Learn how Pebble went from a hopeful Kickstarter project to a multi-million dollar business.
Pebble Time, the newest release from Pebble, just broke all kinds of Kickstarter records. The slimmer and feature-packed smartwatch from Pebble reached its initial goal of $500,00 in only a few minutes, and hit the $1 million mark in exactly 49 minutes. This makes it by far the fastest Kickstarter to reach $1 million.
At the time of writing this, Pebble has raised $11.2 million. Yes, $11.2 million and still 28 days to go. This Kickstarter success story doesn’t come as a surprise considering how well Pebble’s first Kickstarter did three years ago.
Kickstarter is a way for startups to receive funding for their projects. Any project from music to homemade crafts are welcome. Each project is independently created and then anyone can “back” a project by providing funding. If the project gets “kickstarted”, those who backed the project generally receive some kind of discount on the product, depending on how much money they contributed. For example, backers of Pebble Time who pledge $179 or more will receive a Pebble Time watch for $20 cheaper than retail. If you pledge $338 or more, you get two Pebble Time watches, saving you over $60.
Kickstarter provides entrepreneurs with the funding they need without having actual investors. If a project doesn’t reach its goal, no fee is charged. According to kickstarter.com, about 40% of all projects are successfully funded, reassuring those who start their project with no initial funding.
In 2012, Pebble made its debut on Kickstarter. Pebble’s first watch was advertised as “a customizable watch. Download new watchfaces, use sports and fitness apps, get notifications from your phone”. This tagline was enough for 68,929 people to back the project, raising over $10.2 million. Pebble claims to be the first smartwatch on the market, triggering companies like Samsung and Apple to develop their own.
Pebble was an instant success and exceeded critics’ expectations. The Verge complimented the Pebble watch by saying, “…a smartwatch that might strike one of the best balances between functionality and power drain to date”. Forbes said, “Proven track record…Incredibly useful product”.
Thousands of satisfied customers were very pleased with the feature-loaded smartwatch. The Pebble watch links to your smartphone (Android and iOS) and allows you to control your music, track your fitness and even receive email and social media alerts. Thousands of different apps make the Pebble watch very capable. In addition to these features, Pebble also allows users to customize the watchface and other various features.
At the time, Pebble’s first project became the most successful kickstarter ever. Growth continued after the project was backed, with Pebble having shipped over 1 million watches by December 31 2014. Best Buy began selling the Pebble watch in July 2013 and the rest is history.
Now, three years later, Pebble is once again breaking Kickstarter records. This time around, Pebble was sure they would reach their goal of $500,000.
The new Pebble Time features a color screen and a new sleek design. It also features a microphone for responding to notifications with voice. Pebble Time comes in three colors and is capable of much more customization than the original Pebble watch. The millions of dollars already raised comes as no surprise.
However, where do you draw the line with Kickstarter? Pebble is a legitimate competitor with Apple, LG and Samsung, but you would never see any of these companies putting together a Kickstarter to fund their new projects. Some people are arguing that Pebble is far too successful for this kind of campaign. Daniel Cooper of Engadget said, “It’d be like watching Bill Gates, Mark Cuban and Warren Buffet panhandling on the streets of Seattle”.
Pebble has investors and already sits alongside the other Silicon Valley giants. Why are they using Kickstarter again? Well, it is great Marketing. Pebble has accomplished exactly what they wanted to do. They raised $6.5 million in half a day and broke basically every Kickstarter record. The Pebble name is all over the internet and everyone seems to be talking about the new Pebble Time. If that’s not Marketing at its finest, I don’t know what is.
As of now, Kickstarter has not taken a stance on where to draw the line. They did however declare that “Kickstarter is not a store”. As far they’re concerned, they’re receiving as much publicity and PR as Pebble. It will be interesting to see how far Kickstarter will allow already established companies such as Pebble to take advantage of their services.
For now we can just sit back and watch as Pebble Time makes millions and millions of dollars off of Kickstarter’s “free” advertising.