How Canary Took Flight Into 15 Countries in 15 Months

July 8, 2016

3:00 pm

Being a startup hardware producer isn’t easy when there are dozens of established brands like Apple, LG, or Nest making waves. So when a new solution hits the market, filling a much needed gap, it tends to spread like wildfire. For Canary, a home monitoring and security device, they did just this, all thanks to their initial campaign on Indiegogo. The name, of course, runs similar to the concept of a canary in a coal mine, an early warning detection device.

Initially introduced to the world in 2013, the company was founded by a trio with backgrounds in security, design, and coding. To get a better understanding of why Canary took off and continues to grow, we sat down with cofounder and chief creative officer, Jon Troutman to learn more about their past, present, and future.

From Crowdfunding Champs to Retail Shelves

jon troutmanIf ever there were a case study on how to come out of a crowdfunding campaign the right way, Canary has done it. Initially the company launched through Indiegogo, raising nearly $2 million on a $100,000 goal. Though their projected shipping times were off by several months, scope creep is to be expected. This is especially true for crowdfunding campaigns where projected device counts can rapidly balloon.

Although there are two major players in the crowdfunding well, back in 2013 KickStarter was more filtered and restrictive of outcomes, so the Canary team decided to go with Indiegogo.

“It seemed clear that Indiegogo was going to be more flexible for what we were trying to do. ‘We give you the platform, launch any campaign you want about anything, and structure perks.’ With  Kickstarter it was more curated, with a lot more hoops to jump through,” said Troutman. “We like the flexibility to tell the story in the way we wanted to, and structuring the perks for our backers. It was very simple, but we love both of those and all crowdfunding platforms. They are great tools for getting ideas out there.”

Post-backer shipping, some companies will look at second generation product launches and others graduate to standard practices. With Canary being their first product, they went from zero to a well known brand fast. Within the first month or so, they received press coverage in the form of around 500 articles and had sold 10,000 devices. According to Troutman, they don’t believe a follow-up campaign would result in the same success, but are also in a very different stage as a company.

“After shipping to backers, we quickly connected to retailers – 8000 across the world,” said Troutman. “Fifteen months in, we are in 15 countries now. It’s a very big, fast retail expansion for us, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s a product that has not been available to a lot of people, but have a need and desire for it.”

Past to the Future

Prior to Canary, the co-founders met through General Assembly. At the time, Troutman was their first product designer and helping the company go through a transition from coworking space to education. While building out General Assembly’s community, Troutman met up with Adam Sager, now Canary CEO, on a side project that would later become Canary.

Troutman has a history of developing great design work on ideas that did not initially sound very exciting, such as a theater company. For him, it was about attacking problems that were important but may not sound super sexy from the start. Sager asked Troutman to make something for the average person so that they can have security, and to make it beautiful and intelligent. It resonated with him and he joined in.

“We connected, started talking about startups, making good UX, shared advice on other projects he was working on. Between Adam’s passion for security and mine on design it was a good combo. Then Chris [Rill], he’s the ultimate hacker. He can do anything with software and hardware. He rigged up his own DIY security solution after having his place broken into. They said hey, we have exactly what it takes to make this solution. So Chris built a box with a bunch of sensors in it,” said Troutman.

Initially the trio started to work on Canary during nights and weekends, though at the time General Assembly was supportive of Troutman’s new project. “They were very supportive when I left. We see a lot of that in the startup community too. We celebrates good ideas, and are encouraging of each other.”

Looking towards the future, recently announced HomeKit will play a role. IoT devices continue to put more emphasis on integration with other hardware, and with Canary Plus coming this Fall, the company has big plans to connect many requested pieces. Although details are still to come, Canary suggests the support for HomeKit will be made available to new users.

The Canary Culture

“We are innovating in a way that propels the industry forward, but also adding value to people’s lives right now,” said Troutman.

At Canary, they have a self-described team of tech nerds who love building cool stuff. More than just hacking things together, they are united by a larger purpose. In particular, they want to produce tech that creates a positive impact on the world. Back when the team only had 20 employees, each of them were focused on global impact, and now with more than 100 employees they all rally around the same mission.

“Since launch, we have received dozens and dozens of stories of burglaries that are caught by and resolved by Canary. The team gets excited to hear that customers are being kept safe. It all adds up to keeping people safe, giving people more tools to protect themselves, their home, and their family,” said Troutman.

Stay tuned for our review of the Canary next month. So far the setup process has been incredibly simple and the capture quality is great.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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