Inspired by intimacy challenges in personal life, Vibease succeeded in turning personal problems into public interest by launching their Indiegogo campaign Vibease: Wearable Smart Vibrator that brings Fifty Shades of Fantasy to life.Â They believe the world will be a better place when women can have orgasm as much as men do!
Dema Tio, the funder and the hardware engineer of Vibease kindly accepted to share their story with us.
Seeding Factory : Hello Dema, could you quickly brief your company and the product Vibease?
Dema TioÂ : Â The inspiration came from my personal experience. I used to be in a long distance relationship. I was in Boston while my wife was in Singapore, although we were connected through Skype, we still missed the physical intimacy. That was a problem then, and I couldnâ€™t find something that was easily accessible, yet, not invasive. Therefore, we start thinking of creating our own remote-controlled intimacy toy as a fun project. Within only 2 years, I realized that it is a real demand of many long distance couples, and theyâ€™ve been looking for such a solution. I hence decided to quit my job and work on Vibease full time.
Up to now, there are 5 people in our team:,Â Hermione Way (Marketing and PR),Â Dema Tio (Hardware + Android),Â Steven Kik (iPhone + Android + Server + Web),Â Angela Mahon (Brand Strategist),Â Maryrose Simpson (Designer)
SF : You’ve participated to the famous accelerator HAXLR8R in China, how was the experience?
Before joining HAXLR8R, weâ€™d been doing Vibease for 1.5 years. However our progress didnâ€™t proceed well enough to meet our expectation, due to a longer lead-time caused by the high cost of building prototypes in Singapore. Even so, we still hesitated to move our production to China, because people said our product could be copied within only 6 months, so we decided to go to HAXLR8R instead of acting on our own.
In HAXLR8R, what we learnt the most was from other hardware founders who have gone through similar progress, while before joining HAXLR8R, only few Â advices were applicable to our case â€“ small company with little budget, because not all of them were from hardware startups. Nevertheless, HAXLR8R helped us set the right priority.
The goal was to build and manufacture a ready product. Since everything is cheap and can be done shortly in Shenzhen, we were able to make a much better product in only few months. It cost so little to prototype that we could afford to do more try-and-error until we succeeded figuring out the final model. Moreover, we also learned few techniques to minimize the effects being copied in production.
SF : Â You probably received some investment following this program. Why did you decide to go crowdfunding?
Investment weâ€™ve already got from angel investors and from HAXLR8R, was barely enough for prototype manufacturing. We are making hardware and developing the application at the same time â€“ itâ€™s a double challenge, and it consumes us more time and money for each try-and-error, compared to software startups.
Crowdfunding is the best solution to all hardware startups.Â It funds the manufacturing cost.
Also investors tend to shun hardware startups, even though they now start seeing the potential in hardware, thanks to Makerbot and Pebble. But for us, being in the sexual wellness industry was another challenge to find funds. Most investors we talked to were unsure of the direction our product is heading to, either adult industry or mainstream market. Through crowdfunding, we managed toÂ establish the Vibease brandÂ and an image as a sexual wellness product. Indeed we succeeded in having many mainstream media covering our product.
“CrowdfundingÂ helps toÂ validate what kind of products people would want to have”
SF : You finally reached 9 times your fundraising goal. Â How did you plan this success and what benefits beyond monetary rewards did you get?
Thanks to an in-house PR campaign. We manually sent more than 100 emails to all the media and bloggers. We didnâ€™t use tools when contacting media.Â We also had people who registered their interest before the campaign. We used MailChimp to emailed them.
As most successful crowdfunding campaigns, our first benefactors were families and friends, even though some of them first thought it was a joke,Â they are now even more impressed when finding out we made it!
Finally the campaign helped usÂ validate what kind of products people would want to have, before we sink all the money for manufacturing. Also, as crowdfunding becomes the benchmark for investors to pick up those potential companies, we received emails from investors who are interested in us after our Indiegogo campaign.
SF : As an advice to future campaigners, can you share what were your 3 best assets & the 3 things you would have done differently?
- A good product (prototype) that have been redone and validated by many try-and-error
- Early supporters and friends. We have people who already signed up their interest before we launched the campaign.
- PR and media outreach
Things we’d like to improve:
- Spend more time preparing the pictures for the campaign.
- Spend more time preparing the video for the campaign.
- Pick a good date & time and stick with it. We contacted numbers of media but then missed out our initial launched date,Â due to some unexpected problems.
SF : Now to end this interview, whatâ€™s your next step?
Weâ€™re lucky to receive lots of feedback and suggestions. We have a few interesting stuff in the pipeline. But our main focus now is to honor our fulfillment plan, get the product ready and deliver in schedule. We will soon work with distributors and retailers to help expand our distribution channels.
Interview realized and edited by:Â Penelope Wan
Globally-minded, crowdfunding enthusiast, passionate about entrepreneurship and startup community building