November 8, 2012
It’s not every day a company aims to change the way we all live, but that’s exactly what SmartThings has set out to do. Their goal is to simplify our world, by connecting things we use every day to the web and allowing access and control of them with SmartApps. When I say everyday things, I mean it. For example, the first SmartThings devices will control your door locks, lights, and thermostats. A SmartThing may even notify you when your dog leaves the yard, or your child arrives home.
But those are just the starting points, as they’ve created an open development platform that allows anyone to create apps to connect with SmartThings. This is why their concept has garnered so much attention in such a short amount of time, and allowed them to quickly move into production of the devices and accompanying platform. It’s also what differentiates SmartThings from a handful of other companies that have created similar concepts in the home automation space.
In August, just six months after conceptualizing the idea, SmartThings took to Kickstarter for its launch. Within the 30-day period, they raised $1.2 million from over five thousand backers. James Stolp, cofounder of SmartThings, told me the choice to utilize Kickstarter was as much about building a community as it was about raising funds.
The approach worked on both fronts, but especially in regards to the community. Stolp described that month as a “roller coaster ride,” one in which he and all his cofounders got very little sleep while dealing with the overwhelming amount of feedback, comments, and questions from backers. The idea was already a good one, but now they had legitimate interest and public support to execute on it – things seldom acquired by raising money from a bank or venture capitalist.
Stolp, who is based in Dallas with a team in Minneapolis and DC, attributes the success of the Kickstarter campaign to a few key factors. Word of mouth certainly was the driving force behind the project, but they gave it a considerable jumpstart with a healthy dose of targeted Facebook advertising. Stolp said, “Facebook ads were a big part of the campaign’s success. We saw great traffic from it.” In addition, a few highly influential techies (like Kevin Rose and Robert Scoble) caught wind of the project and gave it a boost with social endorsements.
The next steps for SmartThings, now that they have the capital and community in place, are production and distribution. Manufacturing is being done stateside, and early backers are projected to begin receiving their SmartThings kits near the end of 2012 (within the US) and the first quarter of 2013 (internationally). The company is growing fast, currently hiring developers and engineers for all sides of the business, and is in talks to quickly expand distribution in 2013. If you missed out on backing SmartThings during the Kickstarter campaign, you’re in luck. They’ve announced a pre-order option with a shipping target of Spring 2013. But don’t delay, as there are only ten thousand pre-orders available.
From talking to Stolp, it was evident there is as much excitement and passion for SmartThings internally as there is publicly. As an experienced entrepreneur, Stolp has had several successes in the past but mentioned how SmartThings just feels different.
“This one just feels good,” he said. “You’ll know it when you come across the right idea. It makes all the difference when you truly believe in what you’re creating.”
As an entrepreneur and cofounder of Dallas-based Fancorps, guest author G.I. Sanders has a passion for startups, social media, and digital marketing strategies. He is a music and fitness enthusiast, frequently merging the two with the latest mobile technology. His primary goal for Tech Cocktail is to bring much-needed exposure and attention to the vast number of startups and entrepreneurs in the southern United States, particularly central Texas. Follow him on Twitter @gisanders.
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