The Story of Pale Blue Earth and raising $400k crowdfunding
The Story of Pale Blue Earth and raising $400k crowdfunding
Why did you start Pale Blue?
Steve and I (Tom) started Pale Blue after seeing the huge mess and e-waste being created by single use batteries. We all have a drawer or a box or bucket where we keep our used batteries, expecting that some day we will take them to the recycler who we trust will actually recycle them…we all hope. That pile of used batteries is hidden from view and everyone knows it gross, wasteful and potentially worse. Unfortunately though, devices need batteries. Flashlights, Xbox remotes, kids toys, trash cans, door locks, camera, and the list goes on. We can’t exactly just give up on having batteries in our lives.
We simply decided it was time for this situation to change. We knew it wouldn’t be changed any time soon by the incumbent corporations who are making plenty of money from selling single use batteries.
As we dug deeper into the market it became clear that the current brands were either ignoring the problem, or maybe actually suppressing the development and distribution of new technology, as the existing business model is a multi-billion $ market based on single use products, and controlled by a very small group of very large companies. This became the incentive to launch a brand that could disrupt the current model, shift the market and bring consumers a product that would do a better job, without creating the waste and at an affordable price point.
We have the knowledge and experience to know that with application of latest tech, and great design, there is a much smarter way to solve the problem that is common to almost every household on the planet. We assembled a small team of talented friends and businesses to assist us, as nothing great is built without a lot of effort and skills.
We started with AA and AAA form factors, and are bringing 9V and D cell’s to market very soon.
Currently we are working on growing the current product line into other common battery form factors, and conceiving of other product lines with similarly high impacts on our utilization of resources.
Tell us about the process of creating Pale Blue.
Both of us have been in and around the Global Consumer Electronics business for a long time, working with many leading tech brands. We were well aware of the product design, development, testing and manufacturing processes. What we have done is applied consumer and market centric thinking and the tech product experience to the humble disposable AA and AAA batteries.
Sustainability is very important to us, and we are inspired by the movement to remove single use plastics in consumer applications, so removing single use batteries seems to be a logical next step. The waste numbers related to disposable batteries are depressing and terrifying. Consumers in the US alone throw away 10 million disposable batteries per day, and nearly all of these end up in landfill. There isn’t really even a good way to recycle disposables, as the wasted battery just makes more waste as we try to recover some of the material resources.
The best way to avoid the waste from a disposable battery is just not to create it in the first place. However, traditional rechargeable batteries are not convenient and don’t provide a high power solution. And so, consumers were and still are stuck in the cycle that the global brands had created.
We have used the latest tech, with Lithium based cells (just like in your smartphone), which charge super fast, and put the charger directly into each battery, so no more waiting 8 hours to recharge, and no more searching for the missing battery charging unit. We believe that by fixing these major issues with recharging batteries, we can allow consumers to switch over and reduce their waste. It’s a win-win solution, as the consumers will save money over time and quickly recover the cost to buy the batteries. After that they can continue to use the Pale Blue batteries for many years and enjoy the feeling that they have helped to make a dent in the ewaste problem.
Crowdfunding Marketing Strategy
Walk us through your go to market strategy.
We launched in July of 2019 on Kickstarter. We did have our website up and running, to drive more traffic to our campaign page and to begin to better communicate the brand than was possible inside of the Kickstarter. We also had Instagram and a Facebook page up and running.
As conventional rechargeable batteries are terrible inconvenient and let people down on their performance attributes, we recognized it was necessary to have a consumer facing brand to help communicate the new features, attributes, and benefits of our solution. There is a lot of distrust of rechargeable batteries in the normal form factors despite the recent improvements in lithium ion rechargeable batteries in mobile phones, electric vehicles, and consumer electronics with lithium pouch batteries.
Tell us about your crowdfunding advertising and launching experience.
We launched with crowdfunding to get the volumes needed to efficiently produce our first batch of products and to learn more about the market response to our product, brand, and messaging. We had already completed the R&D work, as that is what we have been doing for years for other brands, but using crowdfunding platforms helped us reach a community of backers who would help us with pre-orders to get the ball rolling with a sufficient quantity that we can effectively and efficiently implement all the key manufacturing and quality processes.
We engaged a PR firm to do some channel testing and were surprised with some of the learnings. In retrospect, our findings made sense when we thought more about the demographics of the standard innovation adoption curve categories. We found out that there was more interest from tech and male interest and travel categories than from mothers and sustainability focused consumers.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also been critical in getting feedback from the backer community, which has helped us refine the product and offering, and validate some assumptions we had around product-market fit. The Kickstarter campaign closed in mid-Sept, Indiegogo in late November, and as of today we are already shipping our first batch of products. All in all, crowdfunding was very useful and now we are off and running.
Our biggest learning was that the crowdfunding market is a fairly closed market, meaning we were far more successful in converting people with Kickstarter or Indiegogo accounts than we were in driving organic traffic. With that in mind, my recommendation to others who are considering crowdfunding is to make sure they have a product and messaging that will resonate first and foremost with backer demographics.
What are your inspirations?
We are inspired by sustainable and disruptive solutions to ‘old world’ problems. The plastic water bottle and plastic straw were hugely wasteful design solutions. The community responded once people became aware of the actual situation, and perhaps, more importantly, when good solutions were brought to market by good companies.
The rapid change from incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs was amazing to see. In the automotive world, the big players were not keen to shift their production onto Electric Vehicles, as they are so heavily invested in the old world model, but brands like Tesla have broken through this, changing the industry with the latest technology and design, which has resonated with consumers who want to reduce their waste, and buy better products. Tesla recently received 250,000 pre-orders for their cyber truck. It’s clear that people are investing more in resource saving technologies. These are the type of stories that inspire us at Pale Blue.