Congratulations on your successful seed round! Give us a quick recap: What happened in the last 6 months of Bellabeat?
Urska Srsen: At Pioneers Festival we made the amazing connection to Y Combinator. The Bellabeat team joined the YC Winter ’14 batch and we re-launched our product for the US market. We managed to prove the need for our product and built relationships with some of the biggest retailers in Europe and the States. In March we graduated from Y Combinator and received a lot of attention from the press and investors. Since then we have managed to successfully raise a seed round from some of the most notable angel investors in Silicon Valley.
What was the biggest challenge you faced going to the US?
Urska Srsen: The obvious key challenge for us as a European startup was to prove ourselves in a foreign market and environment. Build a brand people can trust and want to work with. We worked hard to gain the trust of our new customers and business partners in the US. We learned that the most important thing is to build a brand people can trust and want to work with.
What did you specifically do to build your brand?
Urska Srsen: Our core focus was on community engagement! Design and visuals were also a crucial part – we put a lot of focus on designing our branding and building that visual context for our products.
What did you learn from your community?
Urska Srsen: The most helpful thing about that was to really get to know our customers – to figure out their needs and wishes. We adopted them and are integrating the solutions into our product.
Do you have a community manager for that role?
Urska Srsen: While in the States we were working alone on that – keeping it lean [smiles]. But we just hired 2 community managers who will continue our work. Communication with our customers is essential for our brand that is why we invested immediately in growing that part of our company.
So it’s about gaining brand awareness and also feedback in terms of customer needs.
Urska Srsen: Yes that’s right, awareness is important – we managed to gain a lot of it. Many care providers have already contacted us because their patients were asking about Bellabeat. Things like that show us what are the really important things to focus on. That is why we decided to open up our API to them and started working with them. We enable these care providers to have better communication with their patients and give them a more detailed insight into their health.
Raising awareness also makes more people talk to us about their problems or needs that need to be fixed or taken care of in the contemporary prenatal care. Things like that show us what are the really important things to focus on immediately and how to solve them.
How is the US market different to the European one – is one more suitable for your brand than the other?
Urska Srsen: The quantified-self movement is still a lot stronger in the US market and people are more prone to using digital solutions that help them stay fit and teach them about preventive care.
The US health care system is already adopting technology as the "helping hand". Also the health care system in the US is already adopting technology as the "helping hand" in offering better and cheaper care. Bellabeat fits somewhere in between the quantified-self market and the prenatal care market. It is a system that offers moms an emotional connection with their unborn baby, but it also teaches them about and encourages them to lead a healthier pregnancy.
What are the next steps? What is the $4.5 million in funding dedicated to?
Urska Srsen: The investment we raised will enable us to further build our company and brand. We are building a new generation of the Bellabeat product and starting to monetize our services for prenatal care providers. Our team has grown substantially in the last 2 months and we plan to hire more people who can help us with building great products for prenatal care.
What can other founders learn from your experience?
Urska Srsen: As Garry Tan once said “stay humble and stay focused”.