A couple of months ago my watch died. I didn’t mourn, I had come to hate it. Basically, it was purchased in the pre-iPhone era and for years I lamented that no technological change had come to the watch. It was a pain to change the time and all the other functions were clunky. I could imagine wanting more on my wrist but there was nothing available. To be sure, the iPod Nano came out in possible watch form but the thought of charging it each day and also having to hit a button to see the time was not appealing. I searched for other options but the trade off between power, working only with Android and cost was all too much.
Last week, a new contender, Pebble, appeared on, of all places, Kickstarter. It was an eInk based watch (resolving the power issue) and it linked to many phones including iPhones. Thus, you never had to worry about changing the time. And, on top of that, it was going to have apps. I must admit I was willing to pay a lot for this thing but when I saw that the introductory price was just $115 I did something I had always wanted to do, I funded them on Kickstarter. And I was ahead of the game. The makers had asked for $100,000 to get going but at the time I bought in, they were at $300,000. A week later, they have now passed $4.3m and by the end of my writing of this post they will have passed $4.4m. In other words, they are making as much as they wanted to every 10-15 minutes. What this tells me is that I wasn’t alone in my longing for an advance in watches.
Now I have gone without a watch for a couple of months and have only missed it a bit. But I’ll have to wait until September for my ‘reward’ from backing this venture. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was longer but I always wanted an excuse to see what happened to one of these Kickstarter projects from the inside.
Of course, while Kickstarter talks about funding, what it really represents in this case is an advance purchase commitment. People agreed to pre-order their watches and if enough agreed to do so, the project would go ahead. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to pay. Well, almost. Something could go wrong and we might not see a watch or, with a higher probability, the watch we receive may be flawed in some manner. Then again, the Pebble folks have proven a market exists where others (including many VCs) did not so they have every incentive to do well. 30,000 odd people have dived into this. I don’t know how big the world watch market is but my guess is that this might make them a big player.