Quick thoughts on Pebble Time and Kickstarter as a retail channel

Pebble Time continues to break records on Kickstarter, having amassed more than $7.5M in a mere 14 hours. Here's what I twitted yesterday afternoon in Paris (CET) shortly after it cleared $1M in 34 minutes:

It is indeed a porn. It's so hard to take our eyes off as the number ticked by the unit of tens of thousands. Even though everyone had known it'd gonna be a success, this was still the first time a major Kickstarter success returned to the platform. There must have been some cold sweat among the Pebble management team (as well as the Kickstarter people) before the launch. Now that it's validated that second time could be a charm on Kickstarter, we can start to consider the following things:

  • Kickstarter and Indiegogo could become a genuine retail channel, especially for fan-enthusiastic products like Pebble. The quirkiness and passion involved in this purchase behavior could not be underestimated. Whether this will apply to a larger group of successful product companies that started their lives on Kickstarter remains to be seen, but as a validation, the success of Pebble Time is a big encouragement for all hardware startups.
  • Pebble Time will ship in May. Unlike most of the KS projects, it probably won't delay. Backers are probably thinking about the same thing. If this is true, it means that there's a group of customers that are willing to pay in advance and wait for 2~3 months to get an exciting hardware product. If this hippie consumption behavior establishes itself on a more consistent basis, it means that truly exciting hardware startups now have a chance to enjoy multiple rounds of working capital sponsorship from their customers. In other words, they can delay moving into the much-feared retail games with Best Buy or Amazon as much as they could. Avoiding completely traditional and eCommerce channels also seems to be possible given Xiaomi's success in selling everything itself, on-line. This is one big opportunity that all hardware startups should think about or even plan around
  • The PR effect of a 2nd KS launch seems to be still valid. According to TechCrunch, Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky said that part of the reason they went back to KS was as a “stunt”. It's a rather smart move right before the shipping of Apple Watch. And given that most mainstream electronic products spend a rather high percentage of their retail price in marketing, I don't see why one shouldn't consider this new way of marketing. Obviously if all hardware startups try to do the 2nd or even the 3rd launches in Kickstarter, the effect might be diluted. Still, it's an interesting possibility.

Right now there's little doubt that Pebble Time will break the $13M record set by COOLEST COOLER last year. The only suspense left is obviously: how much will it eventually raise — or more correctly, sell?

I believe the Kickstarter team couldn't hide their smile now.


Blockchain + smart objects

How will this bubble end?