Mining Pebble's Backstory
To see the beginning of Pebble's story, we have to start at nearly the end of the alphabet, that is, with the letter Y. That's because Pebble got a serious boost from Y Combinator, a well-known and respected business incubator that helped push Pebble from concept to real business.
The idea is pretty simple. Y Combinator provides a relatively modest amount of cash, as well as expertise and enthusiasm, to get a business concept rolling. Of the dozens that enter the program, some will thrive, some will die. Others, like Pebble, become rock-star poster children for how such programs spark innovation.
In 2008, Eric Migicovsky was an engineering student with a few ideas about how to make smartphone technology better. More specifically, he wanted to reduce our fixation of constantly grabbing our phones to check for new notifications. A wristwatch, he thought, would be much more efficient.
He fiddled around with some leftover pieces of electronics and some programmable code and hacked together a test smart watch that communicated directly with smart phones. The watch was initially called InPulse, and Y Combinator liked the concept well enough to fund Migicovsky's plan. He received $150,000 in seed money, which he hoped to use to lure liked-minded capitalists with thicker wallets.
Unfortunately for Migicovsky, his plot failed. Although a few investors were intrigued by the watch, none would bite. His first generation watch died an agonizing death before it even had a chance.
In April 2012, with what eventually became an historic decision, Migicovsky turned to Kickstarter to fund his fledgling idea. Kickstarter is a so-called crowdfunding website, through which just about anyone can request money for just about any conceivable project. Many projects fizzle out because of lack of interest. A rare few, like Migicovsky's, gather funding momentum and far exceed their fundraising goals.
The Pebble project had a modest Kickstarter goal of $100,000, which the company exceeded after just two hours. In 28 hours, the total was at more than $1 million. When the campaign finally closed in mid-May, more than 68,000 excited backers had pledged nearly $10.3 million in the hopes of making the Pebble watch a reality.
The watch first began shipping in January 2013. By the end of 2014, the company had sold roughly 1 million products.