HOW THIS START-UP WENT FROM CROWDFUNDING TO AMERICAN RETAIL
Written on the 12 July 2017 by David Simmons
AUSTRALIAN internet device start-up, KoalaSafe, is making waves in the United States after the group signed an agreement to be stocked in 250 American Target retail stores.
"It all began as an idea back in 2014 after my nephew got an iPad for Christmas and was spending all his time playing Minecraft," says Steven Pack, who co-founded KoalaSafe with Adam Mills (pictured).
This idea blossomed into the company now called KoalaSafe which develops a special router with added parental controls that allows parents to easily manage the time children spend online.
The device creates a dedicated Wi-Fi network at home enabling parents to set time limits, block inappropriate content, and see usage analytics all from an iPhone app.
The group's ambitious leap into the US network is a far cry from their crowdfunding beginnings in March 2015.
"We're really proud of our product which is unlike any other available," says Pack.
"KoalaSafe is unique in that we don't charge a monthly fee like other products in the market and our product creates a completely separate network for kids, so parents and children can have a completely independent experience."
In addition to the group's new US retail footprint, the router ships to over 21 countries across North and South America, Asia, and Europe.
Business News Australia spoke with co-founder Adam Mills about the deal with Target, how to leverage online services like KickStarter and Amazon, and the future for the kid-friendly internet device manufacturers.
How did the deal with Target come about?
Retail's obviously been part of our strategy since the beginning, we've been looking for a retail partner for some time. We joined the retail stream of the Hacks Accelerator in the US with the idea that it was focused on getting products like ours onto shelves. We put our product in front of the right people and pitched Target and we were successful in landing a deal with them.
What kind of success have you seen in Australia?
Australia's our second biggest market behind the US. It's only direct sales at the moment; we've approached retailers in Australia but haven't had any bites yet. We're looking forward to Amazon arriving because Amazon was a really big boost to our US sales. If Australians adopt Amazon the way America did, hopefully that will make it easier for smaller product companies like us to get in front of a large amount of people rather than having to go down the retail path.
What are some of the pros and cons of crowdfunding in your opinion and what advice would you give to a start up looking to go down that road?
I think crowdfunding's great. Especially for products that might take a lot of capital or time to get to market. It's a really good way to get a gauge of product market fit and validate the idea; whether it's something people want to pay for without actually manufacturing it and doing all of that work upfront. It really helps smaller companies with less access to capital to get an idea out there.
We didn't have a big social following at the beginning so I'd definitely suggest that people build up some sort of following before they try and launch a crowdfunding campaign.
Do you guys have any plans to take the product into any other international retail stores?
No, we are in the very early stages of talking in Europe and we'd obviously love to be on retail shelves in Australia. We're also looking at expanding onto other hardware platforms as well.
What's in the pipeline for the company at the moment?
We're aiming to release a new version of the product by the end of the year and we're looking to expand onto partner hardware so whether it's an ISP or whether it's a hardware provider we're chasing down both avenues. We'd like as many routers on the market to have the KoalaSafe logo "protected by KoalaSafe" so that's the sort of aim for this year.
Author: David Simmons