I gather it’s the most successful crowdfunding project Kickstarter has hosted yet. The Pebble team asked for $100,000 to realize their e-paper/ smartwatch project and have raised over $3M while they still have 30 days left in their campaign. In the kind of twist that makes one smirk, they posted the project on Kickstarter as they were unable to raise sufficient funds in Silicon Valley. From the April 16, 2012 Q&A with Alexandra Chung at Wired,
Wired: Are you surprised by the reception to Pebble? What were you hoping for when you launched on Kickstarter?
Migicovsky [Eric Migicovsky, Pebble founder and lead designer]: We were expecting $100,000 over a month, so when it came in two hours, it was a surprise. On Thursday, we were earning $80,000 an hour. By Sunday morning, we passed the Wasteland 2, which was the second most popular Kickstarter after Double Fine Adventures.
Wired: Has the influx of funding affected your production plans? Are you changing your strategy at all?
Migicovsky: We’re basically leveling up. We had a variety of paths we could have followed. We were originally aiming for $100,000, so we had a production path that we could have followed to meet that $100,000. Now we’re following a path that is several levels higher than that.
Right now, we don’t have any specifics for where the product is being made. There are various levels of contract manufacturers, and we’re going to use a contract manufacturer. We’re moving to a one-stop shop, so we come with X amount of orders.
On the one hand, six months is not very long to bring a product to market. But we have this huge backer community that will help us get there. They are providing the funding that’s helping us make quality decisions, like spending money now on making a more aesthetically pleasing product. We’re making those decisions now.
We had a design plan with several different levels. It’s not like we are drastically altering the design. We just had “gotta haves,” like 7-day battery life, and then the “nice to haves” like more water-resistance, which are the features we’re moving into now.
Here’s a description of the pr0ject and the product from the April 17, 2012 news item on the BBC News website,
The Pebble watch reached the $1m mark in 28 hours. The firm behind the device, which has been designing smartwatches for three years, said that it was “blown away” by the support.
The watch has an electronic paper screen and connects via Bluetooth with iPhones or Android powered devices to allow users to customise the watch face and download apps.
The display stays on at all times and is backlit for night viewing. The firm says that the rechargeable battery will last a week.
It can display distance and speed for runners and cyclists, control a smartphone’s music, and show emails, messages and reminders.
The watch will go head to head with an Android-compatible device released in April by electronic giant Sony Corp. The Sony Smartwatch costs $149.99.
This video should answer a few more questions about the watch,
Migicovsky is Canadian. Originally from Vancouver, he graduated from the University of Waterloo and made his way to California. From the April 17, 2012 article by Chuck Howitt for the Record.com,
The Pebble smartwatch is a “natural evolution” of the inPulse smartwatch that Migicovsky started working on while a student at UW [University of Waterloo] in 2008.
Released in 2009, the inPulse connected wirelessly with BlackBerry smartphones to indicate when the user had an email, message or call.
Sold through a company he called Allerta Inc., sales of the inPulse have been rather modest, about 1,500 to date, admits Migicovsky.
So the 26-year-old Vancouver native set his sights on the booming iPhone and Android markets.
To crack the California market and raise funds at the same time, he applied for admission to Y Combinator, a technology incubator based in Silicon Valley, in early 2011.
Successful applicants are guaranteed about $20,000 on admission plus more funding at the end of an intense three-month internship. Migicovsky was able to raise about $375,000 by the time he left Y Combinator, which he used to start working on the Pebble.
When he hit the venture capital market, he got a lukewarm response for the Pebble.
Most venture capitalists “have an aversion to hardware,” he said. “The general feeling is it costs more money. There is a little bit more risk.”
You can find out more about Pebble at the company website and, if you were wondering what SDK (as mentioned in the video) means, it’s Software Development Kit.
I recently wrote about e-paper in my April 3, 2012 posting titled,
Folding screens at University of Toronto and EPD (electronic paper display) with LG.