Utz BaldwinClarity Expert
Bio

Former Chairman and CEO of CEDIA, the global trade organization representing the connected home for 25 years. My current venture, Plum is an Austin based consumer hardware & software startup many refer to as the "Nest of Lighting". I have extensive domain knowledge in consumer electronics, IoT, connected home. Plum is one of the most successfully crowdfunded startups in recent history.



Recent Answers


While I can't explicitly tell you what you need for your evaporative air cooler I can provide a bit of information that you might find useful.

A couple of popular misconceptions:
First - Safety testing is not Federally mandated. It is voluntary. But the catch is that most retailers and distributors will not buy your product if it has not undergone some safety testing (for liability reasons)

Second - UL is not the standards body. They are a testing lab and safety mark. OSHA is the regulatory body that sets safety guidelines. The agency has approved 17 Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories under the NRTL program
https://www.osha.gov/dts/otpca/nrtl/

Each lab carries it's own mark. UL (Underwriters Laboratory) is simply the most universally recognized mark in the U.S.
Intertek for instance carries the "ETL" mark and is equally qualified and recognized by OSHA , insurance companies, etc.

With Electronic and Electrical products, OSHA collaborates with NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) and references or abides by the NEC (National Electric Code) to set testing standards for safety.

If your product includes any type of radio transmitter (WiFi, Bluetooth, etc), your are REQUIRED to obtain FCC approval. I won't get into specifics here.

IMPORTANT: Safety testing and regulatory compliance for FCC kills many HW startups. Testing labs interpret the requirements differently, they often use slightly different tests, or focus on one area more than others. If your product fails a specific test that requires you to modify your tooling or re-spin PCBs you could lose months of time and many startups do not account for that potential burn. Preparation is the key to passing any test!

My advice is this:
1) Find a regulatory consultant as early in the development cycle of your product as possible. Have him/her review your designs, material selection etc.
2) Choose your testing lab carefully - Find one that has experience in evaporative air coolers. Trust me here.
3) Engage with the testing lab early. Get the actual test procedure they will conduct, step by step. Ask questions about each step so you know exactly what to expect and prepare for. You are paying this vendor, they are for profit, you are the customer.
4) Submit your electronic design and material selection to them (ie...plastics you are using for your mechanicals) to verify they it meets spec for flammability etc. in advance.
5) Submit for "Pre-certs". Pre-certification tests are practice tests. You can even submit for these tests using CNC'd plastics (as long as it is the same material you intend on using) and pre-production units. It will cost extra, but wouldn't you like to know if you are going to fail ahead of time while you are still able to make changes? In some cases the testing lab will actually count a pre-cert toward your final if you pass it and don't make material changes.

That's commentary.
Happy to offer any additional help.


We have used Fundable.com successfully for two rounds of financing both oversubscribed. Here is what I can tell you.

Basic info:
Fundable.com's platform connects accredited investors to startups seeking investment capital. Startups have a public facing profile that includes general information about the companies product, team, press accolade, etc. If you are raising funds claiming SEC Reg D 506(b) the public profile has no information about your securities offering. If an interested investor wants to view more information about your startup and or your offering, he/she would request access to your full profile. The investor must self accredit on the Fundable site before they are allowed to view your non-public profile. The startup is notified and you have the opportunity to conduct some due diligence on the investor (LinkedIn) and elect to invite them into your deal. Your private page includes the offering (terms). All communication from this point is done outside of the platform, meaning you have the investors email address ( a good thing to have).
Fundable charges startups a flat monthly fee to post a profile on the site. In addition you can opt for additional services (help) with your campaign. For a flat fee, Fundable will assign resources to help build your profile, consult with you on your raise, and assist with PR or Marketing. This includes a blast to their investor base of over 40K if my memory serves me correctly. I am sure it is higher today.

Our experience:
For our first round on Fundable, we elected to use the premium service. Fundable did a great job in helping with our profile. We received 50+ views per day (quite often 100+) and on days we were included in their newsletter we received 200+ views. 10 - 20% of views requested access to our full profile. and 10-20% of those responded to my request for a call. Our close rate was very high.
Both of our rounds were oversubscribed in less than 4 months taking averaging $50K per investor. These are high quality investors that have not created additional work (outside of normal investor updates). Many of our investors regularly share news and information about our industry. Several have re-invested in subsequent rounds.

Disclaimer:
Our startup is in the consumer hardware space which I believe tends to attract high net worth individuals. Obviously results may vary, thus I cannot speak to how well a SaaS play would do crowdfunding in general. Fundable.com's premium services offering may have changed since our campaign. I am not affiliated with Fundable.com. In fact we have been successful on other crowdfunding sites as well.

In Closing:
I am a proponent of crowdfunding in general. It is disrupting angel investing, providing investors with greater deal flow and exposing startups to an exponentially larger audience, increasing their chances to get in front of investors who understand and appreciate that company's solution and opportunity. Most importantly it is moving capital and driving innovation! Keep in mind, securities laws have changed and continue to change due to the Jobs act of 2012. Before you offer any securities to local investors or choose to try crowdfunding, you should consult with an attorney, and take the time to learn and understand what regulations apply to your circumstances.


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