We spoke to the child sleep toy company’s co-founder Matt Dyson about building a distributor network, crowdfunding and IP for The Pitch’s podcast. You can listen below or keep reading for the key insights.
Necessity is the mother of invention
Rockit came from one of the founder’s experiences as a new dad. Every time the pram stopped moving, his child woke up. He went into his workshop in desperation one night and took an old printer apart. He soldered a circuit together, attached weights to the motor and took it out for a test drive. The makeshift device provided a gentle rocking movement which helped the baby sleep.
The startup is built around the skill needed to take it to market. Matt Dyson has experience in design and prototyping, Matt Sparrow covers branding and design and Nick Webb is a physicist and engineer with a PhD in vibration and acoustics.
Signing up distributors
The team chose to sell the product through distributors, and trade shows were critical to building this network.
“Preparing for the trade show is the most critical thing,” says Matt Dyson. “We did a fair bit of research and promotion. We tried to set up as many meetings with distributors – that we thought were a good fit – as possible while they were in Germany.”
The team recorded details of distributors that visited the stand immediately and added notes about what other products they represented. Their first event generated over 100 leads and it took two to three weeks to work follow-up on these leads.
“The timing wasn’t perfect,” adds Matt. “We did the show without stock in the UK. I’m glad we didn’t delay, but it would have been great to supply stock ex-works to smaller distributors straight away. We could have signed agreements and got stock out to them much more quickly.”
Protecting intellectual property
The key thing Rockit’s protecting is the brand name and design. That’s protected in Europe, China, the US and other territories. They also have a patent pending for the mechanism.
“It’s an ongoing process,” says Matt. “We have grace periods in other countries. Once it’s registered in Europe you don’t have to do it elsewhere immediately.”
He estimates IP protection has cost upwards of £20,000 so far.
Funding product development
The team depended on grants and bootstrapping to start up. They worked on being as lean as possible when the product launched, and they also asked manufacturers to pay part of their payment up front.
Rockit launched a crowdfunding round for £200,000 on 16 April at a pre-money valuation of £1,800,000. Just over a week after launch, £171,770 had been raised – 85% of their target.
“We met Matt from Crowdcube at The Pitch. We were very impressed. The platform can really get customers involved. With traditional angel investment there’s lots of money going into tech, but it’s more difficult for hardware. Rockit is very visual, and when you see it working you understand it,” says Matt.
With a listing in John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bébé scheduled for later this year, there’s plenty of traction to help the campaign.
The funding will allow the team to concentrate on developing new products and bring in additional expertise.
“We’re developing other products at the moment and all of them are related to children’s sleep issues. They will cover different age ranges, so that our customers stay with us,” adds Matt.
Crowdcube’s a partner of The Pitch this year, providing support with investment readiness at our boot camps. Click here to find out more and apply.