Two years prior to the release of Google's Android Wear smart watch OS and the Apple Watch, there was Pebble. Pebble was the world's first smartwatch for iOS and Android. It was the follow up to the previously developed InPulse smartwatch created for Blackberry by the same team that developed Pebble. In April of 2012, Pebble took the tech world by storm. In just 30 days it raised $10,266,845 making it the most funded Kickstarter project ever, up until August 26th when it was dethroned by The Coolest Cooler. Despite losing the #1 spot, Pebble held the #1 position for over 2 years.
The success of Pebble was no doubt ground-breaking. The Kickstarter project launched by founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky built a brand for Pebble's smartwatches and helped to further spread Kickstarter to the masses.
Behind the success of Pebble is a story that's truly inspirational. What many initially may have thought was a mere fluke, was a story of success that was built by hard work, pain-staking attention to detail and a P.R. blitz that rivals the success of some of the world's biggest brands. Eric Migicovsky and the team that built the Pebble blazed trails and launched an entirely new product category into the market long before Google, Apple or Samsung came along.
Icanbesociety.com chronicles the stories of entrepreneur's like Eric Migicovsky, who have turned their passion into a lucrative business by leveraging the power of the Internet. I had the opportunity to interview Eric, where he shared his story and encouraging words of wisdom for aspiring inventors, entrepreneurs and crowd funders.
What were your business goals and objectives for your Kickstarter campaign?
"To give you some background, before launching Pebble there was InPulse, our first watch that was created for Blackberry. We had feedback from 1,500 customers on what improvements they were looking for in the product, which helped us created the Pebble.
While all the improvements for the Pebble watch from InPulse made sense, funding wasn't happening. We went to Kickstarter to try our luck on getting funding from there. I had supported a project before on Kickstarter and realized that we could create a similar campaign to get funding for the new watch, Pebble."
Why did you decide to seek funding on Kickstarter as opposed to seeking funding from investors or other more traditional sources?
"After InPulse, I went to VCs that had previously invested and in a month had pitched Pebble to VCs with no luck. We weren't getting any funding the traditional ways and were running out of the funding we had left over. So with six months left of cash, we created a Kickstarter campaign."
Many crowdfunding campaigns have difficulty gaining traction. Did you do any marketing or promotion to draw more traffic to your campaign?
"We spent about a month and a half working on the Kickstarter campaign - building a prototype, shooting the video, writing the text, taking photos, and designing the Kickstarter page and pledge levels. We looked at all the famous Kickstarter projects, the ones that were most successful, and took cues from their videos. Making a video that had a personal pitch and talked directly to your customers and viewers was really important. We promoted our campaign through media, and involved Engadget as our exclusive launch partner."
Pebble received a ton of media mentions before, during and after the launch of your Kickstarter campaign. What do you attribute this to?
"We had a big effort to reach media, because the real thing that makes a Kickstarter project explode is how you drive traffic to your Kickstarter page. So we looked at every single blogger in the gadget space, and charted how often they wrote about Kickstarter projects. We had a list of 60 to 70 bloggers we approached when the project went live. We also decided to choose an exclusive launch media partner, Engadget, to announce the campaign. We worked with them for two months before we launched on Kickstarter. Their article went live at 7 a.m. on launch day, it drove the traffic and it blew up from there."
What do you feel are some of the most common misconceptions with the crowdfunding process?
"Setting goals needs to be done carefully to make a Kickstarter project successful. Figure out how much your project will cost to design, build and deliver and set your goal there. Our goal was set at $100,000, but if we had set it at $1 million we might not have had the success we saw - people like to back a winner. I think it's better to be conservative than overly-optimistic. The length of the campaign is also important. Kickstarter campaigns can be up to 60 days but closer to 30 days is best. You get a lot of media attention at the launch and then as you reach the end. Keep it short to keep it fresh."
To review the full Q&A interview with Eric, visit: icanbesociety.com/pebblesmartwatch
Michael Price is an entrepreneur and author of What Next? The Millennial's Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World endorsed by Barbara Corcoran of ABC's Shark Tank. An advocate of ideas for radical change, he has received critical acclaim for his lessons in education, career, entrepreneurship and personal finance.