Nucleus acquires Insensi to build a leader in Family Communications.

After spending my days and nights on Ily for the past 2 years with a team of outstanding talents in product, engineering and design, Nucleus has acquired Insensi today. The vast majority of the team is now part of Nucleus, and I am glad we could partner with them to continue bringing our vision of better family communications to life. To those unfamiliar with Ily, we went on building a new kind of home phone for families, helping young kids better stay in touch with their loved ones.

No, Hardware is not THAT hard.

After raising a seed round of funding in 2014 with renowned investors, we started working on Ily, and assembled over time, a team of 15 hardware and software people who have built and shipped multiple successful products before. So, let me try to summarize the last few months.

September 2015: we sign the MSA with our Contract Manufacturer (CM) in China with the help of Dragon (a company that I highly recommend), and started working on manufacturing Ily at a large scale.

Going from zero unit to one is the most difficult part in Hardware, by far. Getting to a point where your product is “manufacturable” takes the longest.

We went from MSA to EVT (30 units), to DVT (80 units) in about 8 months, with a bunch of fixes and updates in between. Most people building advanced hardware would probably say that this is fast considering that we had a small team that was doing all of the hardware and software engineering internally. We were building an actual computer (Ily was a touchscreen device embarking our own version of the Android OS). I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished as a product focused team.

July 2016: Literally 21 months after we started working on Ily, we were technically ready to go into mass production. We’d planned to start with a batch of 500 units, then shortly after launch 5,000 units to start selling Ily at retail locations throughout the US and in France to start with.

But Cash is king. Even more true in Hardware.

There comes the biggest challenge Hardware startups are facing in my opinion — you’ve raised as much as you could during your seed round to develop and build your product. Once you’re finally ready to manufacture it you need a bunch of cash to place a purchase order to your CM. You need a bridge…

Turns out that raising bridge financing for a pre-launch hardware startup in 2016 is close to mission impossible.

I went above and beyond to raise that bridge. Those who‘ve worked with me know how persistent I am, but sometimes you need to see things through.

We went on to build something very ambitious with Ily. We were creating a new category, competing with iPads, and providing a better way for young kids to stay in touch. That means that most investors want to see some kind of traction before investing to prove that not only the pain point is real, but so was the market.

But to get traction, you need to launch, and to launch, you need money. You get the idea.

I am seeing a lot of hardware startups shutting down one after the other right now, and it’s sad to observe.

I really hope that a new breed of fearless investors will start bridging those promising companies who are inventing the future.

There clearly is a funding gap between Seed and Series A rounds, but that’s for another topic.

Ily + Nucleus = 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

As far as we’re concerned, I am glad that we could continue our journey by joining Nucleus who has a similar vision of making it easier for families to stay connected. I’ve known the founders, Jonathan and Isaac for a while now, and I’ve always respected them and their vision immensely, so I know my team is in golden hands now.

If you haven’t heard of Nucleus yet (no, not this one), do check them out, they just announced their Series A led by Amazon and a seamless integration with Alexa.

Thanks 🙌🏼

It was a beautiful journey, and by far my most rewarding entrepreneurial experience so far. Learning something completely new, building an actual device, getting to hire rare talents who trust your vision…

Although I will help Nucleus through the transition, I am not taking a full-time position there as I know new beginnings are awaiting me (time to reach out and catch up!).

I want to thank my Ily team who’s been spectacular from beginning to finish, forever ⚡️⚡️ : Dan, Jocelyn, Olivier, Jonathan, Mickael, JonMo, Jeff, Jiting, Julien, Jerome, Derek, Eden, Natacha, Kushal, Geoff. ❤️ you all.

I want to thank everyone who pre-ordered Ily via our website or on Kickstarter. Thanks so much for your support. You guys were visionary and I admire you for that. You will all receive an email from me today offering a full refund or a Nucleus device for each unit you purchased (if you live in the US).

Finally, I want to thank my investors (Felicis Ventures, Collaborative Fund, Kima…) for believing in our vision and our dreams.

Onwards ☀️