How Eight’s Backers Helped Turn a Prototype into a Product
By: Tess Murphy
Founder Matteo Franceschetti left the life of a lawyer to change the world through successful business ventures. This meant a change in scheduling, a faster paced lifestyle, and unfortunately, a loss of sleep. During seven years of being an entrepreneur, Matteo learned that he had lost approximately 900 hours of sleep due primarily to restless legs syndrome. This not only impacted his daily life but also compromised his health, which forced him to finally make sleep a top priority.
At the time, there was nothing on the market that actually helped improve the quality of sleep. Matteo noticed that everything was becoming smarter and smarter, but his bed wasn’t improving. The technology on the market wasn’t solving his problem for three main reasons: there were sensors that had to be worn at night or placed on the bed’s surface, the trackers were not accurate, and most importantly they were not proactive. Because of these limitations and the lack of actionable information, he neither understood what exactly was disturbing his sleep nor how to finally fix it.
Like a true entrepreneur, he figured that if it didn’t exist he would build it. So he set out with a mission “to help people sleep better.” Matteo dreamed of a product that would consistently track sleep, help people actually understand their sleep, and implement solutions to improve it. Thus the idea for the Eight (hours of sleep) smart mattress cover was born.
The Eight team would go on to raise over $1m funds in crowdfunding, join the Stanford Accelerator and Y Combinator programs and ship their product to thousands of customers worldwide. The feedback and engagement of their backers on Indiegogo provided the crucial validation required to bring the Eight product to market.
Taking their idea to Indiegogo
Once the Eight team built their prototype, they decided to turn to crowdfunding for market validation rather than immediately seek angel investors. This decision would ultimately play a crucial role in the success of their product and the growth of the company.
“We decided to crowdfund because we had no idea if people really wanted our invention,” Alex Zatarain, Eight’s CMO and co-founder says. “If they did, and funded our campaign, then we would have the funds and the validation to take it into production and make it a reality.”
It took the Eight team a year from ‘concept-to-launch.’
Eight launched with Indiegogo in January 2015, with a wildly successful campaign that reached its goal of $100k in the first six hours of funding. In just a few months, the company sold over 7,000 units of the Eight Sleep Tracker to backers in more than 70 countries. As they continued to run their campaign, they began to use the Indiegogo platform for more than just fundraising.
They harnessed the power of their backers, not just for validation of their product, but to also help them develop Eight into the best product it could be. The Eight team asked them to participate in user testing and provide feedback to the team on the existing product and features they’d like to see.
Alex says that, even today, their backers continue to be a helpful resource, “we continue to reach out to them requesting feedback and we even invite them for product testing at our office.” This gives backers a chance to see the product in person, test the app and play an integral role in the development of the product throughout the campaign. “We have truly enjoyed these moments with our backers, because they have helped us shape the product into what it is today.”
To help move the feedback process along during the campaign, the Eight team decided to engage their backers through a forum that would allow them to share, view and vote on their favorite ideas and features. With each milestone of funding reached, Eight would release some of the most popular features. This not only activated a community of enthusiasts, it encouraged backers to share the campaign through a referral contest and raise further awareness for the product.
The backers were not the only ones on the platform that were willing to help Eight on this journey. Through Indiegogo, the team was able to tap into a large network of entrepreneurs and create partnerships. Eight reached out to other campaigners that had compatible products that could integrate with Eight. These partners included Flic, Oomi and Cujo: all with similar missions to provide a seamless smart home experience.
Market validation provided Eight with access to additional funding
The overwhelming success of their campaign also allowed Eight to explore other opportunities for funding. Four months after their campaign launch, Eight was accepted into the Stanford Startup Accelerator program, a rarity for non-Stanford graduates. Three months later, they joined Y Combinator, a leading incubator for early stage startups, where companies receive seed investment, advice, and connections from professionals in the tech industry. “Before we crowdfunded, we had applied to go into Y Combinator a few times, and we hadn’t gotten in,” says Alex. “Our crowdfunding campaign was a validation of what we were doing.”
As Eight wrapped up their program at Stanford and began work in the YC incubator, they continued to work on every tiny detail of their product, from prototyping the smartbox to testing the washability of their mattress cover. Their success on Indiegogo enabled them to make these improvements.
Utilizing InDemand for ecommerce
Although Eight had far exceeded their funding goals, the company decided to transition its campaign into InDemand, a feature on the Indiegogo platform that allows entrepreneurs to raise funds long after their campaign deadline. Through Indemand, Eight continues to take orders, update backers on the manufacturing process, listen to feedback and run their business.
During InDemand, the increasing number of orders allowed Eight to work with the best manufacturers in China as they slowly ramped up production of their mattress cover. The team was challenged with balancing diligent quality assurance and user testing while scaling manufacturing to fulfill over 7,000 orders.
In the first batch of user testing, Eight encountered a slight hiccup. They noticed abnormal levels of noise in the data collected from the mattress. The team had to temporarily halt production in order to fix the issue. Entrepreneurs can experience obstacles at any stage of the journey from product to market. Indiegogo offers the flexibility to communicate these issues to their backers and the tools to help them update their realistic shipping dates.
While the Eight engineers worked on the hardware changes, the rest of the team made sure to communicate this clearly to backers and thank them for their patience. They updated their campaign page to state, “We deeply appreciate your continuous support throughout this journey because, without each of you, this wouldn’t be possible. What we are doing at Eight is so new and so challenging, and knowing that there is this amazing group of people expecting the result of our work is what continues to push us forward.”
Once Eight resolved the hardware issue, they slowly resumed manufacturing and production.
Where is Eight today?
The Eight team could not have brought their idea to life if it weren’t for their backers on Indiegogo. The feedback and engagement from backers provided the crucial validation required to bring their product to market.
And ultimately, this is why they chose Indiegogo. They needed a platform that would validate their idea, through a community of enthusiasts, and allow them to develop their prototype to the product they have today. They pointed to this validation when applying to accelerator programs and utilized this awareness to create partnerships.
From sleep problems to prototyping, market validation, partnerships and investments, the Eight mattress cover is now solving sleep problems worldwide. What started as a three-person team has grown to a company of 17 people: data scientists, back-end engineers, designers, product managers, marketers, and customer support. They are all bound together by “the belief that sleep is crucial to good living.”
Eight raised $1,228,079 from 5,975 contributions on Indiegogo to create a mattress cover that makes your bed and your sleep smarter by tracking your sleep patterns, and allowing you to customize your nighttime experience. They raised $6M in seed funding in March 2016 and another $5M in a Series A round in January 2017 to to keep helping people sleep better. Eight will open the doors to its first showroom in downtown Manhattan.
If you are an entrepreneur, like Matteo, and thinking about launching an idea, check out some of these helpful resources.