Blink - The Pivot to Disrupt the Home Security Market
When asked about investment criteria, most venture capitalists will say they invest in great teams who are uniquely capable of disrupting an industry.
When looking at the founding team’s experience at Blink, they would likely exceed expectations.
Each member of the founding team has a long history of experience designing chips for the fabless semiconductor industry. Dating back to the 1990’s, the team has built multiple companies which have led to successful exits. Their chips have been embedded into various products mostly through an OEM relationship with a manufacturer of electronics.
So, what led this group of chip pioneers to pivot and build their own consumer electronics product?
Blink originally started out as Immedia Semiconductor in 2008 with funding from Flybridge Capital and Comcast. At first, the company was focused on designing video and image processing chips for connected camera applications, which includes laptop cameras. The company’s technology was unique and groundbreaking, however things had changed considerably in the fabless semiconductor industry.
“A few years ago, we decided to pivot the company. We knew that we had a competitive advantage with our technology,” said Don Shulsinger, Blink’s VP of Sales & Marketing. “We also had extensive experience and knowledge around the full lifecycle of bringing products to market quickly. Plus, we had the relationships with the manufacturers overseas.”
The company decided to focus on the home security market by using their own technology to build a battery operated camera. The team at Blink believed they could compete in the home security industry, which was ripe for disruption.
The beauty of today’s world is that you can test your product ideas through Kickstarter, which is exactly what the Blink team did. They built a prototype of a wire-free, and battery operated, HD home monitoring & alert system and launched the campaign in 2014. The result? It ended up being one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of the year which raised $1,069,386 from 6,879 backers.
The company officially launched at CES in 2016 with their indoor HD camera and the company, and its products, took off from there. This past year, the company announced its newest product, the Blink XT, an outdoor weatherproof HD camera, which has been hard to keep in stock.
Blink isn’t the first company to offer a wireless security camera for consumers, so how have they been able to differentiated themselves from the competition?
It primarily comes down to the cost of the product for consumers and its battery life. Since Blink is dealing directly with manufacturers, they are able to pass that savings back down to the consumers with a single camera starting at $99. Although, most consumers opt to buy the three camera set for $229.99. In terms of the battery life, based on the team’s years of experience designing low power chips, the camera runs on two AA batteries for two years. “Our cameras are effectively off when they are not being used,” Shulsinger says. “We designed a chip specifically for this application, so it draws very little power.”
“Another differentiator for our product is the installation, which is super easy,” Shulsinger adds. “You just scan the QR code and the system sets it up for you.”
The cameras have a modern design and are small, about the size of a yellow sticky note. Consumers download the free iOS or Android app to control the camera and view the videos which are all stored for free in the cloud. Recently, the company even integrated its products with Alexa-enabled devices.
Selling a product direct to consumers is not an easy task. The company hired David Laubner in 2016 as the company’s Head of Digital Marketing & eCommerce to put their plan and execute on their strategy. To date, Blink has sold over 400,000 units and those sales are mainly through online channels via their own website and Amazon. “If you look at our sales, they are all online,” says Laubner. “None of them come from brick-and-mortar which is very strange for this type of product.” Recently, the company established a partnership with QVC to sell their products through the home shopping giant.
The product in itself also helps out with sales, as consumers are sharing their videos on social media or sending videos directly back to Blink. It creates a viral awareness for their products from the funny cat videos to the more serious videos like the “Capri-Sun Bandit.”
What’s next for Blink? Later this year, the company will be launching a full security system, called Blink Home Security, to compete directly with companies like ADT. The new offering will include Blink’s camera systems, but also entry sensors, keypads, and sirens. In addition to those features, there is the added benefit of 24/7 professional monitoring and 4G cellular backup, if the Wi-Fi at your house is down.
The Andover-based company has over 50 employees and they are hiring across all functions within the company.