Chime is doing the right thing when it comes to asking people for money. I wish that didn’t make them stand out in the world of crowdfunding, but it does, and hopefully other Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigners will take note and learn to be more like Chime.
Chime has developed an eponymous connected countertop Chai tea maker. The device uses tea pods to precisely brew tea and heat (any kind of) milk to deliver what the company says is “authentic chai made from real tea leaves.” There’s even an accompanying mobile app so you can customize your tea and even make tea with any Chime device.
But lots of companies make products and get them crowdfunded. So what did Chime do right? Well, first of all, they are actually delivering what they promised. Going from a prototype to an actual manufactured product in the market is sadly not always a given in the crowdfunded hardware space (see: Rite Press, iGulu, HOPii). The Chime tea maker is already in production, with the first shipment set to arrive in January and the second batch of pre-orders slated for April.
But perhaps more impressive was the way Chime respected its backers. I spoke with Guarav Chawla, CEO and Founder of Chime, who told me that instead of crowdfunding his company, Chime only used the crowdfunding platform just for the product. It kept people’s money off to the side and raised investor money to run the company. “We didn’t want to take money and then if it’s late, people get impatient,” Chawla said, “So if people wanted money back, they could get it.”
I wish this was an approach more companies would take when crowdfunding hardware, as it shows a level a respect for customers and can help placate them should any problems occur.
Chime did indeed encounter production problems along the way, but instead of going back to backers and asking for more money, Guarav was able to get additional seed money from investors.
There’s just one thing Chime does that, while I won’t say it’s wrong, is unfortunate. The device uses single-serving plastic capsules to hold the tea leaves. Chawla is aware of this plastic problem, but said that there was currently no other food-grade material available to maintain the tea’s freshness. Additionally, he said, that unlike other pod brewing systems, the Chime’s tea extraction happens in a separate chamber in the device, and not the capsule. This means the capsule stays clean and can be recycled. “We haven’t found a compostable material yet. As soon as that happens, we’ll switch,” Chawla said.
Now we’ll just have to see if customers think spending that much for their chai is the right thing. People interested in the Chime can visit the Indiegogo page and pre-order a device for $199 through the end of the year for April delivery.