James Monsees

The inventor of the most successful e-cigarette has upended the traditional smoking industry and is now a $38 billion unicorn


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The impact of new tech entrants to old-school industries with high power (in the form of lobby groups and mega corporations) shows the potential of industry disruptors in shifting the balance of power between masters and servants. As evidence, JUUL is valued now at a staggering $38 billion, as it advances in its mission to improve the lives of the billion adult smokers across the world by offering an alternative to the combustible cigarette.

James Monsees founded JUUL  Labs, with Adam Bowen, when they applied their product design backgrounds to the challenge of developing a better alternative for smokers. They’d been smokers themselves for many years, but were increasingly dissatisfied with the health and social challenges of cigarettes.

Through their collaboration, James and Adam recognised a groundbreaking opportunity to apply their scientific thinking and product design expertise to take on and disrupt the tobacco industry, a sector which had not materially evolved in over a hundred years. Since its launch in 2015 into the US, JUUL has grown to now represent around three quarters of the US market share.


Monsees created the JUUL device with the goal of making traditional smoking obsolete. Smokers are converting to vaping at a staggering rate: Juul Labs now controls almost half of the e-cigarette market, with almost 800 percent growth in 2017. Bloomberg has predicted that by 2047 there will be more sales of vaping devices and its components than sales by the traditional tobacco industry. Even British American Tobacco (BAT) estimated the global tobacco market to be worth approximately US$760 billion and according to JUUL, there are one billion smokers in the world. If JUUL’s popularity among smokers continues to rise, it will become a threat for the traditional smoking industry who have held a powerful position in industry and politics for over a hundred years.


the story behind JUUL

From Juul

James Monsees and Adam Bowen co-founded JUUL when they applied their background in product design to the challenge of finding a better alternative to smoking. They’d been smokers for many years, but they were increasingly dissatisfied with the health and social impacts of cigarettes. When they could find no attractive alternative to cigarettes, James and Adam recognized a groundbreaking opportunity to apply industrial design to the smoking industry, which had not materially evolved in over one hundred years. As smokers, they knew a viable alternative to cigarettes would have to offer a nicotine level found in no other alternative on the market. It would also have to invite its own ritual. The result was JUUL. What started as a design challenge has since become a mission to positively impact the lives of adult smokers around the globe. JUUL Labs is a thriving team of scientists, engineers, designers, supply chain experts, customer service and business professionals who believe that design, technology, and out-of-the-box thinking are the keys to creating the most satisfying alternatives to cigarettes.


James Monsees is cofounder and chief product officer of PAX Labs, Inc., a leading vaporization technology company in San Francisco that’s reinventing the smoking experience with its innovative, premium vaporizers, PAX and JUUL.

Monsees has over a decade of experience developing consumer products. He was a founding fellow at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, has served as a product designer for Metaphase Design Group, and as a product design consultant he developed outdoor sports equipment for K2 Sports, as well as developing fuel cells technologies and portable power generation equipment, among others.

Monsees has a master’s degree in product design from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree in physics and studio art from Kenyon College.