Tonight, the largest Kickstarter campaign in history will close and be funded, to the tune of over $10 million. The Pebble smartwatch actually sold out over a week ago – donators have pre-ordered 85,000 watches – but you can still contribute some money just to show support.
Pebble became the highest-funded project on Kickstarter 6 days after it launched, zipping past the video game project Double Fine Adventure, which raised over $3.3 million.
Pebble features a high-resolution e-paper display (like the Kindle) and connects to your Android or iPhone so you can check who’s calling, see text messages (Android only), and get email or Facebook notifications. You can also track your run and control apps like iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Google Music – plus, the startup is releasing a free SDK for app developers to integrate more apps with Pebble.
So why did Pebble make Kickstarter history, when similar smartwatches – and tons of other Kickstarter projects – are still unknown?
Network. Founded by Eric Migicovsky, Pebble grew out of the inPulse smartwatch, which went through elite tech accelerator Y Combinator (inPulse, which connects to Blackberry, only lets you use one app at a time). That means that Migicovsky and his team – Chris Lalansingh, Andrew Witte, Rahul Bhagat, and Adam Thagard – already had a host of contacts among mentors, investors, and especially media who had covered inPulse.
Customization. Even if you don’t like Pebble’s current features, you can create your own app for it – or wait for someone else to. In fact, Pebble’s Kickstarter page has over 5,000 comments with tons of feature requests and suggestions. Obviously, people are excited about the possibilities that the Pebble platform opens up.
“We wanted to make sure that we conveyed our value proposition very well, so we focused on the customization angle,” Migicovsky told TechCrunch about the Kickstarter page.
Backer options. For many Kickstarter projects, the backer options just offer different gifts for different donation amounts – say, a signed copy of the DVD or a pre-release screening. But Pebble’s backer options cater to different personalities: for example, there’s the $235+ Hacker Special – with early access to the SDK, a prototype, and a full watch – and the Custom Watchface – for a steep $1,250, Pebble will create a watchface design just for you, whether you like digital or analog, classic or funky. Some options also earn you a vote on the Voter’s Choice color, which will join the enticingly named arctic white, cherry red, and jet black versions.
Will Pebble live up to all the hype? Even if it doesn’t, it’s one fine-looking watch – and it will adorn 85,000 wrists come September.