Wareness: The Masters of Hardware Crowdfunding

Wareness Logo

Wareness.io is a studio division of VSC, a global PR firm based in San Francisco.  Wareness came about as a type of epiphany on the power of crowdfunding in creating a successful hardware product.

Founded by Vijay Chattha, VSC (or Visibility, Strategy, Creativity) is one of the leading PR firms in the San Francisco Bay area and NYC today.  The group has a passion for marketing, and their mission is to direct clients to make bold and Vijay Chatthadisruptive PR moves that benefit their business.

With the advent of crowdfunding, VSC happened to pick up a new client that became one of the most successful pretail crowdfunding campaigns ever: The Tile finder device.

Tile was created by Nick Evans and co-founder Mike Farley.  Nick Evans and TileEvans had previous experience with two incredibly successful crowdfunding campaigns, the Pebble Smartwatch and Lockitron.  The latter  created their own crowdfunding platform which became Selfstarter (now open sourced).  When Evans launched Tile he understood the mechanics of crowdfunding and appreciated the need for an effective PR campaign.  Tile signed up with VSC and the campaign became a mega-hit “closing” at over $2.6 million after having skipped over the big platforms to become the largest self-crowdfunding campaign at that time.

Tile. Coin. Moov.

The Tile project was followed up with another big self-crowdfunding hit.  COIN – the one card to replace them all – hit their $50,000 goal in just 40 minutes from launch.  The device captured wide media attention as their presales rocketed.  As of today  Moov has partnered with Wareness and is running a pretail campaign. Started by an ex-Apple engineer, Moov has claimed the title of the most successful crowdfunding campaign for a wearable fitness device – ever.

Both Tile and COIN went on to raise additional rounds of funding from venture capitalists but one can only guess the difference in valuation before the crowdfunding campaign and then immediately after.  With both Tile and COIN, Vijay and his team saw a unique product for a market not yet served.  These devices each needed a messaging strategy that was highly effective – and their PR team delivered it.

Wareness Team

Wareness was created to capitalize on this unique and compelling opportunity.  Invest in hardware startups prior to crowdfunding.  Guarantee crowdfunding success by applying the Wareness tactics and see a valuation leap in months. Today Wareness is not just promoting products – they are becoming investors and committed stakeholders in these companies. While every deal is different, contingent upon the stage of the company, participation MOOVranges from straight equity, equity grants, retainers and incentive based milestones.  What Wareness almost guarantees in return – is success.

Wareness now has available $6 million in seed capital for select startups.  They will invest in increments from $25,000 up to $150,000.  The capital is being sourced from VSC but they are also augmenting with funds from their network of angels and institutional investment partners.  Their internal fund is now at a point where they are considering scaling with outside investment partners to allow others to benefit from a turbo charged valuation boost after a successful pretail crowdfunding campaign.  Everything is direct to consumer forgoing any Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns.

Pedigree, Product & Capital

Asked how he knows when a product is a fit?  Vijay responds that,

“…if in 30 seconds it creates a visceral, emotional connection..  We try to not only be ourselves as consumers but also to think about the target they are going after, talk to friends and family and ask would you buy this? .. if it is not cool in the first 30 seconds or takes longer to explain it then we probably do not want to take it on because that is how consumer marketing works.”

Coin Next to SunglassesPedigree matters to Wareness “big time”.  They like to work with people who have already done interesting things who already have interesting investors.

Vijay recognizes that great products without enough capital are not moving at the pace they need to move in order to be competitive.  If the Wareness team believes the product is going to be a home run then, they will put their own capital to work to create an environment for success.

Think about it.  There is a lot of money chasing good deals today.  Wareness now has created an investment vehicle that steps immediately to the front of the line.  Sure maybe some seed stage funding is in the bank but the product is still not in production.  Pretail proves market demand and correspondingly company valuations.

” We have created something that has never been done before… A real platform to create amazing products and connect with consumers directly”, says Vijay.

“Our team gets really excited about evolving their expertise as well and understanding businesses from the inside out.  The more campaigns we do the more skills we build.  There is nobody else that has all of these skills in one place.”

Tile on Keys

From PR Firm to Investment Partner

Vijay sees some traditional firms trying to understand the process but as of yet he believes there are no comparable firms doing what Wareness is doing today.

“We see some crowdfunding centric PR but frankly this is mostly tactical and just PR really.  I do not think the people we work with have seen anything like our hybrid approach.  Traditional firms are just so busy trying to build their own businesses they really do not understand connected devices.  To them it is just a category.  We see it as something entirely different.  Something that requires a whole different skill set and talent within your firm.”

“Most of the companies that are coming to us already know that we are good at building direct to consumer campaigns.”

When asked if they are considering building their own crowdfunding portal, Vijay declines as he sees self-crowdfunding software as easily available and more powerful for his clients.  Wareness wants to partner with companies that want to own their own customers and create their own communities.  Wareness wants to empower entrepreneurs and to help them create robust ecosystems that endure once the pretail campaign is completed.

As of yet they are not looking at providing support for equity crowdfunding campaigns but you never know as investment crowdfunding grows.  What they do know:  the future is in direct to consumer crowdfunding and Wareness is there first.