Internet of Things

Ask the Experts: Pebble Smartwatch

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Editor’s note: This is the first article in a new SandHill series where we showcase experts’ opinions and insights on hot and important topics in the software world.

Question of the week: Does the fact that Pebble raked in more than $5 million in less than five hours on Feb. 26 for its new smartwatch speak more about Pebble, or smartwatches in general, or Kickstarter’s funding campaigns?

Look out!

-          Jon B. Fisher, co-founder & CEO, CrowdOptic:

Pebble’s immediate $5 million is about the brand and funding platform. But look out for Apple, which spent $2.2 million on its Vogue advertisement in March alone. And look out for smart glasses because wearing a new device will quickly be about doing something better than the mobile phone – like livestreaming.

Pebble rocks!

-          Christopher Lochhead, co-founder and partner at Play Bigger Advisors:

This result speaks to Pebble’s ability to market their category potential. They captured the attention and imagination of investors by demonstrating how their technology could help define a massive new technology category. Savvy move.

Pebble spins up guerilla marketing as it battles big gorillas in the wearables market

-          Chris Kocher, founder and managing director, Grey Heron:

Pebble has done a masterful job in launching their new Pebble Time watch. Although it may appear that they magically sold $5 million in five hours on Kickstarter, don’t be fooled. This was not a “if we build it they will come” approach. There was a lot of planning, strategizing and sweat that led up to this event. In fact, the launch on Kickstarter this week was not as much about fundraising as it was a powerful marketing launch. 

Pebble didn’t need the money for manufacturing. They realized they could create a great deal more buzz wpith a winning Kickstarter campaign than an expensive launch through retail stores. From sneak peeks of the watch face in the media the day before launch, to the CEO tweeting that their campaign temporarily overwhelmed Kickstarter, they excelled at outreach and buzz. They captured a spirit of excitement and momentum that far exceeds a normal marketing launch at a fraction of the cost. 

From a strategic point of view, Pebble is an ant in the wearables jungle. They need to be scrappy to survive with the marauding elephants like Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Jawbone (which is rumored to be getting an investment from Google). They’ve differentiated themselves with their scrappiness, community of thousands of developers, 6000+ apps and a dedicated group of customers who have bought into their brand. 

Pebble has positioned itself well, with great visibility and buzz through major news outlets, additional money in the bank and in excess of 50K high-margin, direct orders from customers who won’t buy other watches in the coming months. The bigger question is whether and how they will navigate the upcoming digital health platform wars as Apple (Healthkit), Google (Google Fit) Samsung (SAMI) and potential new announcements from Fitbit begin to tightly tie all of these devices into systems and services where big data, analytics, and healthcare issues become as important as device capabilities.  While we wait to see this unfold, hats off to the Pebble team and good luck as they battle the relentless onslaught from Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, Xaomi and others. 

Jon Fisher is CEO and co-founder of CrowdOptic and is managing director of Teahupoo LLC: Prior to CrowdOptic, Jon served as CEO of Bharosa (Oracle NASDAQ: ORCL), NetClerk (BidClerk) and AutoReach (AutoNation NYSE: AN). Jon is a recipient of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Award (Emerging Category, 2007). Contact Jon at fisherjonb@crowdoptic.com. More information about Jon is available at Wikipedia. 

Chris Kocher is a founder and managing director of Grey Heron, a high-tech, business strategy consulting and advisory firm. He has advised over 100 emerging-growth companies and specializes in increasing revenues and growing company valuations through innovative product, business and marketing strategies as well as interim exec roles. He has worked across industries and with many unique technologies and platforms. He can be reached at kocher@greyheron.com.

Christopher Lochhead is a veteran CMO turned strategy advisor who is a co-founder and partner at Play Bigger Advisors.

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