The following post was authored by Ilan Abehassera, Founder & CEO of Insensi, a Dragon Innovation customer.
I’ve learned to build tech products at software companies. My first company, Producteev, was making a pretty popular Productivity platform. Four years into building our business (November 2012), we were acquired by Jive, a Nasdaq listed Silicon Valley software company. Nearly three years after the acquisition, Producteev is still going strong, growing with new customers and users every day.
After a couple of years, I was itching to start a another company and started Insensi in 2014. At the time, we weren’t super focused on the type of solution needed, but rather on the problem I was interested in tackling — improving the way families communicate. I was particularly interested in enabling better communications for young children (3-10 years old) and the older generation who are often not as familiar with the current state of technology.
Our team soon realized that in order to accomplish our vision, we needed to control the hardware and couldn’t build this on top of existing platforms such as tablets, smartphones or computers. The reason being that young children often don’t own a cell phone until the average age of twelve, so younger children can’t talk to family members unless they borrow mom or dad’s smartphone. On the other hand, grandparents aren’t always as in tune with the latest technology like tablets. We wanted to make it simple and safe for friends and family members to stay connected, no matter their age or the distance that separates them.
Enter ILY, the new Family Phone. ILY sits in the family room, kitchen, or wherever the family hangs out and is always on, and always charged. The device is designed with everyone in your family in mind, ages three or 93.
It took our team 14 months to get to the pre-order stage, and I’d like to outline a few of the important things that got us here:
A Design-First Approach
We partnered with Industrial Design for the design of ILY. We started designing the device long before diving into the engineering piece of the puzzle. We wanted the design, and the overall experience, to drive the engineering, not the other way around.
We’re working with MAP, a fantastic industrial design studio based out of London, who also worked on Kano, and couldn’t be happier to have chosen them. They were very quick to begin designing the device and, a year later, we still hold weekly meetings to discuss progress.
Team ILY Build 100% of The Engineering
I have never been a fan of outsourcing. While I realize it works for a lot of entrepreneurs and companies, it doesn’t work for me. I feel that it’s important to control the engineering of a product as it raises the quality of whatever you create. That’s why I hired incredibly talented engineers in electronics, mechatronics, embedded software and software, as well as UX design.
We have three founding engineers leading the charge on the most important pillars of our engineering: Jocelyn in Electronics / Embedded Software, Olivier in Mechatronics and Dan in Software. Having everyone under the same roof definitely helps the team stay motivated and keep stress levels low. : )
No, Branding is Not BS
Building a consumer brand was new to me, but incredibly important to the success of ILY. Our team realized pretty early on that for this device to succeed, we had to be able to bring the device to life provide use cases on how consumers will be able to use it in their lives. Our mission is to “bring families closer,” and our branding partner helped us tell that story. From the design of our website, to the video, photography, logo, font, colors, and more, they took our story and turned in into a major market opportunity.
Manufacturing: Working with Pros
For this, as you can expect, we picked the best. Dragon. : )
Seriously though, there were so many potential solutions out there. As members of our team have had experience working with Contract Manufacturers in China, we could have tried to go to China ourselves, and go through our own network of CMs. Instead, we met with Dragon and were 100% convinced that they were the best way for us to go. Our recent trip to China touring the CMs only confirmed it, with a stellar team based in Shenzhen (hey Dan, Herman and Billy!) who helped us make sense of the things we should pay attention to while picking a CM.
Thanks team Dragon!
Hope that was helpful, happy to answer any question here or on twitter @ilan!