had to really uproot that. And so we did everything different. I don't know how else to say it, but our industry is very suit and tie, um, t shirt and jeans, right? The baseball cap, all this like we went and t we did absolutely everything different. We're sitting in a studio in our office, which is one of the largest spaces in our office so that we can do things like this because our industry isn't doing things like this.

Speaker 1 (00:10:21) - We purchased a digital marketing company to try to get our word out. So again, these types of things. Um. We had to go. We couldn't do it the same way that everybody else was doing it. We had to go. We had to go different. And it's proven to to work. Well, we're even changing our business model, you know, very recently, and I'm sure that your your listeners will appreciate this. You know, we we've been relying on our manufacturing presence, which is very painful to grow, right? So you have to open up a it costs us millions of dollars to open up a new manufacturing location, hire the right people, all of those types of things scaling we can grow. But true scaling is difficult and painful. We worked with a an equipment manufacturer who has developed a fully automated line to make FlexScreens, and they they launched it earlier this year. We have our first one is in our location here in our Pittsburgh manufacturing location. And through that we've actually started licensing our technology to window manufacturers.

Speaker 1 (00:11:27) - So now we can scale. We can scale without the pain and the capital investment that that we're having. Our customers make that capital investment for us. And then we're just getting mailbox money. That's that's huge. It's a true game changer for us to to the point where we're making millions of screens a year. By this time next year, the licensees that have the window manufacturers that have already signed up will be making more window screens than we are today. It's huge. It's a huge change. Well, and so I was going to ask you about was something like this. Obviously my brain goes to intellectual property and like how you protect it, how you license it. Um, what is that world like? Um, it is. So first of all, we have, I think we're up to 13 patents now and we, you know, we spend a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on our attorneys. And so, you know, both, you know, domestic as well as worldwide.

Speaker 1 (00:12:28) - You know, we've actually signed up a company in Europe. So we're going to be, you know, coming in to to Europe here soon. But the licensing side of it is, again, first of all, you have to have the right attorney so that they can give you good advice. You can't just download something off of Google and say, hey, there's a licensing agreement and that's what I'm going to use. You have to you have to be really careful about protecting yourself. But, you know, with that within our agreements, you know, we have things like non-compete, you know what I mean? So that they can go out and, you know, yes, we have patents, but we also don't want somebody, you know, that we're signing up and given the keys to the kingdom, showing them how to to use our product. We don't want to we don't want them to go out and say, oh, here's a way around the patent. But so I'm going to sneak around it this way.

Speaker 1 (00:13:12) - Nope, you can't compete with us. You know, if you sign up to be a licensee, you can't compete with our product. Um, so, so again, things, things like that. Yeah. And then, you know, obviously there's then the concern of the, you know, the cheap knockoffs that are made, you know, and, you know, someplace else. And then, you know, again, kind of sold marketplaces. Like do you have to watch Amazon or like, how do you watch for Well, I guess that's your IP attorney's job, right? Yeah. I mean, really, what what we have learned is don't get any don't make the investment in IP unless you're willing to make the investment and fighting for it as well. It's just that simple, you know? And so so we have a we have a war chest that that, you know, we have kind of set aside for future IP protection. Like I don't know how else to put it. Like it's, you know, we say, hey, if somebody rips us off, we're going to war and and we're going to make sure that we do absolutely everything possible because we've seen it, you know, through Shark Tank.

Speaker 1 (00:14:10) - We have a lot of people that reach out to us, a lot of inventors, a lot of business people, things like that. And they're like, Hey, we have a patent. But this person is, you know, this person's violating it. Like, sue them. You have no choice. You have to like, you don't you can't be nice, you know, Sure, you can send some cease and desist. You have to sue them. Well, that's going to be really expensive. Well, then I don't know why you spend $30,000 on a patent if you're not going to protect it. Like and I'm not I'm not saying that to be mean, you know what I mean? But that's just what it is like. That's your assets, the law. Yes. That's why we have intellectual property law laws on the book. Yeah. And there's just there's no shortcuts around something like that. You have to you have to go through and you have to do what the what the law says to do.

Speaker 1 (00:14:52) - And, you know, hopefully you prevail at the end of this. But but we've all we all know that there's cases out there where big companies are just they just say, you know what, fine, sue us. We'll outspend you. And and that's that's, you know, it's dangerous for small companies, you know, like we are. And I do think that there needs to be some reform. And I'm not I'm not an advocate or and that's not who I am. I'm not an activist, rather. But there are there are, you know, organizations out there that will help small companies. And they're also advocating for for change. In some of the patent laws. Because because it is a thing. I mean, you could spend millions and millions of dollars as a small company and, you know, not see an end in sight trying to defend your patent. And so but you have to do it. You just have to. There likely is a pretty great opportunity for leaders within the window.

Speaker 1 (00:15:48) - The door and window industry and so on your website, you know what I like about it. Again, you can go to Obviously it's consumer facing. But you know, to our friends who are in the industry here. There's a couple links you're probably going to want to pay attention to. Do you mind maybe talking about that path or, you know, for someone that's wants that competitive advantage and what a differentiator. You know, it's like, you know, if you know is a consumer when I see a product and it's bundled with this, I'm like, well, that's far superior and what a differentiator. You know, if you're in that space to kind of get ahead of all the other door in manufacturing or, you know, all the other door and window manufacturers, you know, you're going to make them look like old timey. Yeah, and that's exactly it. We you know, one of the things that we realized early on is that we had to give those those companies that want to be the ones that that used our product as a differentiator.

Speaker 1 (00:16:50) - We had to give them the ammunition, right? We had to we had to educate them on how to sell our product. And I see that a lot of times with with companies where they are, it is an ingenious product. It is something different. It is something that I would want if I was a homeowner. But somebody has to educate me and and that has to be the person who's trying to sell me the bigger product. You know, in our in our instance, it's a window, right? So the people that are selling the windows need to understand my product well enough that they can educate the homeowner who's ultimately making that buying decision. And so so we do that. You know, we we've we have done absolutely everything possible. Hey, here's all of the features and benefits we've we have videotaped. Um, because a lot of windows are sold in the home. Right? So somebody comes, knocks on the door, Hey, I'd like to sell you windows and they, you know, you invite them in.

Speaker 1 (00:17:42) - And so I did a whole video pitch on how to sell our screen, you know, 20 minutes. Now, again, window manufacturers, you know, window people aren't going to spend 20 minutes talking about a screen. But I did it as if I'm talking to the homeowner so that these sales guys can take little bits and pieces of that and and use it in their sales pitch to help them differentiate because we are still a relatively new product in our industry. You know, a lot of the really, really large window manufacturers don't don't carry our products. So it is a great way of differentiating, um, for the companies that, that want to use it in that way to to your point, it's people. People are buying white rectangles. That's what people buy in the United States when they buy windows, they buy white rectangles. How do you make your white rectangle stand out from somebody else's white rectangle? Well, FlexScreen is a great way of doing that. Um, but I have to I have to help them understand how that does help them to, to differentiate.

Speaker 1 (00:18:40) - Now, hopefully, you know, in the coming years that switch happens where now it's like, oh, everybody has to have this because everybody has it. You know, that's, that's what we're we're moving towards is, you know, as the snowball gets bigger then, you know, now it isn't a differentiator. Now it's we have to have just to keep up with, you know, our competition. Awesome. All right. Your website FlexScreen compose, both consumer website and again, for retailers, manufacturers, partners, get involved because guess what? I just sent this to my wife. I texted it while we were talking and she responded back with, yes, with five S's and two exclamation points because we had a nightmare with her office trying to replace that screen. And I'm like, This sucks. So yeah, this is really great. Well, Joe Altieri, again, the founder president your website one last time, FlexScreen. Anything else that you'd recommend for someone that's listening to this episode in terms of like next steps, what they do? Well, first of all, you know, if anybody does have questions, anything like that, I would love to, you know, answer.

Speaker 1 (00:19:53) - You can reach me through through our website. You know, we're here to help. But yeah, I mean, if you're if you're new to the entrepreneur world, um, man, I love it. I'm a passionate entrepreneur. Go out there, get started, you know, do your thing, listen to all the great podcasts and the great shows like yours, you know, get get educated, but then jump in, you know, join us. All right. Joe Altieri, president and founder of FlexScreen, found on the Web at FlexScreen. Joe, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up My Influence slash guest. If you're a listener, I'd love to shout out your business to our whole audience for free. You can do that by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or join our listener Facebook group. Just search for the thoughtful entrepreneur and Facebook.

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