Pre-Launch Raises Pre-Seed Round to Help Hardware Developers Build the Right Pre-Products


Hardware startups are hard, as the saying goes, but it’s not always clear why they’re hard. One of the main challenges was that doing agile hardware product development was traditionally difficult – even if you got everything “right”, how would people know they were right? want One of the 20,000 gizmos you created with love? Prelaunch.com is an Armenian startup that developed tools to help startup founders figure out what’s worth building and raised $1.5 million to further scale its products and services.

“My friend Stepan called me one day and told me that the product he designed – Gawatt Emotions – had just won a prestigious award. Buoyed by his recent success and talent, Stepan took a leap of faith and bought the rights from his client. He wanted to create and sell a standalone product, and he reached out to me to see if I wanted to partner with him on this journey. But even though I liked the product idea, something didn’t sink in. ‘Stephan, why do you think this will be successful?’ I asked him. We decided to experiment before spending too much on production and marketing.

The challenge was a simple two-page website. The first page showed the general idea and asked people to leave their email to sign up for updates. The second page had the price with a buy now button. The idea is simple: it tests the customer’s actual willingness to pay – when people are asked to consider the price, pull out their cards and buy. The team set up a marketing pitch, drove traffic to that page and waited.

“The results were bad. It’s too bad,” Vardanyan said in an interview with TechCrunch. As you can see from the number of subscriptions on the first page, people were ‘interested’ in the product… but only three people tried to pay! We were sad and happy at the same time. It’s very sad, because we had to stop the business. But I’m glad we saved a lot of money and time.

That story explains the power Prelaunch is trying to build.

I like this positioning experiment: it tries to see if customers respond to the “joy of transportation” or better focus on safety. Image Credits: Prelaunch.com

Until now, the company has been on a limb, but today it announced that it has closed a $10 million seed round with SafeNote. Prelaunch is working on a tool to go big; More engineers, more marketing and more customers.

“We raised from three VCs – Big Story VC led the round, and Formula VC, Granatus Ventures and BANA (Business Angel of Armenia) participated. One of the angels who invested was Vahe Kuzoyan, founder of Service Titan,” Vardanyan said. Because we can completely change the behavior in the industry. We are very happy with your concept.

Early Start is founded on the core belief that practices in hardware product development have not changed in the last 100 years. In the world of SaaS, software that’s considered a fundamental religion has found subtle ways. That’s less in the hardware space, the company pointed out.

“CCompanies are losing millions of dollars betting on the wrong product, basically, and a third of the total stock production is unused stock. We think there’s a really simple solution for pre-launch. The idea came from my previous company: we had a very successful marketing agency dealing with customer hardware products and were getting a lot of new products to work with. The question is which products have the highest potential and which ones don’t? We were always wrong,” laughs Vardanyan. “We tried a lot of things and nothing worked until we started employing a booking model. We started getting better feedback when we started asking users to deposit real money to confirm their real purchase intent.”

Then the company and its products are evolving and growing, and Vardanyan tells us that they accidentally discovered that this is a beautiful global problem for products, first-time founders, experienced entrepreneurs and large corporations.

What initially caught my eye about Prelaunch.com was the Flops Gallery at CES 2023 in Las Vegas. The company had put together a huge number of products that were destined for the market but later bombed. Image Credits: Haje Kamps / TechCrunch

Prelaunch, it seems, stumbled on the most practical application of behavioral economics: there is a difference between what people say they will do, and what they actually do; Sometimes it is unknown. People make decisions for reasons they can’t always explain, which is how you conduct a focus group on a product where everyone agrees that you’ll buy the gizmo you’re studying. But when it comes time to buy, they make a different decision. By taking a more proactive approach, the company can help product developers make smarter decisions about the product itself, but also pricing, positioning and marketing.

“It’s just the beginning. Compared to the usual surveys, it is very different because in this case, they already have this real purchase intention. And then you can ask them anything, being sure you have the right sample group,” Vardanyan explains. “The platform solves two main problems: it helps you understand whether or not your product is viable in the market, and it helps you understand who your customers are at an early stage. And these two pieces of information are critical to making sure you’re working on the right types of products.”

The Prelaunch team claims to have over 1,000 companies on the platform, receiving over 100,000 monthly visitors.



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