When the Sharks bite, sometimes you just have to pivot. Or, at the very least, tweak your hardware design a bit.
That’s what happened with Fitly and their product SmartPlate.
The original SmartPlate, which managed to raise $110 thousand on Kickstarter, included three embedded cameras, a weight sensor, and wireless connectivity. The product worked like this: the plate’s embedded cameras would analyze the food using image recognition software and, combined with the embedded weight sensor, spit out a nutritional analysis in the associated smartphone app.
If that sounds like an overly complicated and expensive solution, that’s because it is. And when Fitly employee Martin Dell’Arciprete appeared on Shark Tank in the fall of 2015 (the show aired in February 2016) to pitch the SmartPlate, the Sharks were quick to smell blood in the water. Cuban and company echoed what many others had thought: why would someone buy a $200 plate with embedded cameras and sensors when you could do much of the same with a phone app?
It was a brutal showing. Not long after the appearance, Dell’Arciprete was fired by company CEO Anthony Ortiz. A partnership with former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, announced about the time the company was going on Shark Tank, was never mentioned again.
But less than a year after the episode aired, Ortiz and the SmartPlate were back raising funds, this time with a much different product. Now called the SmartPlate Topview, the product was now modular and included a base with all the embedded electronics and separate plastic plate that looked much like the previous tri-portion plate, but only this time without any embedded electronics. Gone were all of the cameras, as all picture taking duties and image analysis were now performed by the smartphone and the SmartPlate app.
For the new campaign, Ortiz and company moved the revamped SmartPlate to Indiegogo. The pitch was much the same, including some of same original video clips and backstory as told by Ortiz on the Kickstarter campaign. However, the price for the new SmartPlate were also lower this time around, with estimated retail for the revamped product at $149 (with three plates and a base), compared to the $199 for the original SmartPlate.
Most would look at this changes and say they were necessary; after all, one has to wonder why a plate would ever need its own camera, let alone three.
Still, even now, I am not sure why an actual plate system is necessary. While the company states that the base and associated plates together give the best overall performance, they admit that you can use the app by itself to analyze food without the plate.
But after a long journey which included two crowdfunding campaigns, the company looks like they may accomplish what looked pretty impossible just a year ago: shipping product. According to a recent update by Ortiz on their Indiegogo page, Fitly has ordered 10 thousand units for production.
And sure, with all the bumps in the road, it’s easy to be skeptical. But the company has someone vouching for them this time. According to an Arrow spokesperson, the new SmartPlate’s electronics and software are ready for manufacturing. My guess is that Arrow probably wouldn’t put their name on this campaign if they didn’t think it could ship, so it looks like backers may actually soon getting their SmartPlates.
Want a sneak preview of SmartPlate? You can download the app and check it out. And who knows? Maybe you’ll like the app so much you’ll buy the plate.