EllieGrid, a smart pillbox “with brains and beauty,” is the latest Indiegogo campaign team to win $75K in flash funding from Arrow, as part of the Arrow Certification Program. And like every Arrow Certified campaign, EllieGrid gets access to design tools, a 10% parts discount, and expert one-on-one support from Arrow’s engineering team.
An idea born of love
The idea for EllieGrid came to Matamoros when his grandfather became ill. “He was very sick,” recalls Matamoros, “and I found out he hadn’t taken his medications in three days.” For many seniors, organizing and remembering to take multiple pills can be a challenge—with serious consequences when meds aren’t taken as prescribed.
Matamoros turned to his friend Vatterott, who had experience in medical marketing. Together they came up with a way to help his grandfather—and a compelling product idea: an attractive, easy-to-use smart pillbox that works for everyone from seniors to caregivers, elite athletes to busy professionals. He did some research on existing solutions and found that while “there are a lot of medication dispensers out there trying to solve the problem, no one is actually using them. There’s a lot of negativity surrounding the whole thing—but we wanted to create a positive experience.”
The EllieGrid team soon expanded to include Nicolas Dhanam and Hieu Nguyen. The foursome launched the company while still in college—devoting themselves to demographic and market research, design, and repeated prototyping, then adding features such as fun facts delivered with reminders and real-time notifications for family and caregivers. Only then did they feel ready to seek funding.
Vatterott says that they approached this step as a process of “calculated risk.” She and Matamoros had heard of crowdfunding campaigns falling behind in production, or struggling to get a product out to the market—and they knew that as young hardware entrepreneurs, the team would need to prove themselves. Indiegogo offered a way to get clear market validation and, just as important, to show investors their ability to deliver a finished product to backers.
Getting the word out with Indiegogo
Market validation wasn’t long in coming. The team racked up several accolades for new products, then decided it was time to seek crowdfunding. After considering the options, says Vatterott, they chose Indiegogo: “What we loved about Indiegogo was that their communication was superb.”
Another plus: Indiegogo’s help with getting the word out. “We’d built a list of mostly friends and family,” says Vatterott, “but we didn’t have a big marketing budget. It was mostly word of mouth and social media.” What had the most impact, though, was promotion in Indiegogo’s newsletter: “That helped more than anything.”
An ecosystem of services from Arrow
The EllieGrid team was also drawn to the Arrow Certification Program, especially the opportunity to learn from experienced product designers and engineers, says Matamoros: “It seemed like with Arrow Certification you’re more likely to get your product to market.” And indeed, that’s exactly what happened. One of the biggest benefits of the Arrow Certification Program is its role in earning campaign backers’ trust. Upon certification, every product team is connected with a partner team of Arrow engineers for a full BOM and DFM review and consultation. Backers see the Arrow Certified badge on a campaign’s page and know that the product is ready for production.
“The Arrow team invited us to their offices and introduced us to their partners,” says Matamoros, adding that Arrow helped them secure discounts as well as “find parts we needed, and source them at an affordable price. They have a whole ecosystem of services they can connect you with.” The support doesn’t end with initial production, either: “We discussed how, once we start scaling, we can partner on the supply chain as we grow.”
Onward and upward
Next up? The first set of EllieGrid pillboxes is on track to ship in May, then the team will make adjustments to both product and marketing based on user feedback. The funder community is a real benefit of launching a new product with an Indiegogo campaign, and EllieGrid has worked hard to build community with frequent updates on the campaign page. Looking to the future, it’s all about bold but well-planned growth. The original EllieGrid campaign covered all costs for the first production run, so the Arrow award will be devoted to product testing, scaling the business, and strengthening it for the growth ahead. It looks like they’re well on their way.
Indiegogo and Arrow will be choosing more flash funding recipients in 2017. Sign up for the Arrow Certification Program for your shot at game-changing funds, engineering resources and tools, discounts, and personal guidance from Arrow’s experts.