Cocoon: Why crowdfunding is a great marketing tool

Hi Colin, tell us about Cocoon:

Cocoon is a single, beautiful device that sets up in seconds and can protect a whole home without the needs for additional external sensors, professional installation or the price tag that goes with all that extra effort. Cocoon combines HD Camera, Motion Detection & SUBSOUND™ Technology to sense activity throughout your home and all the size of a teacup. Cocoon solves the problem of smart home security devices being limited to protecting only what they can see (line of sight protection) by using an combination of powerful sensors and machine learning to sense intruders throughout the home.

Cocoon can detect low frequency sounds below 20Hz (infrasound), which are undetectable to the human ear, and learn what counts as ‘normal’ activity in your home, we call this technology SUBSOUND™. This means that just one Cocoon can detect intruders even through closed doors and in other rooms or floors in the home.

Cocoon recognises what is normal activity, and continues to learn changes over time, and can send alerts straight to your smartphone to notify you of unusual activity so you can take action and feel safe.

Where did the Cocoon idea come from? 

The burglar alarm that came with Dan (Cocoon CEO’s) first house never recovered from the night he had to borrow a ladder to silence (destroy) the confused external siren when the controller when awry.  Neither did my relationships with the neighbours! His troubled relationship with security systems continued at his first business (Donhost).  He’d won a court case against ADT after they failed to provide the contracted police notification service when our ADT alarm went off.

An alarm came with our current house too. It’s batteries ran out years ago but my past alarm experiences and the inconvenient keypad meant we never set it anyway.  In late 2013, two burglaries on his street in York in one week spurred him into replacing it - so he hit Google to research options.

To his amazement home security technology hadn't changed since the 80s.  It was still the same old white boxes sold on the false premise that something useful will happen when they go off.  In reality, when they go off, the neighbours have a quick glance out the window and return annoyed to the sofa until its owner tires of setting it following the many false alarms.

We wanted a beautiful security product in our homes, one you don’t have to set or have installed that would alert someone who cares when something real happens didn’t exist.  We set about building home protection that wouldn't impact negatively on our lives and would give us the chance to respond in a meaningful way when something happens.

What made you choose the security sector?

Four of the five founders of Cocoon (Dan, Nick, Colin and John) have worked at some of the largest internet security companies in the World - Trend Micro and McAfee. Security and privacy have been two very important areas for us ever since the sale of to Trend Micro in 2010. 

What were you doing before?

I was the Digital Propositions manager at Worldpay, prior to that EMEA Partner Manager at McAfee and Global Product Marketing at Trend Micro. 

How did your business journey begin?

Four of us had previously worked together at the startup (Cloud sync and storage - sold 2010) with Sanjay (former CEO of Webexpenses) joining the founding team - having been a mentor with Dan Conlon in the Yorkshire based One damp afternoon in February we met in Leeds to catch up over drinks and Cocoon was born.  

Did you always want to run your own business?

Absolutely. Having come from a startup straight out of university and then moving from to the big corporate environment you develop an acute appreciation of the inefficiencies of big business. The simplest things often become bogged down in red tape. Owning your own business gives you the freedom to make choices quickly and the responsibility to ensure each one is the right one. 

Why did you crowdfund?

Two reasons really:

1. Market validation - With a focused effort at the start of our campaign could we hit a target we thought quite substantial. 

2. Customer feedback - We’ve used lean startup principles throughout our journey and at every stage we’ve listened to what real people have to say, whether this is our branding, the product design or the functionality included in Cocoon. 
Did you expect your campaign to have as much of an impact as it did?

We planned to hit our $100K target as quickly as possible but to do it in 3/4 days was incredible. 

How would you describe your experience as a business owner?

Apart from picking my Fiancée’s engagement ring I’d say being a business owner is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s full of long hours, tough decisions and big personal sacrifices - like giving up a steady income and having to push back our wedding date. It’s certainly a humbling experience, and positive to the point of it showing you what you are capable of with the right support group around you. 

Was it a case of seeing a gap in the market?

Our research showed us that there was certainly gaps in both the traditional home security market and the emerging ‘smart’ home security and IP camera market. Nobody has yet managed to solve the problem of protecting a whole home from one device that was both accessible (can my Grandpa install/work it?) and smart enough to avoid false alarms. We’re breaking new ground and we know it’s harder to do that but we see the future of home security being focused on understanding the people within the home to help make life safer and easier. 

What are Cocoon’s plans for the future?

We strongly believe that putting people at the centre of the home is the future for Cocoon. We’re focused on delivering the best possible home protection and experience for our customers will be the difference between us and the competition. There's lots to do in this space and we'll always be customer led.

What entrepreneurial skills do you regard as most important?

Resilience - It’s an obvious one but unless you have the ability to take really big hits and keep moving you’ll struggle to accept honest feedback. 

Modesty - Not every task is exciting and you’ll have to do your fair share of ‘shovelling’ to make progress. Get your head-down and work hard when you need to without complaining.

Working as a team - Having a team is not only a valuable tool but also a great support network. Being able to work together to create little sparks of genius is not only incredibly rewarding but more likely that stumbling across your own 'Eureka!' moment.  

What's the best advice you've been given? 

Tobias Lee (CMO at Thompson Reuters) once told me that the best investment you can make in your startup is 8 hours sleep a night. It’s true. The better your sleep and the clearer your head then the more productive you’ll become. Each day you need to make one great decision to move your company forward and it’s insurmountably harder when you’re distracted or working on 1/2 your normal ability. 

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