Yesterday evening at 7:00PM, French startup Forgetbox wrapped up their 60-day KickStarter campaign for their flagship product Lima, which was looking to crowdfund $69,000. They surpassed that goal – in fact, they did it in less than 24 hours. In the 59 days that followed, they managed to crowdfund an additional $1,160,074 from a total of 12,840 backers. As of today, Lima becomes the 6th most-funded technology project on KickStarter, behind well-known companies like the Oculus Rift & LIFX, and ahead of (that is, more total crowdfunding) SmartThings, a major player in the Internet of Things industry.
“Each one of our devices is good on their own, but nobody ever bothered to make them work together.”
The product that they crowdfunded is innovating in the network attached storage(NAS) space; however, you won’t hear the team use this term once in their video. Instead, they tell you “Lima makes your computer bigger. Make your devices one. Keep your content private. Meet instant file sending.” The product, a small USB-key sized electronic device, connects on one side to your ethernet cable, and on the other to any USB storage device. Through a nifty bit of software, the device makes the storage available on any device, so that any device can have, essentially, an infinite amount of storage space.
The service competes with traditional NAS devices from companies like LaCie, NetApp & Netgear; however, they are also stepping on the toes of fast-growing cloud storage services like DropBox & Google Drive. One of the more attractive features is that you pay a flat price for Lima & your SSD external hard drive, instead of a monthly recurring charge for your cloud storage, rendering the service attractive to those of us who have a dusty, yet powerful external hard drive sitting at home.
What happened from Day 2 to Day 60?
Preparing for a KickStarter Campaign is tough – the Lima team spent six months getting their product & video ready – however, things really kicked off once they exploded past their original campaign goal. “We just launched on Kickstarter – I might be slow to respond,” reads CTO Gawen Arab’s auto-respond for his email – it was only on day 60 that I got to catch up with the founders, who’d been nose-down with the campaign.
Speaking with CEO & Co-founder Severin Marcombes, I asked him what had been keeping him busy for the past 8 weeks. His answer: answering questions. The campaign received 12,840 backers, which translated to roughly 1,104 comments (comments can only be left by backers), not to mention the private messages and emails. Their first job was to recruit a full-time question-answerer. The next was to confirm with all their pre-organized manufacturers that each link in the chain would be able to handle the increased production – the campaign had roughly 17,000 devices ordered, 17x the 1000 devices that they hoped to raise.
Marcombes spent much of his time talking with distribution partners who took an interest in the campaign. Of course, some of the partners are just sizing up the competition, or introducing themselves to the new guys on the block, but, while Marcombes said no deals have been signed just yet, he suggested that some big players might have reached out.
Pulling the Plug on ‘Plug’ & the origins of ‘Lima’
Just two weeks into their campaign, having already surpassed their original goal several times over, the team was hit with an unfortunate email: “a competitor claimed that we couldn’t use the Plug trademark.” While Marcombes remained silent about who the competitor was, a simple search reveals a certain NAS device PogoPlug, which certainly fits the motive.
“It’s always better if you don’t have to change your name, but it’s also better to avoid confrontation…If you have legal troubles, Kickstarter can cut your campaign.” – Severin Marcombes, CEO Lima
The team played nice and accepted their request, choosing “Lima” as the back-up name. Marcombes tells me Lima was the back-up name for the project all along – not the capital of Peru, as many have assumed, but Spanish for “sweet Lime.” The lack of trademark around the name, and a quick check that “meetlima” was available on Twitter, Facebook, and as a website, and they switched out the name on all communication materials. While muting the word ‘plug’ out of the video was a bit of a drag, ultimately, the campaign continued on at a non-interrupted pace.
Is crowdfunding a fading trend?
In recent months, articles highlighting successfully funded projects that fail to deliver like Levitatr and OpenVizsla have become more common, and many are already predicting the inevitable decline of high-stakes crowdfunding campaigns.
Canonical, the company behind open source operating system Ubuntu, recently both shattered the record for most money committed as well as falling well short of their goal for their Ubuntu Edge ‘no compromises’ smartphone – the campaign raised just $12,814,196 of its $32,000,000 goal.
Still, given that all 10 of Top-Funded technology campaigns were funded in the past 12 months, with 5 of them funded in 2013, it would seem that there is still room for growth in the crowdfunding ecosystem.
What happens next?
With the campaign done, there’s a lot of pressure to deliver. While KickStarter’s guidelines don’t require you to deliver a polished finished product that meets all backers’ desires, there is a certain pressure to perform.
“As we are in startup mode, the most important thing for us is not so much that the [campaign] be successful, but that people tell everyone that Lima is the best device they’ve ever used.” – Severin Marcombes, CEO Lima
For startups like Lima, who hope not just to create a great product, but a great hardware company, the next six months are crucial, and so hiring is a must. They will grow from 2 to 10 full-time employees, in order to prepare for the first shipments, due in December, January & April of next year. Hires include operating-specific testers, a production manager in China, and potentially a marketing team in the United States, where many of the backers reside.
Marcombes says that they have been fortunate enough to have informal advisors in their ecosystem. France is home to many large hardware companies (Archos, LaCie, etc.) and hardware startups (WiThings, Netatmo, Parrot, Invoxia, Sculpteo, etc.). Marcombes wasn’t shy about reaching out to his fellow Kickstarter successes either, and says that he was surprised at how close the KickStarter community was.
The future is nothing but open water for Lima – with so few campaigns having reached this level of crowdfunding success, there’s no formula written on who to hire, whether to fundraise or not (Marcombes refused to decline on any VC-related activity, though he said he’d been approached by interested parties), and so the Lima team gets to write their own path.
One thing is sure: if the Lima team was hoping to explode onto the market as a competing player in the consumer electronics space, they couldn’t have chosen better rocketfuel than 17,000 clients, $1.2 Million in equity-free money, and the “successful KickStarter campaign” brand that comes with great press coverage and marketing opportunities.
For people interested in pre-ordering Lima after the campaign, you can leave your email address on MeetLima.com as of today.