Tile App Startup Founders: On Raising $2.6 Million via Selfstarter So You Never Lose Anything Again
Being the occasional careless person myself, I can’t count the number of mornings that I’ve had to find my misplaced keys before heading out the door. This is why I was excited when I discovered the Tile App at the recent Launch Mobiles and Wearables conference in San Francisco.
Tile is basically a solution for people who constantly lose things. The product is a Bluetooth tag that you can track using an iPhone app. A sweet feature that they provide is that you can mark certain items as “lost”, which will be projected to all users in the Tile community and notify them when they are near a lost item. Tile has managed to get some major traction, attracting endorsements from tech legends like Steve Wozniak and raising $2.6 million through their crowdfunding campaign.
We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tile App Founders Mike Farley and Nick Evans. Here, we discuss how they came up with the idea of Tile, what they did to generate so much buzz for their product, and their experiences building a startup.
For the sake of our readers, give us a brief background of yourselves?
We met in Santa Barbara in 2006 working as programmers for Green Hills Software. Nick has a background in hardware and software development for consumer smart devices including experience at Lockitron, Pebble and Livescribe, and Mike has a background in embedded software development and sales at Green Hills building ultra-high reliability software systems. In 2012, we both quit our full-time jobs to focus solely on making Tile a reality.
How did you first come up with the idea of Tile?
The idea of Tile came about to make people’s lives easier. To keep people from losing the stuff that’s important to them, and give them back the time they previously spent searching for lost stuff. We started working on this project about a year ago. The problem of losing things has been around forever, and we felt like many people have tried to solve this without ever really being that successful. Losing things is something that has always bothered us, and when Bluetooth Low Energy support was released on iOS devices, we started thinking about how we could properly solve the problem.
I saw that Steve Wozniak recently purchase Tile for himself, has there been any other notable people that have supported your project?
There sure have, but that’s confidential! We’ve only seen their names in the order list, so we can’t share.
You guys chose SelfStarter instead of notable crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund your project. There are definitely pros and cons for both, did you guys have any trouble getting initial eyeballs to your campaign when you launched?
For any crowdfunding campaign on any platform you are responsible for driving your own traffic. Kickstarter and Indiegogo can give you a boost of traffic from their current users, but it is typically not the majority of the traffic.
Make sure your have some great PR lined up. We worked with VSC in San Francisco and started PR work a full 6 weeks before we even launched.
Keep in mind Selfstarter is a lot more work to do, so we typically recommend people stick with Crowdtilt, Kickstarter, or Indiegogo. However we wanted to make sure we were in complete control of the campaign, so we chose to do the extra work and build out our own Selfstarter campaign.
From researching your company, some people have humorously commented that your product can be used to track potential cheating spouses, what do you have to say about that?
We are building in intelligence into the app to prevent this, so no need to worry about that.
What have been the biggest challenges in building and running this new startup?
The biggest technical challenge for Tile is the system as a whole. Making sure every piece of the Tile system plays well with the other parts can be daunting. This is why we like to hire multidisciplinary engineers that can understand how different parts of the system interact.
Whats your process like when trying to build a solid team?
When building a startup founders need to do any and every task imaginable, and often need to learn how to do each one. After a while you can get quite good at any task if you really put a lot of work into it. Once you understand what goes into a certain role, you are finally able to hire for that position. When you do meet someone that’s a great fit, you will know. Look for people that know a lot more than you and make you feel dumb.
Do you guys have any plans to launch other colors aside from white?
There are an endless number of features that we would like to develop for Tile. However, right now we are very much focused on delivering a rock solid Tileversion 1. The number one feature request we have received so far is Android support and yes, different colored Tiles! We can’t wait to share some of the upcoming features of Tile v2 with you all in the future!
What is one thing young aspiring entrepreneurs need to STOP doing?
Assuming. When making decisions, never rely on assumptions. Never depend on what you learned in school, the media, former bosses, or basically anything you see on TV. Read books on different subjects. Find people that have gone through building companies and ask for advice and guidance.
Lastly, what are some other exciting things coming to us from Tile?
We can’t say just yet, but with what we’re working on get ready to see Tile everywhere.