Two weeks ago the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gave its yearly insight into the tech we'll all be getting to buy in the coming months and years. Companies reveal major products like cool new TVs with more pixels and better colours, the latest phones, new processors and things we actually use - and then there are the more bizarre things which continue to show that for every joke idea an engineer can come up with, there's a marketing manager who is dumb enough to run with it.
This year had a high bar to try to beat the previous competition, with the likes of Juicero and the June Oven, but the tech world rose to the challenge and brought us toothbrushes with AI, mirrors to tell you that you are not the fairest of them all, and my favorite being the smart hairbrush to help you brush better. All these paled in my reaction, however, to the incredible wonder that was forwarded to me today - Moodo, the smart home fragrance box.
Moodo is an electronic air freshener, programmable with a variety of scents, and you can even create your own scent with it and then share with others. Who wouldn't want to create their own 'Gardens of Isphahan' or 'Cozzzy' scents and share them? It's an amazing package, and only took three years from concept to delivery (well, promised delivery), where you just pop your Keurig style pods in (yay for the consumable business model!), and use the wifi connection to your smartphone app (of course) to dial in the aroma of your dreams from anywhere! Who wouldn't want one?
Now, at least they aren't asking for $700 or $1500 for it, the Indiegogo campaign seems to have it listed around $230 retail for each unit (only moderately outrageous but still pretty expensive for an air freshener), but only $140 or so if you are an Indiegogo 'early bird'. It's the $20 per set of four fragrances for the consumables where the money likely is, following the printer model of giving the printer itself away at cost or small profit, but charging heavily for the ink. Except a printer is actually useful.
Normally I'd say I can see the pitch to the VCs, who really weren't paying attention to the product but saw the consumable sales, the hockey stick revenue growth, and the smartphone/wifi/app nature of it and the cheque was written - but in this case it may not be so ridiculous. The parent company seems to be Agan Aroma/ADAMA Agricultural Solutions which produce chemicals and components for the fragrance industry, and so if they can sell their products direct to consumers at whatever x000% markup compared to industrial purchasers then it's a good deal. So this is something that really seems like a pointless product, but you can understand why the company pursued it. What I can't understand though, is why a company that supposedly has between 1000 and 5000 employees (according to LinkedIn) would use an Indiegogo campaign to get $50,000 of funding to promote it? Seems an odd mix of approaches, and I don't follow the combination of bootstrapping and larger company product promoter. I'll keep following the Indiegogo numbers, as of now 44 people have put in $8,726, let's see if it hits the goal by the end of the month.
Before I leave this topic, there's an update to the Juicero story from the first "How is this a Thing?" Fortune reports that Juicero's new CEO has slashed the price on their product from $700 to $400, after he remembered his Economics 101 class where someone said that you sell slightly more of a useless thing at $400 than at $700. Or was it that you take a loss on each but then make it up in volume? Still, I laughed at the report saying:
Dunn and his team made the decision to cut the cost now after running a test on Black Friday. They priced the machine for less than $400 and doubled their current number of users in one day.
Great, you went from 1 unit sold to 2, (though maybe that was the new CEO's granny feeling sorry for him). Still, you have to wonder about the journalist who didn't follow up on this obvious statement and ask "How many have you sold in total then?". Even if they got a "Can't release sales figures" answer, it takes it from a marketing piece to something more akin to journalism. Come on reporters, how can you build credibility if you can't even take a swing at softballs like that?