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Crowdfunding Growth Continues: Pebble’s Kickstarter Record

You may have read this week about another incredible performance by smartwatch company Pebble on Kickstarter. In just 49 minutes, Pebble raised $1 million in pledges, remarkable for being an all-time Kickstarter record, especially considering the original target was $500,000. Pebble went on to receive over $10 million in pledges in just two days and with 28 days of the campaign remaining, (at time of writing) has raised over $11 million.

This is not a one-time win for Pebble on Kickstarter. Its last campaign back in May 2012 raised $10 million against a goal of $100,000 from a total 68,929 pledges. The vast majority of those pledges were at the $115 level meaning this isn’t about wealthy individuals or companies making huge donations, but crowdfunding in the truest sense – thousands of individuals supporting an idea at a relatively low cost level. The same is true with this campaign, with40,000 people pledging $179 or lower – all of whom receive the new version of the Pebble smartwatch as their reward.

With the Apple smartwatch imminently coming to market, I am particularly curious to understand what it is about Pebble that has garnered such fervent support, and how it will fare against the powerhouse marketing and sublime aesthetics Apple are about to unleash. As this report notes on Tech Radar, Pebble may not win the design wars, but in terms of user experience, substance may well win out over style. \

“Why measure battery life in days?” is the question posed on Pebble’s website, with the perfectly devastating answer (if you’re Apple) of, “‘Cuz we can.” The new version of Pebble has up to 7 days of battery life and is also water resistant. Compare that to a recent interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook in which he said the Apple watch battery would last “all day.”

Price is clearly another key factor in terms of protecting and growing Pebble’s market share. The new version of Pebble will have a retail price of $199, but there is a $99 version also available. Pebble is compatible with both iOS and Android devices which obviously increases its potential reach but is also a huge win in demonstrating that user experience is at the heart of Pebble’s ethos – it’s not about locking people in or setting limitations.

From a marketing point of view, Pebble brings a new, distinct and very engaging voice to the sector. The company knows it isn’t Apple or Google, and couldn’t be happier about it. The tone of marketing has a healthy sense of perspective, “Just to recap, we made a watch. We didn’t solve climate change,” and revels in its affordability, “Overpriced trophy watch wasn’t on our to-do list.” To my mind, what makes this kind of sentiment feel relevant and authentic is that it is clear – as demonstrated by the huge groundswell of support – that their product delivers. In many ways, it could be said that Pebble is the anti-Google Glass, which almost literally let technology cloud its vision of purpose. With Pebble’s ongoing success and Apple’s watch launch just around the corner, the smartwatch sector is about to get very interesting.

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