Meet the Winners

Check out the winners from the 2019 Newport International Boat Show’s Newport for New Products innovation awards.

Newport International Boat Show
The Newport for New Products competition was held at the Newport International Boat Show in September.Courtesy Newport International Boat Show

Melanie Cole and Vicky Derouchey were looking for their second act. At ages 50 and 60, respectively, they’d had careers ranging from teaching to social work to software sales. They were tired of working for other people, and they were annoyed that they couldn’t find a decent dry bag for their smartphones while out boating on Minnesota’s Prior Lake.

dry bag by ugo
This dry bag by ugo comes in phone, tablet and tablet XL sizes. It allows use of a device while remaining sealed.Courtesy Newport International Boat Show

“You know how you keep a notepad by your bed so you’re open to ideas from the universe?” Cole recalls. “Well, true story: I was awakened at 4 in the morning. I wrote this whole idea down. By 6 in the morning, I had the website registered with the ugo name.”

The idea was for a smartphone case built to be waterproof, to float and to allow use of the phone’s features right through the bag. The women worked with a German company to get a smaller version of zippers used for scuba drysuits, and they had the bags built with welded seams. In July 2015, they launched their phone case on Kickstarter.

handheld GPSMap 86sci
The handheld GPSMap 86sci ($649) has inReach satellite communications, GPS-based location tracking, and the ability to stream boat data from compatible plotters. And if you drop it in the drink, it floats.Courtesy Newport International Boat Show

“Something we are really, really proud of is that we have had zero phone fails in 3 1/2 years of selling these products,” Cole says today. “There are thousands of them out there now. One superyacht owner has 10 of them on his yacht. You will not find a negative review. Not one phone has failed.”

This past September, the company expanded into two sizes ($159 to $179) of ugo cases for tablets and won a best-new-product award at the Newport International Boat Show. The name ugo was right there on the winners list alongside major manufacturers such as Garmin, whose GPSMap 86sci earned the electronics product award, and Helly Hansen, whose HP racing midlayer jacket took top honors in the weather-gear category.

The HP racing midlayer jacket ($225) is waterproof, windproof and lightweight. It has a fleece collar and hand-warming pockets for cooler days at sea, and has a quick-dry lining in case it gets wet.Courtesy Newport International Boat Show

The Ugo tablet cases, like the smartphone case, allow use of the device without opening the bag. That includes voice commands and bluetooth—pretty much everything but the camera. As Cole says: “Go ahead and watch your football game right through it in the water. Every app works. All of it.”

The company is now offering custom graphics for companies or yacht owners who want the cases with branded styling. Orders can be small enough for a mega-yacht crew or large enough for a yacht-management firm.

And the Phone 2.0 smartphone case ($129) is now available too, with wireless charging right through the bag.