Weekly insights in Hardware Startup Universe. Hackaday-style.
Following our post on IoT platforms, Spark guys reached out and asked if we can do a full interview. Given the unique position Spak is currently in (post-successful Kickstarter, betting heavily on Open Hardware and Open Software...) - we were more than happy to do it. And were pleasantly surprised by all the things we have learned along the way.
Here we give a full (uncut) transcript of our interview with Zach Supalla, CEO of Spark.
Hackaday: Tell us a little bit of a backstory behind Spark
Zach: OK, to rewind all the way back.. in January 2012 I started working on connected lighting product. The inspiration for this was - my dad is deaf and he has lights that flash when someone is at the door, when he gets a phone call on his tty etc. He and my mom had this problem that when he takes his phone from his pocket, he is completely unreachable and I wanted lights to flash when he got a text message. So that is really where all this started - I had a problem that was very real to me, which was my parents communicating and I saw a way to solve this problem with connectivity. If we make our lights Internet-connected, then I can figure out a way to get the signal that this behavior happened to his lights. But then of course, that grew into a larger concept of, well, why should it just be limited to the deaf? lights should be a source of information.. what if lights were more than just lights? what if lights conveyed information about the world and they did things automatically, not like... "I have a remote control on my phone", but like... "the sun went down and lights automatically turn on"-kind of home automation. All to do with lights connected to the Internet.
So we launched this product which eventually took the form of a little plastic thing that sits between your lightbulb socket and the light, that was wifi-connected, sort of WiFi-connected light dimmer switch integrated into light socket, called SparkSocket. It launched in November 2012 and failed. We had a goal of $250,000, we raised $125,000. And so we felt like there was something there, we still had 6-digit raise and 1600 backers but it wasn't enough to cover our manufacturing cost. And so, it took us a while to realize that we needed to change. The feedback that we had received from the market was that our product was not good enough and so over the course of the next few months we struggled to figure out what we should be doing and so we have joined the incubator program called HAXLR8R that was based in Shenzhen and moved there for 4 months during this process.Read more »