A Plate that Counts Calories: Smart Plate Wins $100k in Flash Funding from Arrow

Smart Plate, a plate that can identify any food you eat and analyze its calories, is the latest Indiegogo campaign team to win $100K in flash funding from Arrow as part of the Arrow Certification Program. Become Arrow Certified to join campaigns like Elliegrid and WaterBot to win game-changing funds and gain access to engineering resources, discounts and personal guidance from experts.

Changing the way we think about health

When Anthony Ortiz almost lost his dad to heart disease, he went on a mission to transform the way people eat. He noticed that many conversations around obesity were more about exercise than diet. “The first book I read about fitness, believe it or not, was Fitness for Dummies. It said that 60-80% of your health is what you’re eating. It’s the most important thing you can focus on,” said Anthony Ortiz, the CEO of Smart Plate. “If you don’t do anything else, eat right. Everything else falls into place.”

Anthony’s first venture was a meal delivery services company for weight loss, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. But if his team’s mission was to revolutionize the way people ate, they knew they had to help people truly track everything they were eating. “We scrapped the food service idea because we wanted to get closer to where we can make the greatest impact,” said Anthony. “That’s how Smart Plate was born.”

Tracking food intake is one of the most effective ways to enforce new eating habits. Using Smart Plate’s portable plate and app, you can accurately analyze and log what you’re eating in seconds with Food Recognition Technology. Its AI tracks the calories, carbs, fat, fiber, sugar and sodium in your entire meal. All you have to do is take a photo of it.

A story everyone can relate to

Anthony and his team turned to crowdfunding to make their project a reality. They wanted to access a community of early adopters who would be receptive to a technology-based solution to some of the country’s biggest health issues.

Because this project was so personal to Smart Plate’s team, they wanted to make sure they told their story effectively on their campaign page. So they used a short video to convey a personal message about Anthony’s dad while also describing the benefits of the product and its features.

“We had a lot of backers respond and say, ‘My mom, my dad, my little niece is a Type 1 diabetic,’” said Anthony. “So many people struggle with diseases like obesity, heart disease or diabetes that can be treated with better food habits. It just resonates. We always tell our story at the beginning of every pitch. It’s so important because that’s when people identify with our mission.”

Getting backers to believe

Smart Plate’s advanced technology came with a lot of non-believers. “A lot of people thought it was pseudo-science,” said Anthony. “We have a world class team of scientists and medical advisors, and we all made ourselves available. I said, ‘Here’s my Skype. Here’s my email. Here’s my cell phone number. If any of you want a 1:1 demo, my office address is here. We’re happy to give anyone a demo onsite in person and put the debate to bed.’”

And they proceeded to do exactly that. “I met with a backer in SF who tweeted something cynical about us,” recalls Anthony. “So I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, I noticed you’re in San Francisco. I’m in the city. I’d love to chat with you in person and give you a live demo.’ I took her to lunch and brought the Smart Plate. She did a total 180. When she saw this thing working in person, she became our number one fan.”

Arrow made it possible

To build their product, they worked with Arrow Electronics through Indiegogo’s Arrow Certification program. “We wanted to find an anchor partner that knew a lot about bringing products to market very quickly. No one else had Arrow’s expertise when it came to procuring, supplying and distributing electronic parts,” said Anthony. Campaigners that are part of Arrow’s Certification program work with Arrow’s team to build their product. They also get access to Arrow’s considerable manufacturing resources, which were crucial for Anthony and his team to make Smart Plate a reality.

“We needed about 50 different parts to build prototypes for testing. Arrow already had most of the parts in storage, and they had the others at their warehouse in 3-5 days. Had we tried to get those parts as a resource-constrained start-up, it would have taken forever. You can’t put a price on that. That’s the value that Arrow brings.”

Making their audience central to their campaign

Anthony and his team knew that crowdfunding success takes more than a great product. It also takes a large and passionate audience. “We spent months prior to launch making sure we had an email list of backers that were going to fund our project right out of the gate,” he explained. “To be successful you really need to hit the first 30% of your project goal in the first 24-48 hours. We put a lot of effort into planning for that. We put a lot of effort into planning everything”

Despite all of their careful forethought, Smart Plate still ran into delays. “We ran into some trouble manufacturing in China with the plastics we’d originally sourced. If you tell backers you’re going to deliver a project by a certain time and you don’t, you instantly lose credibility.”

And losing credibility on their passion project wasn’t easy to endure. “This is my team’s baby,” Anthony said. “The most hurtful and challenging thing about not meeting your deadline is seeing how upset your backers are. A lot of backers can be very unforgiving. You need to have thick enough skin to deal with it.”

When addressing delays, Anthony and his team maintained their backer-first approach. Anthony found that regular updates and great customer service were key. “You need to be super transparent about what the issues are exactly. As long as people see progress and receive updates, you’re going to be in a good place,” said Anthony. “The minute you go silent and stop having anything to show your backers is the minute you run into trouble.”

Arrow’s Flash Funding extends their runway

Now that they have an additional $100,000 thanks to Arrow’s Flash Funding program, they can  make Smart Plate better than ever. “It’s all going right back into the business,” said Anthony. “We’re using the money for Android and iOS development. Our operating expenses are $15k a month. This is fantastic because it buys us an additional 5-6 months of runway. It’s exactly what we need to get to market. And the timing is perfect because we’ll have the device shipped by then.”

Ultimately, the funding will let Smart Plate reach more users. “We want to help millions of people change their health,” said Anthony. “And thanks to Arrow’s funding, we’re better positioned to do that.”

Looking to make your campaign harder, better, faster, stronger? Enroll in the Arrow Certification program today and you’ll receive engineering resources, game-changing tool, valuable discounts, personal guidance and the chance to win funding.

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