The founders of Sphero only wanted to make robots. In 2010, Adam Wilson and Ian Bernstein asked investors for money to build a business around their smart robotic ball controlled by telephone. But in some cases, investors wanted to know what else the business could offer: after selling a robot to a customer, what came next?
The answer was one that many hardware companies have resorted to: a recurring revenue model that allows them to depend on customers who pay every month or year. To find that model, Sphero experimented with turning the robot into a gaming device, but later, he decided to include all his development tools and turn the robots into coding toys that were attractive to schools. At that time, the team focused on education as a main focus, and with it, customers came who could pay year after year.
"We created a new product that was adapted to that group [of educators]," says Wilson. . "But then the business model changes a bit because once you make a pack of 30 [of robots] schools have a recurring budget, right?"
The team had to find a way to make sure that their robots represent the best way for a school to spend money year after year. He made software for iOS, Android and Chrome OS that guided teachers and students through the process of using a Sphero product. Teachers can use the product to teach concepts such as perimeter, form and variables. Your product meets state teaching standards, and at this time, Sphero is located in 40,000 schools around the world.
"We could generate recurring revenue in a way that made sense instead of selling a ball to a person who knows if" I'll buy something else, "says Wilson.
Hardware is a notoriously difficult business. Often, even after collecting hundreds of millions of dollars, some of the companies that survive are finding a way forward with recurring incomes in various ways.This is true even for large companies.Apple is focusing on monthly services because iPhone sales are not growing, and many companies, such as Keurig and Nespresso, create devices that depend on pods that must be continually repurchased.Meanwhile, startups like Peloton require a content subscription to take full advantage of their hardware.
Education is a single market, and Sphero has created specific products and offers to attract specific go to schools. The team built a custom product for educators that comes in a multi-unit protective case and has a longer battery life. He also developed a new way to sell the products, including a plan that allows teachers to call Sphero to replace a unit at any time. The company also launched a program this year that includes individual tutorials with the Sphero. Finally, says Wilson, the team will also start charging for more premium content, such as lesson plans, and share the proceeds with the teacher who created it.