Arrow Awards $100k to Smart-Surface Start-up Knocki

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Arrow just awarded the Knocki team $100k in flash funding to help bring their smart surface device to the market. This is the story of how Knocki began, and how their prototype benefitted from the Arrow Certification program.

It all started at a barbeque back in July of 2014. Co-Founders Jake Boshernitzan and Ohad Nezer were at a backyard BBQ watching their kids play when inspiration hit them.

 “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?”

The idea was simple, but also one that could have far reaching impact for IoT and smart home systems. Intrigued, Boshernitzan and Nezer started doing some research. They discovered that despite the simplicity of the concept, there was nothing quite like it out in the market. They reached out to an attorney and confirmed that no patent existed for anything like a smart surface creator.

“It looked like we had real innovation with our approach,” said Boshernitzan. “We had come across something novel.”

Shortly thereafter, the duo filed for a patent and got to work turning their idea into reality.

The Journey Begins

As is often the case with the prototyping journey, what entrepreneurs start out designing often isn’t what they end up with.

“Our first product wasn’t exactly Knocki,” explained Boshernitzan. “Instead it was something we called Sleepra.”

Sleepra was a sleep aid system that combined a sleep monitor with an alarm—a different concept from Knocki, but one that shared a vital piece: Sleepra turned a household surface (a bed) into a control interface.

Boshernitzan and Nezer took Sleepra to an accelerator program for start-ups in Texas where they were told to validate market demand for the product. They hit the streets, taking Sleepra to shopping malls and college campuses to get a customer perspective. 

“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.” Plus, Sleepra was one of a number of sleep tracking products that were hitting the market. The idea wasn’t as unique as the duo first thought.

Beyond Sleepra

Boshernitzan and Nezer quickly realized that if they wanted to put out an interactive smart product that resonated with consumers, they would have to pivot. They put their heads together over some slices of pizza at a local parlor and brainstormed another approach. Their marketing feedback told them that the idea of controlling one’s surroundings with a touch resonated, just not when it comes to their beds. They decided to create a device that would let you control your world from any surface—and Knocki was born. But just like the Sleepra, Knocki had to pass muster with market research. 

“We still had the same challenge that we had with Sleepra—we needed to validate the product really quickly,” explained Boshernitzan.

Boshernitzan and Nezer took to social media to establish demand. They created a rudimentary prototype of Knocki and promoted it with a Facebook ad. The resulting buzz was enough to convince them that they had a real product on their hands. They then put together a team: 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. 

Knocki and Indiegogo

Boshernitzan called the experience of crowdfunding Knocki “extraordinary.” The Knocki team launched on Indiegogo with the goal of raising $35,000. By the end of their campaign, they’d raised over $1 million. 

Knocki had raised over 30 times their goal, but with crowdfunding success also came added responsibility. Now the team had to prove that they could deliver to all of the backers that put faith in them. They decided to seek the help of the manufacturing and supply chain pros at Arrow Electronics.

The Arrow Certified Advantage

Boshernitzan and Nezer utilized the Arrow Certification Program to get the in-depth prototype-to-production help that they needed. 

“Arrow is a secret weapon for hardware startups,” explained Boshernitzan. “They provided so much counsel and direction and expertise.”

The Arrow Certified badge on Knocki’s Indiegogo campaign page helped potential backers know that the product was legitimate. “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.”

The engineering and supply chain experts at Arrow were able to guide the Knocki team through tricky supply chain issues. “Typically a hardware startup is overwhelmed managing the supply chain for different components,” said Boshernitzan, adding that much of manufacturing involves predictions: how many units might sell, and what parts might be available throughout the process.” Knocki uses IBM Bluemix to make their product secure, scalable and responsive. Arrow was able to decrease the chance for a materials shortage based on a detailed analysis of Knocki’s potential demand.

The Best Way to Reach Backers

Knocki is a collaborative IoT project. The development team encourages users to think of new and innovative ways to use Knocki to make the world around them responsive to touch. They used the power of video to show potential backers and early adopters just how versatile Knocki is. 

“We really tried to demonstrate in the video how it’s applicable to different subsets of the population, no matter who you are,” explained Nezer.

The video showed how simple and universal Knocki is, and how it could span ages and populations. It struck a chord with the Indiegogo community, and innovative ideas for Knocki came rolling in. One user placed Knocki near the medicine cabinet of their elderly parent, who suffered from dementia. They were told simply to tap Knocki when taking their medication and it would notify the family. If the family failed to receive a notification, they would call the parent and remind them. A simple, effective, and potentially lifesaving application.

Flash Funding Success

The Knocki team will use their flash funding award to help take them through the home stretch of development. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to really step on the gas pedal and bring us to the finish line sooner,” said Nezer.

Boshernitzan and Nezer plan to use the funding to expand the Knocki team and bring more development talent in-house. They also plan to develop a more robust support staff to help assist customers in implementing the product in their homes and businesses. 

“With a startup, every dollar is so valuable and this really is a game-changer for us,” said Boshernitzan.

Looking Forward

Three years after the fateful BBQ that started it all, Boshernitzan and Nezer are more excited than ever about the future of Knocki. Their goal is to transform surfaces everywhere into natural, accessible interfaces that can help make life easier. “That’s our big vision, to make it easier for people to control their world." 

The journey from ideation to production wasn’t easy for the Knocki team, but it was and continues to be rewarding. Boshernitzan admits that “A hardware start-up is one of the most challenging things that a person can do in their life.” But there are more resources than ever to help entrepreneurs along the way. “Both Indiegogo and Arrow really make something possible for people with ideas without the resources to bring them to life. They are an amazing combination for making things possible for so many dreamers and small businesses that otherwise couldn’t turn their ideas into reality.”

Join the Arrow Certification program and see how Arrow’s engineering experts can help you take your idea to the next level. Arrow is giving away $1,000,000 in flash funding in 2017, the next project we fund could be yours.

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