How Crowdfunding Your Business Can Bring Feedback and Profit

Looking for user validation on your company’s product? This start-up crowdsourced it.
(Photos: Courtesy Webee; illustration: Jessica De Jesus)
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Nov 23, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Bekah Wright is a Los Angeles–based journalist who specializes in travel, entertainment, and lifestyle.

A common problem for inventors: Their creations can be ahead of their time. Another common problem: They often don’t realize this until it’s too late. With the advent of crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, innovators can better gauge market demand for new ideas. In addition to funding their creations, inventors get instant feedback that can help improve their chances of success.

Lucas Funes used the power of crowdfunding to fuel a graduate school project that became Webee, a start-up that produces an innovative home utility management product called Smartee. Smartee controls all the smart devices in your home, such as fans, lights, cameras, and TVs, from any location through a mobile application.

As a young man growing up in Argentina, Funes dreamed of a system that could effortlessly control everything in a house while helping people reduce their carbon footprint. While he pursued the dream of creating a product like Smartee in graduate school, his main challenge was that the technology needed to create it didn’t exist.

By 2013, Funes felt that the technology he needed was available. “I’d finally reached that moment of ‘now or never’ and didn’t want to let it pass me by,” he says. Funes faced two challenges familiar to many entrepreneurs—getting access to new technology at an affordable price and raising the capital to fund his business. To solve the first challenge, he left Argentina for Miami. Being in the United States gave Funes access to the technology necessary to economically develop Smartee.

Webee Kits. (Photo: Courtesy Webee)

Funes used Indiegogo to crowdfund his start-up’s capital. It also provided a real-world market test. “Seeking private funding sometimes makes you lose your way,” he says. “And our key mission in delivering the best smart home solution was to make it available to everyone.”

The public liked what it saw. The three-month Indiegogo campaign surpassed its $50,000 target by raising $73,000—proving that there was demand for Webee’s products.

Crowdfunding also proved invaluable because Funes was able to communicate directly with a base of early technology adopters. By monitoring user feedback and evaluating the popularity of various product bundles, Webee collected data on which product features were most appealing and what generated the most interest.

Armed with a loyal customer base and vital customer insights, Funes saw the opportunity to expand internationally. He needed help, so he turned to UPS’s expertise in transportation and logistics to expand Webee’s domestic and global operations. As the company moved to full production, it needed a problem solver that could help it beyond delivering customer orders.

Webee display. (Photo: Courtesy Webee)

As a result, UPS has been an integral partner in streamlining Webee’s supply chain. By working with UPS, the company can have important components and parts delivered between distribution companies, system integrators, retrofitters, and Webee’s offices in the U.S., South America, and Asia. “When exploring how to deal with shipping, handling, and logistics, we were amazed by UPS’s services,” Funes says. “They’re a key player in our business.”

With key operations being handled by UPS, Funes can focus on future concepts, such as collaborating with universities to develop smart home technology for people with disabilities. With its global delivery demands on track, the company can achieve the next step in its core mission: finding ways to make people’s lives—and the world—better.