It all started at a barbecue back in July of 2014. Long-time friends Jake Boshernitzan, CEO and Co-Founder of Knocki, and Ohad Nezer, Co-Founder of Knocki, were enjoying a summer day with their families when inspiration hit.
“We were watching our children playing and one of our kids stacked up boxes in order to be able to reach a light switch,” recalled Boshernitzan. “Then we jokingly thought, how cool would it be if that entire wall was a light switch?”
For Boshernitzan and Nezer, that joke transformed into an “aha” moment. In order to make sure their idea was original, they started searching for a product that could turn surfaces into a control interfaces.
“We started looking around and doing a lot of research and discovered that, as simple as this concept was, there was really nothing out there [like it],” explained Boshernitzan.
Seeking assistance from an attorney, they were able to verify that a patent for their idea did not exist. “It looked like we had real innovation with our approach,” said Boshernitzan. “We had come across something novel.”
Acting quickly on their vision, the duo filed for a patent and started brainstorming about how they could turn their idea into reality.
Paving the path to innovation
The journey to entrepreneurship isn’t always smooth, and for Boshernitzan and Nezer, it wasn’t straight either. “Our first product wasn’t exactly Knocki,” explained Boshernitzan. “Instead it was something we called Sleepra.” An insert that tucked under a bedsheet, Sleepra combined the technology of a sleep tracker with a vibrating smart alarm — but that wasn’t all. It could also transform your entire bed into a control interface.
With the early prototype of Sleepra in hand, Boshernitzan and Nezer applied to an accelerator program for startups in Texas. As a part of this program, they were tasked with validating market demand for Sleepra. Hitting shopping malls and college campuses, the two went to work asking people for their honest opinions.
“People were very excited about the sleep tracking and the vibrating smart alarm, but they just didn’t see the point of a gesture-activated bed,” said Boshernitzan. “They thought it was weird.” With an increase in sleep tracking products hitting the market, the part that made Sleepra unique wasn’t resonating with consumers.
Thinking outside the bed
Three weeks into the accelerator program, Boshernitzan and Nezer realized they had to pivot if they wanted to succeed. Persistent, the duo hit up a local pizza parlor to brainstorm new ideas. That’s when another aha moment hit. Building off their original idea, they set out to create Knocki — a smart device that lets you control your world from any surface.
“We still had the same challenge that we had with Sleepra — we needed to validate the product really quickly,” explained Boshernitzan.
After creating a very primitive prototype and a simple Facebook ad, Boshernitzan and Nezer were able to demonstrate a huge demand for Knocki. Determined to make Knocki a success, the duo teamed up with John Boyd, CTO and Head of Hardware, Jaime Raijman, Head of Design and JT Seltzer, System Design Engineer. Together, they were able to bring Knocki to life, creating a version that was suitable for crowdfunding.
The Knocki team, from left to right: Stacey Kim; Jaime Raijman; Ohad Nezer; Jake Boshernitzan; JT Seltzer; Stephanie Pocina; John Boyd
Not knowing what would happen next, Boshernitzan and Nezer decided to launch Knocki on Indiegogo with a goal of $35,000. By the end of their campaign, the team raised over $1 million, surpassing their original crowdfunding goal more than 30 times over.
“It was really an extraordinary experience crowdfunding Knocki,” recalled Boshernitzan.
With crowdfunding success also came added responsibility. From ensuring that they could properly manufacture the units they sold to running proper alpha and beta tests, the Knocki team had a lot on their plate.
Arrow: A secret weapon for success
As their campaign entered the InDemand on Indiegogo, Boshernitzan and Nezer connected with Arrow Electronics and applied for the Arrow Certification Program.
“Arrow is a secret weapon for hardware startups,” explained Boshernitzan. “They provided so much counsel and direction and expertise.”
Earning Arrow Certification enabled the team’s success by helping demonstrate that Knocki was indeed a legitimate campaign. “Arrow is just an amazing credibility indicator for the general public and also to backers,” said Nezer. “When they see that you’re partnered with Arrow, they know the product is actually going to get made and delivered.”
As part of the Arrow Certification program, Arrow experts were able to help the team sort through supply chain and manufacturing details, easing the burden of getting Knocki to market. “Typically a hardware startup is overwhelmed managing the supply chain for different components,” said Boshernitzan. “You have to predict how many units you’re going to sell and what’s the availability of these products in the marketplace.” Providing the team with access to a bounty of electronic components, Arrow was also able to decrease the chance for a materials shortage based on Knocki’s demand.
Taking a visual approach to crowdfunding
Knocki offers endless possibilities and in fact, the team encourages people to use their imagination in thinking up more creative uses. In order to communicate its endless potential to all backers — not just early adopters — the team created a video showing just how universal Knocki is.
“We really tried to demonstrate in the video the wide range of possibilities and how it’s applicable to different subsets of the population,” explained Nezer. “We really tried to demonstrate that you can find a use for it [Knocki] in life, no matter who you are.”
The video successfully portrays Knocki as delightfully simple and universal. As a result, they were able to successfully show how this device can transcend all boundaries, from age and language to culture and technical know-how. “The vision we wanted to display to people was that this is something delightfully simple and universal,” said Boshernitzan.
The surprising ideas for Knocki conceived by early users have inspired them. One user placed Knocki near the medicine cabinet of their elderly parent, who suffered from dementia. They instructed their parent to tap Knocki when taking their medication, and they would be notified. If they failed to receive a notification, they would call their parent and remind them to take their medication.
The impact of Arrow flash funding
Now in the home stretch of development, the team will utilize their flash funding from Arrow to reach full production sooner. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to really step on the gas pedal and bring us to the finish line sooner,” said Nezer.
Funding will also be used to expand the Knocki team, with high-priority given to developing an in-house support staff to assist customers once the product lands in homes.
“With a startup, every dollar is so valuable and this really is a game-changer for us,” said Boshernitzan.
The future of Knocki
It has been more than three years since the barbeque that started it all, but Boshernitzan and Nezer are excited about the future. They envision a “Knocki in every home and office, and eventually in every room. The idea is we want to transform surfaces everywhere into natural, accessible interfaces. That’s our big vision, to make it easier for people to control their world through their world.”
Reflecting upon their entrepreneurial journey and its twists and turns, Boshernitzan noted that “A hardware start-up is one of the most challenging things that a person can do in their life.” But he pointed out, “Both Indiegogo and Arrow really make something possible for people with ideas without the resources to bring them to life. Both of them, together, is such an amazing combination for making things possible for so many dreamers and small businesses that otherwise couldn’t turn their ideas into reality.”
Interested in growing your business? Join the Arrow Certification program and see how Arrow’s experts can help you take your idea to the next level. Arrow is giving away a total of $1,000,000 in flash funding in 2017, so don’t miss out!