How a B.C. tech company beat the Kickstarter odds

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The Globe and Mail | Paul Cubbon | Nov 8, 2013

The Energy Aware teamTHE CHALLENGE

When Janice Cheam came up with the idea for Neurio, a product designed to help householders save on electrical bills, she knew she had something householders would want.

What the president and CEO of Energy Aware Technology Inc. couldn’t prove, however, was whether they’d be willing to pay for it.

“Since we had never sold to end consumers before, we needed to provide market validation for Neurio to our long-time supporters and potential funders to encourage them to back it,” she said.

Without substantial funding to test her thesis, Energy Aware would struggle to get Neurio directly to consumers.

THE BACKGROUND

Along with Colby Gore, Dr. Ali Kashani, and Jon Hallam, Ms. Cheam co-founded Energy Aware Technology in 2005. Four years later, the Vancouver-based company was described as “the most promising start-up company of the year,” by the B.C. Technology Industry Association.

Their newest product, Neurio, is a home intelligence technology that monitors the power a home uses, and calculates the cost of running individual appliances in real time.

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“Our products aim to create better awareness of the way that we use energy,” said Ms. Cheam, “so we can reduce energy waste, save money and contribute to more sustainably positive behaviours.”

The open-source system operates using a Wi-Fi sensor installed in your breaker panel, and a cloud service which uses algorithms to detect and track power usage. It can also integrate with other applications to do things like send reminders when the washer is done or adjust the thermostat for when you come home.

“For years, we have been plugging in devices and controlling them manually with switches, knobs, and buttons, and there’s a lot more that can be done to enhance our ability to manage our appliances more efficiently and see them as part of the home’s ecosystem,” said Ms. Cheam.

THE SOLUTION

To prove that Neurio had market appeal, Ms. Cheam and her team launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. It was proposed as a way to get the product out in the market ahead of time, gauge the interest level, and raise some money to fund the initial manufacturing costs.

They set a goal of $95,000 in a 30-day period between Oct. 16 to Nov. 15, 2013. Realizing that more than half of Kickstarter campaigns don’t get funded, Ms. Cheam and her team knew they had to take extra steps to ensure their success.

The Energy Aware team brought on an additional resource to build PR, marketing and community outreach before their Kickstarter launch.

“We researched extensively to find niche bloggers, inform them of the campaign and share our brand story ahead of putting out an official press release to major media outlets,” added Ms. Cheam. “The timing of these outreach activities was meticulously planned to achieve maximum impact for our launch.”

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada crowdfunding hub providing education, advocacy and networking opportunities in the rapidly evolving crowdfunding industry. NCFA Canada is a community-based, membership-driven entity that was formed at the grass roots level to fill a national need in the market place. Join our growing network of industry stakeholders, fundraisers and investors. Increase your organization’s profile and gain access to a dynamic group of industry front runners. Learn more eBrochure | Prezi or contact us at casano@ncfacanada.org.

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