An Interview with Eric Migicovsky – Pebble CEO

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0x600Eric Migicovsky is the 27yr old CEO of Pebble Smartwatches, and a Systems Design Engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo. Despite what you may think however, he’s not new to smartwatches. It was in Holland  in 2008 whilst cycling through Delft – where he was studying industrial and mobile product design- that he came up with his idea of a smartphone-connected watch to display notifications and allow control over the smartphone.

Initially using the name of ‘inPulse’, Eric Migicovsky designed a smartwatch that was designed to connect with Blackberry (and later Android) smartphones.  Despite attracting funding and interest from across the industry, inPulse only had a limited production run in December 2011.  The name was changed to the now well known Pebble branding, and despite being accepted into Silicone Valley’s ‘Y-Combinator’ startup program, Eric and team didn’t quite have the money to do everything right so decided to turn to crowd-sourced funding for a cash-flow solution.

This turned out to be the best decision in the Pebble’s history as it went on to be the most successful Kickstarter campaign to date, raising $10.2 million – a hefty amount more than the $100K they were looking for.  Pebble have since raised another $25m and gone on to launch a second iteration of the Pebble – Pebble Steel, which sports a metallic finish and more pleasing Rolex-style design.

I was lucky enough to poise some questions to Eric to find out more about the Pebble and it’s immensely successful first year.

 

Q: What made you choose Kickstarter as a Platform to crowd-source the extra funding you required for Pebble, and did you ever expect such a good response?

A: We chose to raise money with Kickstarter because the more traditional venture funding sources were not receptive to our initial concept. Kickstarter was the best avenue at the time, and I’d recommend it for anyone looking to enter a nascent market. We were blown away by the support of the Kickstarter community and wouldn’t be here today without them. And it’s certainly helped us get the attention of VCs!

 

Q: Are there any other products that you’d want to see the 2.0 Dev-kit inspiring connectivity with?

A: That’s a question we think about all the time. Pebble is a platform that we’re actively developing to connect to all things…really. And what’s exciting is that today we have more than 2,000 apps available for Pebble and that number just keeps growing. Whether you’re jamming with your favourite Pandora playlists, checking the fuel level on your Mercedes-Benz, or changing the temperature on your Nest thermostat, the connectivity possibilities are endless. We’re thankful to the developer community that has grown around Pebble and we’re looking forward to seeing all the new ways they make use of the platform.

 

Q: What’s been your biggest challenge in getting Pebble to the production stage you’re at now?

A: We’ve definitely learned a lot over the last couple years. While it’s hard to point your finger at one thing and say “hey that’s the hardest thing we do,” I can say that producing both hardware and software that works across two operating systems (iOS and Android) was a major achievement. One that we’re continuing to focus on and get excited about every day we come into the office.

 

Q: Does it frustrate you that you couldn’t get it to market quicker?

A: Not at all, I’m very proud of the Pebble team and our partners. Though there may have been some minor changes in our release schedule, I believe that’s a normal part of building a new business and we’re excited to keep the momentum going. We’re hitting our rhythm and everyone here is really excited about what’s ahead for Pebble.

 

Q: Though Pebble seems to be marketing itself well through its Kickstarter success and the ongoing wearable trend, how are you getting Pebble into the minds of consumers that might otherwise not be aware of new wearable technologies?

A: A big focus for us is to create strategic partnerships that enable us to grow the Pebble consumer audience. For instance, we’re very proud of our retail partnerships with Best Buy, AT&T, Amazon, and most recently in the U.S., Target. We’re also encouraged to see all the developers, from all over the world, building new and exciting apps for the Pebble platform. Each of them offers more functionality which in the end makes Pebble more compelling to consumers and developers alike.

 

Q: There have been a bunch of other smartwatches from big brands including Sony, and Google’s Android Wear could bring a plethora of wearable devices to the market pretty soon – how do you plan to cope with these more advanced rivals?

A: To be honest, we welcome all the companies releasing new “smartwatches” because they offer consumers more choice. And we think choice is a good thing because it will help grow the wearables market and educate more consumers about the benefits of this new way to experience technology.

 

Q: You wouldn’t be seen dead not wearing your own Pebble, What’s the feature you use most on it?

A: Haha, I love the notifications, being able to quickly scan and triage my email has reduce how often I need to take my phone out of my pocket. I also love being able to download new watchfaces and constantly change the look of my Pebble!

 

Q: Pebble Steel has been received to wide critical acclaim – What made you decide to bring the Steel to market so soon after the original Pebble was launched?

A: Pebble Steel was part of our strategic product plans for a long time…with the idea that we’d launch the first rev then as quickly as possible follow with the next generation. Why did we do this? Well, as a company it’s really important to us to give our customers new and fun experiences that delight them and do so by maintaining product momentum.

 

Q: What’s next for you and Pebble? Is there any other way you’re planning to expand the brand?

A: Today, we’re focused on growing the partner and developer ecosystems while building new features and functionality. As for the future, we’re always looking forward with the goal of making technology more accessible and useful for consumers. But, I don’t have anything specific to share with you today. I do urge you to stay tuned because there’s lot’s more to come!

To buy a Pebble smartwatch, head over to getpebble.com
Alternatively, they can be bought on Amazon UK’s new Wearable tech Store

 

 

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