At the Wearable Technology Show this year we had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing Anastasia Emanuel, European Director of Tech and Hardware for Indiegogo. We sat down with her to discuss how technology is changing access to finance for entrepreneurs, women in technology and the future of wearables.
CROWDFUNDING BEYOND RAISING FUNDS
Indiegogo was founded in 2008 to democratize access to capital and lift the barriers for entrepreneurs wanting to bring their ideas to life. So far the platform has launched over 300 000 campaigns globally.
The benefits of running a crowdfunding campaigns, however, go way beyond purely access to finance. For many startups and established brands the platform is a way to test if there’s a product – market fit. Ultimately, it is a perfect research tool as it allows companies to get feedback on their products or services straight from the people who are pre-funding them and genuinely care. Anastasia gave an example with Tens sunglasses which created different versions of their product based on customer feedback. And although many of the entrepreneurs launching campaigns on the platform could have found the funds they needed without crowdfunding, this technique lets them bring their products to life with an already engaged customer community. And if they do it right, these customers become lifelong product evangelists.
Brand ambassadors are as powerful as word of mouth marketing gets, however, with crowdunfing campaigns it doesn’t stop there. Being on such platform increases exposure and awareness, can secure press and even convince VCs to invest in your product or service. Anastastia mentioned Knixwear – a high tech underwear company - which, through Indiegogo, got funding and secured retail space from Canada’s largest department store – Hudson’s Bay.
WOMEN IN TECH
It’s no secret that raising funds if you’re a women entrepreneur is very hard. Interestingly, women are 5 times more successful at crowdfunding than in raising funds by traditional methods.
VC funding in women – led startups varies between 8 – 15%, in comparison to 47% funded women – led crowdfunding campaigns. The reason for this, Anastasia pointed out, is the fact that VCs usually invest in what they know, which is – men. They are more familiar with the products they’re developing rather than the ones they see from women entrepreneurs. We definitely need to see more women in technology who are role models for others and one way of doing that is by leveraging the power of crowdfunding platforms. The reason for the high numbers of successfully funded female – led campaigns is the crowd, which is very different than VCs. It is representative of the world. It doesn’t care the gender, it cares about the product and whether it could improve their lives. Some of the most successful women – led projects on Indiegogo include Jibo and Muse.
THE FUTURE OF WEARABLES
The Internet of Things (IoT) has opened up opportunities for designers and engineers to work together on truly wearable wearables. Their challenge for the team is to understand who they are making it for which, in turn, needs to reflect the design of the product.
“I’m going to start wearing wearables when people integrate it in my lifestyle. That’s where the role of the designers comes in. I wouldn’t wear the Apple Watch but I wear my Misfit because it’s flexible and beautifully designed.”, said Anastasia. Form is just as important as function so designers and engineers have to talk to each other to create wearables with mass-appeal. The early adopters are the ones who first pick up on a trend, which is why when we talked about wearables in the beginning, the tech was first and the design followed. However, the majority of the world doesn’t want to shout about having tech on themselves: they just want something that adds value to their lives.
Other barriers to making wearables mainstream is the slow uptake on this trend from companies outside the tech industry. “Tech companies shouldn’t be trying to be fashion companies. Instead, they need to become the enabler and design/fashion companies need to become the ones housing that technology. What you want is to do is go into Topshop and buy a biker jacket that also has sensors in it. You buy it because you like it and you like Topshop as a brand, but also because of the functionality”.
Anastasia shared that we’re going to see increasingly more smart clothing campaigns in the wearable tech space coming up this year on Indiegogo. Expect a lot of integrated textiles, smart socks, insoles and technology infused clothing and accessories such as Knix, Fuelwear and XOO.
If you want to find out more about the future of fashion join us at #INTERLACED2015 on 3rd September. Early bird tickets are on sale now.