Today, smartwatches have become extremely common, with all major tech brands jumping on the bandwagon to help maximize their respective technological ecosystems. A few years back, however, a small startup based out of California called Pebble Time Corp essentially invented the concept when CEO and founder, Eric Migicovsky, then a student at the University of Waterloo, wanted to know who was trying to contact him during his daily bike ride to class. At this juncture, the idea for a smartwatch was born, as Migicovsky started to brainstorm ways in which his BlackBerry could somehow update him on-the-go. The idea he came up with was a watch that would be synced to his phone, and so, would be able to deliver updates in real time when someone was trying to reach him. Initially, this entailed calls and texts, but the potential for growth by integrating various apps was not lost on Migicovsky.
To meet this goal, he founded Pebble Time Corp and launched a campaign on Kickstarter. To date, Pebble Time is responsible for three of the top ten Kickstarter campaigns, and decided to seek out crowdfunding over three different spurts. The first wave, aimed at getting the company up and running, managed to raise a little over $10 million in 2012. This let Pebble Time start manufacturing smart watches out of their plant in Taiwan and further drove demand as well as hype for their products. The demand for smartwatches on other platforms, such as Android and iOS, also grew exponentially, culminating in a second Kickstarter campaign in 2015. The second campaign managed to generate over $14 million in investment, as Pebble Time promised numerous upgrades over their previous generation, including an in-built microphone that let users send and/or reply to texts through their smartwatch, a much stronger battery that powered the device for up to a week and much more. In 2016, Pebble Time followed this success up with another campaign, as they attempted to integrate a variety of third party apps and services. This included music streaming platforms, GPS navigation and heart-rate trackers.
Crowdfunders, on the other hand, could contribute in three tiers – $69 got them a clip-on tracker, $99 got them one smartwatch and $159 meant two watches with all bonus features included. In total, Pebble Time managed to generate over $20 million in investment, even though they only started out with a goal of $500,000, speaking volumes about the success they enjoyed as well as the market niche they were able to identify. With over 75,000 crowdfunders, Pebble Time needed only 32 days (cumulatively!) to generate this amount, making them one of the most successful crowdfunded services to date.
A few months after their third campaign, Migicovsky realized that there was an inherent need to scale up operations and so, abandoned the crowdfunding model. Instead, he decided to sell the company to Fitbit. Fitbit paid over $23 million for access to Pebble Time’s intellectual properties and watchmaking processes, giving them overarching control over Pebble Time. In total, Pebble Time shipped over two million units, making them one of the most successful crowdfunded startups, while their services have assimilated into Fitbit, who offer support for Pebble Time products to this very day.
Build something you really need yourself.
Eric Migicovsky is the Founder of Pebble Technology, the company behind the Pebble smartwatch. Pebble became the second most highly crowd-funded project to date with $10,266,844 pledged by 68,928 people.