Let’s Raise $10M Bucks for a Clunky Prototype that Only Works with Blackberry

By November 5, 2013No Comments

One of the most captivating sessions of Pioneers Festival was Eric Migicovsky’s keynote about wearable computers and smart watches. Eric is the founder of Pebble, the well-known Kickstarter success-story. Pebble is a smart watch and the only open and hackable wearable computing platform.

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Build a working prototype – even if it’s for a Blackberry

Eric shared with us Pebble’s history. How everything started 5 years ago when he was a transfer student at TU Delft who wanted to bike a lot but didn’t want to risk breaking his phone. So he came up with the idea of a smart watch — a watch that could display important notifications from your phone like calls, texts, and email. The first ‘Pebble’ prototype — which back then was called Impulse — worked only with Blackberries. It was big and bulky but helped explain the smart watch concept to customers and investors which demonstrates the importance of a working prototype.


Starting in a dorm room – Joining YC – Thinking broader

Impulse provided basic support for calls, texts, and emails. As every startup close to the startup ethos and mantras it was developed in a garage with the local high school students helping assemble it. Eric, back in 2009, sold hundreds of Impulses only through their website. That’s when they got accepted into Y Combinator and moved to Silicon Valley. Paul Graham was one of the few who made the Pebble team think broader in terms of platform, ecosystem, and apps.


So Eric and his team released an SDK for other developers to write apps for Pebble when in 2011 Apple’s WWDC introduced several new APIs that allowed iPhones to communicate with smart watches. And that’s precisely when the team came up with the Pebble idea and product we know of today.

VC vs. Crowdfunding

The Pebble team pitched to VCs in early 2012 but after 30 days of pitching the feedback wasn’t positive at all. None was interested in Pebble making it hard for them to continue producing it. Hopefully Kickstarter had launched previously so they decided to run a Kickstarter campaign. It was a mind-blowing experience. Kickstarter allowed the Pebble team to have great financial resources and showed a huge product/market fit with a passionate community of soon-to-be Pebble customers.

Pebble is a lesson of continuous work, dedication, and grit. Eric and his team didn’t quit as they encountered the first obstacle, rather they stayed focused towards their vision and the product they really wanted to build.