For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Ranjith Babu and Akshita Iyer of Inirv. Learn more about how there were inspired to create the Inirv React, what they’ve learned about product development, how to Kickstart a product and much more.

Inirv React: Make Your Home Smarter and Safer

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What to do when you have a basic prototype and need a final product
  • How to handle challenges that arise during product development
  • How to know if crowdfunding is the right way to launch your product
  • The benefits of launching a product on Kickstarter
  • What you can expect to get out of exhibiting at CES
  • Tips for exhibiting at CES

Links

Connect with Inirv

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 25% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Transcript

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Roy Morejon:

This episode of Art of the Kickstart is sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. Plus, if you want to create and send surveys, offer add-ons and pledge upgrades, or begin accepting pre-orders, BackerKit makes it simple. Over two thousand projects and four million backers have used BackerKit, including many of the projects featured on Art of the Kickstart. Ready to try BackerKit? Visit BackerKit.com and sign up today.

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, President of Command Partners, the top, full-service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over 70 million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert, in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more, visit TheGadgetFlow.com. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined by the founders of Inirv React, Akshita and Ranjith. Thank you so much for joining us.

Ranjith Babu:

Thanks for having us.

Roy Morejon:

You guys are a unique product for us here at Enventys Partners. You are our first product to go through and use all of the different elements of our new product development launch agency. It’s an honor to have you guys not only be a client, but be on Art of the Kickstart, so thank you guys again for joining us.

Akshita Iyer:

Yeah, thank you, appreciate it.

Roy Morejon:

We have an active campaign right now on Kickstarter, done over six figures, doing really well with it. Let’s talk about where this idea came from. Where did it all start? What’s the backstory?

Akshita Iyer:

Ranjith previously co-funded a biotech company, so he’s very interested in being an entrepreneur, going forward, and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit as well. We came up with this idea when my mom came to visit a few times, and every time we’d leave the house she’d ask me, “Did I leave the stove on? I can’t remember,” so we’d rush back a few times. Finally, this one time she actually left a pot on the stove with it on, then we left the house. We’d gone to a movie. A few minutes into the movie she turned to me again and gripped my arm and said, “I can’t remember if I left the stove on.” The first thought I had was one, we live in a town home complex, so we have houses on both sides, so I was worried about that. Two, I also have a dog, so we rushed out of the theater, went home as quick as possible, and the pot had actually melted. Fortunately we got there before an actual fire had started, but we did have thousands of dollars in smoke damage.

We really knew a solution was needed because it really could have been a lot worse. We looked at the current devices that combat fires caused by stove tops and unattended cooking equipment and realized that they’re very, very expensive. They’re difficult to install for the average consumer and just ineffective in general at protecting you from these kind of situations, so we put our heads together. With Ranjith’s engineering background, we thought of a better way to do this and then just took it from there, and here we are.

Roy Morejon:

It’s amazing. Let’s talk about these stats for a little bit that you guys have on your website. Seven people die from a house fire in the United States every day. There’s about a thousand home structure fires per day in the United States, and this is one of the leading causes of home fires, are these cooking equipment issues. You guys are obviously helping solve this amazing problem that’s happening every single day. Every 85 seconds, as you guys reported, that there’s a house fire in the United States alone. It’s ridiculous that there hasn’t been something and it’s great that you guys have created something that truly solves a need for everyone, because I’m a victim of this. We’ve got two small young children, and you get distracted. You forget what’s going on because there’s so many things happening in everyone’s lives, so it’s a beautiful product that solves that issue.

Akshita Iyer:

Yeah, definitely. Ranjith and I really thought of this company to not only make homes smarter, but safer as well. You see a lot of smart home products coming out that increase user convenience, which is great, but we saw this other side of it that we really wanted to tackle. Ranjith has committed his current career to saving lives and improving lives, so this is another way we’re trying to do that. Yeah, we definitely try to combat all those stats and hopefully bring those down with our product.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s unique is you guys came to our agency, you hit us up about four months ago now with this idea and with this product. It’s been amazing that we’ve been able to bring you guys through the building and do the initial designs and the prototypes and build it out, and get you guys to have the fully working prototype so quickly. Let’s talk a little bit about the overall design process and what you guys have gone through in terms of different iterations with the product now.

Ranjith Babu:

It’s mostly been a long journey. We’ve been working on this for more than a year, and we came to Enventys with a prototype that had the basics in it. We really needed to develop that further and add all the features that we needed. It’s been a lot of R&D essentially because stoves are all so different, and trying to design a device that works for all of them, both gas and electric, was really important for us.

We also really wanted to put a lot of emphasis in making it look appealing, because people spend a lot of time and money on their kitchens, so we really wanted it to fit in with people’s homes. That’s why we spent a lot of time with a lot of people, to figure a way to allow people to put their own stove knobs back on top of the device, and then also making it very easy for the consumer to use. There’s a lot of gadgets out there that really require consumers to really learn exactly how to work it, but we made it really simple so that all you have to do is turn your stove on and it automatically works. We’ve worked hard along with Enventys to come up with a really elegant solution.

Roy Morejon:

You absolutely have, I think it’s a beautiful product. What were some of the challenges that you guys have encountered while designing and prototyping out the product?

Ranjith Babu:

Yeah, because there’s several unknowns. One is to bring shapes and sizes for the shaft that your knobs sit on, so trying to figure out exactly how can we make an adapter that works for pretty much any stove. That was a major challenge, and we’re even currently refining that today to make it as simple as possible for users to install. Also the amount of torque that’s needed to turn the knob as well is also different, so having to do a lot of R&D and testing to figure out exactly what sort of specifications do we need for a motor, and what type of force do we need that’s put out?

Then obviously there’s a lot of electronics that go into it. It’s Bluetooth. There’s a touch sensor, there’s a motor. There’s a lot of things that are going into this device, and we’re trying to make this as tiny as possible so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore eye on your stove. That’s also been a big challenge, and Enventys has done a great job on the terms of making the device smaller. Every millimeter in this device is now packed with electronics and material, so that’s also been a big challenge, trying to get it down, as well.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. When you guys came to us four or five months ago now, how did you guys decide that launching your startup using crowdfunding was the best approach for you?

Ranjith Babu:

There were several factors that went into why we chose crowdfunding as our initial source of funding. One of the things was it’s obviously a great source of [inaudible 00:08:26] funding. It’s obviously important for every entrepreneur to try to retain as much of your company as you can, but more importantly, it really allowed us to test the market, really find out how many people really want this device. How big is it a problem for people? Also get some feedback, and it’s been an amazing experience getting all these both positive and also challenging comments that make us think, and also maybe even make some changes to the device to make it even better.

Also what’s been cool is being able to exceed our funding goal has allowed us to put in some stretch goals, and receiving feedback into additional features that people have found valuable has been really helpful in terms of looking long term and seeing how the device should develop. In addition to the funding, I think that’s a smaller part. I think the bigger part is interacting with your future customers and getting feedback, so that’s been a good experience for us. That was actually one of the main reasons why we decided to go with crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, and it’s great when you do get that feedback, not only from customers, but from people that are on the outside that think differently or have different setups for their product. This year, you guys exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show for the first time. What was your experience like there?

Akshita Iyer:

It was good experience. Obviously there are a quarter of a million people there, if not more. It was very, very busy, but similar to the people we’ve been getting through crowdfunding, we got a ton of feedback just from industry experts to buyers to just other entrepreneurs who also exhibited in the same part that we were in. It was a really, really great experience, especially because we were in the Consumer Electronics Show, which is exactly the industry our product is in. Overall, it was an amazing experience. We also learned a lot from other products that were also in the smart home area, so we got a lot of feedback from them. This is very overwhelming, but a wonderful experience to be there this year. Hopefully we’ll be there again next year and following years.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What was the most valuable thing that you got out of attending this year?

Ranjith Babu:

I think several things were really valuable. Obviously meeting future potential customers and also partners, I think that was really great for us. We were approached by several key business organizations that would be really important for us in terms of providing additional revenue streams and also distribution pathways. That was actually the most rewarding experience, and having people come up to us and say they’ve never seen a device like this, and they’d like to work with us and have this device integrate with their system, so that was a great experience and that was really valuable for us. We definitely developed contacts that we’re really going to stay in touch with over the next coming months.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, so what’s your biggest piece of advice for someone planning to attend CES next year for the first time?

Ranjith Babu:

That’s tough. I would say chapstick, water, because midway through my voice was gone, which is great. We’re just meeting a ton of people and talking. Obviously be prepared. People will ask you challenging questions. You’re obviously the expert on your own company and device, so just educate people the best you can. Have as many materials and business cards as possible. We almost ran out at one point, and people follow up on business cards again to see us, and it’s been great to have your inbox flooded from contacts that you met at CES.

Also makes notes on everyone that you meet, because you will inevitably forget because you meet so many people every day, so it’s really important to figure out who is who and make some cheat notes to help you remember and stay in touch with those people. Also have fun, I’d say. Walk around. That’s probably something we didn’t do enough of. That’s something we will do more so next year, is walk around, see what other cool things outside of what you’re doing. You’ll get great ideas and also make long term connections.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s really tough to pack all of what CES offers in just a three day event. It’s thousands of different exhibitors there as well.

Ranjith Babu:

Yeah, absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

With the campaign … coming back to that, what’s been the biggest surprise so far that you guys have encountered?

Ranjith Babu:

Yeah, several surprises. I think some of the surprise is how many comments we’ve gotten. We’ve had a ton of comments and we’ve also gotten personal inboxes from people who have had tragedies from cooking-related fires. That’s been touching to us, but also very motivating. That’s surprising to see so early, especially from a starter campaign, and also the support. It’s been interesting to see that … Kickstarter isn’t our ideal demographic for our device, but it’s been surprising to see so many young techie and young males being interested in supporting this device, so that was a little bit of a surprise.

Akshita Iyer:

Yeah, and I think having gone through a personal experience ourselves, it’s been comforting I guess to know that there are other people out there who have had similar experiences, if not worse. It really makes us feel like we are making a difference and hopefully will make a difference in preventing these kind of situations from happening to people. I think our supporters so far have been very open in their experiences. Some people have even posted pictures when their house burned down when their kitchen started a fire, so that’s been really great, and like Ranjith said, a very, very big motivating factor for us to continue moving forward.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. What advice would you give to someone else looking to Kickstart their smart home product?

Ranjith Babu:

In terms of crowdfunding aspect, I would say obviously have a great marketing partner. I think that’s really important, and something we had underestimated when we were first starting the company and looking to do crowdfunding. There’s just so much involved on the backend in terms of preparing for a crowdfunding campaign, so definitely look for a Kickstarter marketing firm. I think it really will aid in your success and really maximize your potential from a crowdfunding aspect.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah. We’ve certainly been happy working with you guys and helping out with all those aspects, because again, as you’ve seen, there are hundreds of things to do just on the backend behind the scenes to make sure that these things get launched correctly.

Akshita Iyer:

Absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

This gets us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you both. You ready to go?

Ranjith Babu:

Let’s do it.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you both to become entrepreneurs?

Ranjith Babu:

I’ve always had this passion. I think creating devices that can improve the lives of other people is very rewarding. With devices and businesses, then create jobs, that it can really impact the lives of many, so that’s always been really attractive to me.

Akshita Iyer:

I’ve always had entrepreneur spirit in me. My dream was to actually attend medical school, but when I stumbled across this idea with this experience with my mom, I figured one, this would be a great place to start, and two, I could really be of most value and have the greatest impact doing this, so I just took it from there and haven’t looked back since.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive, so if you guys could cook a meal with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Ranjith Babu:

That’s a tough question. I don’t know. I have to say Steve Jobs. I would say that Steve Jobs was obviously a visionary. He went through a lot of trials and tribulations and made a few key decisions that really turned his career and Apple around. I think talking to him in terms of going through the trials and tribulations of being kicked out of a company that he started and then doing something else and then eventually returning and really being a key part of that company’s success, I think is a cool story to see how he dealt with that and what his thought process was. Everyone considers Steve Jobs as a genius, so seeing as to what goes on in his mind and picking up key tips, that would help our company going forward, and that would be really interesting.

Roy Morejon:

What meal would you cook Steve?

Ranjith Babu:

I’m a pretty bad cook, so I’m probably not the best one to ask. I don’t know, Akshita would cook.

Akshita Iyer:

I love cooking meat, so any kind of chicken, steak, probably do that.

Ranjith Babu:

I’ll second steak. I would go with steak and nothing but steak.

Roy Morejon:

I’m going to come to dinner now. Let’s see, any business books or life books that you guys are currently reading that are on your nightstand that you would recommend to our audience?

Akshita Iyer:

Yeah, there are two books we have right now. One is called The Lean Startup, and then the other one is called Blue Ocean Strategy, which is basically talking about how to create a new market. That’s where we fall in, because there isn’t a product that exists like ours, so it was actually a challenge to come up with a name of our product because we couldn’t call it a smart thermostat or a smart stove, because technically it doesn’t exist. We really, when we started this company, found it challenging to figure out who is our market, because again, this product doesn’t exist. The Blue Ocean Strategy book tells you how to create new markets, or if you already have a market, how to approach it differently, so I think those would be two great ones.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Yeah, The Lean Startup is always a great spot. I know Eric just finished crowdfunding his second book, The Leader’s Guide to Adopting The Lean Startup at Scale. I just finished that one a few weeks ago. Definitely a good read as well for a followup for everybody that read The Lean Startup initially.

Akshita Iyer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Roy Morejon:

Where do you guys see yourself in five years?

Ranjith Babu:

That’s a good question. Obviously with every startup, there are risks, but in five years, we’re hoping that we’re still running this company. Obviously hopefully it will be bigger than two of us. We really hope to make an impact on home safety. This is one of many devices that will be coming out. We do have a focus on safety and improving the lives of people, so we really look forward to building a great company that actually seeks to improve lives of people, not only here in the United States, but around the world. Hopefully in five years we’ll be doing that and I think if we’re doing that, we’ll be happy regardless of what happens.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, so last question in the launch round. What does the future of crowdfunding look like to you both?

Ranjith Babu:

I think crowdfunding is just going to get bigger and bigger. It’s such an amazing platform, and it really reduces the bar to create a company. Before crowdfunding and the internet and social media, it was really difficult to start a business. How do you reach your end consumer without having millions of dollars behind you, whereas crowdfunding, you have a great idea, you build it to a certain point, and you enlist the public to help you go further. I think that’s invaluable. I think not only is the funding really important for early companies that may not have venture capital or angel investors behind you like we don’t, but I think the feedback is invaluable in valuable assets to the company’s development. I think crowdfunding is going to be bigger and bigger, and I think every company, any startup should utilize it.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. This has been great. Ranjith, Akshita, thank you so much. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where they should go, and why they should go buy an Inirv React.

Ranjith Babu:

We’ve created the first smart stove safety device. It’s a device that goes onto your stove, and if it detects a hazardous situation, it will turn off your stove for you automatically. All of our homes have smoke detectors, but all they do is make a noise and they don’t help protect you, so what this device does is if it detects high levels of smoke or flammable gas, it will automatically shut your stove off.

Also, if you leave it on by accident, there’s a motion detector there that will know that and it will also cut it off for you as well. There’s also a smart phone app that will send you real time alerts, and you can even shut your stove off remotely, so it’s really a great valuable device that will help protect your home and your family. We’re currently on Kickstarter. You can look at our website at www.inirv.com, I-N-I-R-V.com. You can also find us on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Thank you again for tuning in, everyone. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all of the show notes, the full transcript, links to everything we talked about today, and of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Inirv team, thank you so much for joining us today.

Ranjith Babu:

Thank you very much for having us.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It. If you’ve loved this episode, leave us a review at ArtoftheKickstart.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find this show, and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding strategy, please feel free to request a quote on CommandPartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you soon.