Redesign Clinches Funding for Crowd-Funded UnaliWear
David Kanegsberg WINNING DESIGNER
Jean Anne Booth, is a serial entrepreneur who has sold semiconductor companies to Apple and Texas Instruments. Her latest company, UnaliWear, is making a smartwatch for seniors called the Kanega. The watch allows seniors to call for help if they fall and reminds them to take medicine. Unlike portable “Call for Help” buttons on the market today, the Kanega is intended to be discreet, allowing seniors to maintain their dignity while staying safe as they age.
Booth and her team of engineers built a working prototype of the watch as a proof of concept for potential investors. With no designer on staff, they didn’t waste time trying to make the prototype beautiful. All the technical components were built into a white plastic box. But even with a working watch and a growing elderly population, investors weren’t committing; all they saw was an ugly box on a wrist strap, not an innovative solution for helping seniors maintain their independence. As she recounts, “Investors would say, ‘This is ugly and the design will be important’… They were never comfortable that I understood the importance of making a classical design.”
Booth knew she needed a physical model that could convey the ultimate style she envisioned: traditional, like the watch her 80-year-old mother has worn for decades. She first tried hiring a design firm, but they all quoted upwards of $1 million. Individual designers were willing to make prototypes for $20-30 thousand, but she worried they didn’t understand how to design a high-tech watch for a grandmother. As a bootstrapped company, she needed an affordable solution that would produce the right look for her elderly users.
Before we hired Red Clay designers, we couldn’t convince even a few investors that our working smartwatch was viable. After working with Red Clay, we quickly raised the money and also convinced hundreds more to fund us on Kickstarter within weeks.
Red Clay was the most affordable option to get the high quality design we needed to raise investor money and find customers for our beta test.
- Jean Anne Booth, Founder & CEO of UnaliWear
Booth decided to try Red Clay after a recommendation from a potential investor. She was impressed by the quality of the designers on the platform, and found it to be a much more cost-effective way to find someone who understood exactly what she needed. “One of the advantages of Red Clay was that we could try a bunch of designers without having to commit until we found someone we knew could deliver.”
Within 10 days, she received 20 concepts from her team of 5 designers. These initial designs allowed her to see which designers could meet the challenge, and included several options that came close to her vision. And though she paid for each concept and revision as well as the final license, she still spent only a few thousand dollars -- a fraction of what it would have cost if she hired a firm.
Once Booth purchased a license for the winning design, she received final technical drawings that allowed her to 3D Print a prototype to for her investment meetings. The change in reaction from investors was immediate. “Before I had a prototype, raising money was pretty slow-going,” she said. “It’s hard for people to see something that’s not final and go with you on the vision. But when we returned with a 3D print, they’d say, ‘Oh! That’s what you mean!”
Booth quickly closed her half-million dollar seed round and began seeking customers. The renderings she purchased from Red Clay were so good she used them on UnaliWear’s website and successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $100 thousand in less than 5 weeks. In months, she went from worrying about convincing a few investors to work with her to attracting hundreds of people to fund her watch plus a surplus of people eager to be part of its beta test.
“When I started my Red Clay project, I expected to be in a position where I could show enough visuals and perhaps a 3D printed prototype to show where our design was going. I got a ton more,” she said. “The fundamental design we chose required very few modifications. It’s essentially what we’re taking to our public beta test at the end of the year.”
UnaliWear had an unusual request for a tech company: design a smart watch that your grandma would understand how to use, and actually wear.
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