Pebble breaks records, Withings just breaks

The hero of the hour: Pebble Time raises $20m funding (photo: PR)

It’s been a record-breaking week for Pebble and a shattering week for Withings. As Pebble raised a staggering $20 million plus to close its round of funding for its next-generation smartwatch Pebble Time, so Withings was dealing with reports of shattered glass domes on its Activité Pop. 

Pebble’s original crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter was the first to top $10m in pledges, back in 2013 – and is still the third-highest raise on Kickstarter.

Pebble Time has broken records by raising $20,338,986 from 78,471 backers – an average of $259 per head – for the color e-paper smartwatch with a seven day battery life. Backers can choose between a marine grade stainless steel version at $299 and a polycarbonate case version for $199.

Crowd-funding is now the only way for start-ups to prove their idea
Not only is Pebble proving that there’s plenty of market opportunities beyond the long-awaited Apple Watch, but also it is underlining what WTW hears from well-connected investors: That crowd funding is now the only way for wearables start-ups to attract venture capital, by proving their idea.

According to our well-heeled sources, investors are now waiting for market forces, ie crowdfunding to validate an idea before they sink money into a project. Interesting to note that smart wristband market leaders Fitbit and Jawbone are both still privately held and backed, with no sign of an IPO.

Pebble has succeeded for a number of reasons. Firstly, its original smartwatch has proven to be a reliable and fun smartwatch, and has gained kudos from users for its ability to load third-party software. Pebble has formed alliances with other wearables firms like Jawbone and Runkeeper, and can run useful apps like Evernote.

The hero of the hour: Pebble Time raises $20m funding (photo: PR)

The hero of the hour: Pebble Time raises $20m funding (photo: PR)

Part of its success is down to the company’s fanatical, Apple-style approach to product quality, as underlined by a thank you note to backers on Kickstarter, which says: “We will be spending the coming months hard at work polishing every last detail of Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel, finishing Pebble timeline, and ramping up the production process.”

Another noteworthy crowd-funding project that’s currently live is from smart wristband-cum-watch maker Neptune, which is asking $599 from backers.

With just over two weeks left to run, Neptune has raised more than $928,000 on Indiegogo for the Suite, described in a Tolkein-ish fashion as “One wearable to rule them all. With one computing hub that’s on your wrist and many other screens simply acting as displays for your hub, Neptune Suite allows you to carry nothing but a wearable and adopt any screen as your own.”

Lately, I’ve been … breaking glass in my room again
Meanwhile early buyers of the Activité Pop smartwatch from VC-funded Withings have reported broken glass domes on their analog-face smartwatches – the latest in a string of setbacks to plague the French company. From what we have observed, the company needs some professional help in addressing its quality control issues.

As we previously documented, Withings has still to fix the sleep tracking software which leaves huge unexplained gaps in sleep logs, although it claims to have identified the bug responsible. At least the company can claim one first, for the discovery of the world’s first electronic bed bug: Let’s call it the Withings Abductius.

No doubt Withings’ corporate investors are frustrated by the broken glass, which seems to be yet another textbook example of rushing a wearable product to market without doing the necessary quality control checks … and this is part of the reason why wearable tech is still to go mainstream.

According to media reports, Withings is yet to offer a product recall – which will prove to be expensive as well as damaging consumer faith in its brand. However, according to CNET is claims to have identified and corrected the problem.

The shattered dome is said to affect only an early batch of Pop watches, sold predominantly in Europe. So far, our Pop is yet to be affected but there are plenty of reports of broken glass out there … it remains to be seen as to whether there will be enough reports to force Withings into a recall.

/WTW

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