When Arne Gaenz asked his wife the number one problem that she would like solved in the kitchen she responded – make boiling eggs easier. So he and partner Doon Malekzadeh got to work making prototypes of products that could help boil eggs in a way that wouldn’t under or over cook them and take the guesswork out for the consumer. The end result? Cluck – a smart kitchen timer that makes boiling eggs – and a lot of other foods – much more precise and simple.
Launched today on Indiegogo, Cluck by Seattle-based startup Orbsense Technologies is a new take on the kitchen timer, a staple in the kitchen that’s only been disrupted perhaps in recent years by the Amazon Echo and its addition of a voice-controllable timer. But the problem with Echo – and any kitchen timer, smart or dumb, is that it doesn’t exactly assist you with your cooking but rather delivers information. When prompted, it well tell you your food is done – or, the time you think it will take to cook your food has passed.
What it doesn’t account for is the actual cooking environment. Potato salad recipes (like the one Arne’s wife was trying to perfect) might give an estimated time to boil a dozen eggs, but it doesn’t know the precise settings of any one user’s stove and doesn’t have any clue how not to overcook the eggs. That’s where Cluck comes in. Designed with a nod to the product’s origins, the device resembles an egg with little feet and it can be dropped into any pot of water to monitor the cooking using its embedded temperature sensor. Connected to a smartphone app, Cluck gives the user a selection of foods it’s able to monitor and will send alerts when action is needed.
OrbSense founders Gaenz and Malekzadehsaid said their focus on the kitchen helped them hone their product idea to one that focused on a “micro-moment of utility.” With over 30 years of product design and development at big tech names like Samsung, Microsoft and T-Mobile, the pair sought to achieve the right combination of simplicity and usefulness – something they say the larger smart home industry has struggled with in the journey to mainstream adoption.
“If your product is too complex or too hard to use, the value of the product will be overshadowed by its complexity and adoption will be a challenge.”
Malekzadeh told The Spoon that they believed their primary consumers will be tech-savvy and willing to use tech in the kitchen, but that the problem of distracted cooking that they are working to solve has broader appeal. “I don’t know how often I’ve talked to people about my forgotten pot of boiling water for pasta story and seen their eyes light up and hear them exclaim, ‘That happened to me just yesterday!'”
The focus on solving one problem and doing it well is a consistent theme in kitchen tech as we see new and legacy companies trying to create better ways to cook, shop and eat food at home and on the go. But as we saw at Smart Kitchen Summit 2016 last week, some of those products may have mainstream appeal but come with high initial offering prices, above what mainstream consumers typically spend. Malekzadeh is quick to point out that price and its retrofit nature is another differentiator for Cluck. “Since Cluck works with the pots and pans you already own, we can develop a product which provides basic “cookware connectivity” to address the needs of busy — and sometimes distracted — home cooks.”
Cluck is now available for pre-order on Indiegogo – early bird backers can nab the smart kitchen timer for $25, $10 below the planned retail price.
Disclosure: The Spoon founder Michael Wolf is an advisor to Cluck, mainly because the Cluck guys live in the same town and their kids go to the same school as Mike’s kids. Plus Arne and Doon promised to give Mike a “Mother Clucker” t-shirt.