With an idea that started in their first term at the CDM (Fall 2015), Walkies Lab Inc develops a smart wearable toy for toddlers that is fun to play and enhances their motor and intellectual development. In the Spring of 2016, the group pitched Walkies as a project they wanted to develop further. After a successful pitch the group continued to develop their product into a fourth term and as a venture internship. Suddenly at the end of their internship semester in December 2016 they vanished from the CDM campus. We caught up with Joyce from Walkies Lab Inc to figure out what’s been happening with the Walkies team since we last saw them on campus.
Walkies Lab Inc. received an offer from HAX, a top Silicon Valley venture-capital firm and hardware accelerator in December 2016. 15 teams are selected from over 500 applicants all over the world, meaning a 3% selection rate. Walkies were one of the 15.
HAX provides early-stage seed funding, office space in addition to mentoring, education and networking. The program covers invention, prototyping, sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, supply chain, strategy, marketing, distribution, fundraising and financing to help teams turn the prototype into a commercial success. The team is relocating to Shenzhen China, the city known as “the world's hardware capital”, from March to June in 2017 for the accelerator program and have the Asian demo day in mid June and San Francisco demo day at the end of June to present the final product to investors and raise further capital.
“We are very excited about this opportunity and the fact that we are going to Shenzhen, a city for hardware startups to get stuff done more quickly and at lower cost than anywhere else in the world”, Joyce, the product manager of Walkies said, “We heard from the HAX mentors and alumni that the program is pretty intense but is definitely going to be a huge experience, and significantly increase our chance of a commercial success.”
A short bus ride north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen was designated as a Special Economic Zone by the Chinese government in 1980 and is now being reinvented as an entrepreneurial city, leveraging its manufacturing background, technologically adept labor pool, billions of dollars in foreign direct investment, and youthful demographic. Innumerable makers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and shippers have formed a hardware ecosystem in Shenzhen, and HAX is located at the epicenter of it. Its proximity to a wide selection of inexpensive components suppliers reduces development time and cost for startups.
Walkies is a wearable device for 3-7 years old kids that promotes movement and learning through screen-free active games. It also provides meaningful statistics that enables parents to know the activity level as well as catch the important physical milestones of their kids. “I have a 2.5 years old daughter, and I always want to create something to make her happy. I got the initial product idea from the squeaky shoes, a type of shoes that make sounds while kids walk”, Takakazu Fujimoto, the tech lead of Walkies said.
Walkies consists of 3 students from the 10th cohort of the MDM Program: Takakazu Fujimoto, Joyce Qiao and Tianyi Tang. Taka, the creative tech lead, has unique technology and creative expertise from over 20 years of professional experience. He worked as a creative technologist in Dentsu, the biggest advertising agency in Japan, for over ten years and co-founded two profitable tech venture companies as the CEO and CTO respectively. Joyce is the product manager with strategic thinking, product management, business and marketing skills gained from her academic background and working experience. Tianyi is the UI/UX designer who has successfully delivered plenty of digital artifacts by providing solutions to user-centric problems. The team has been working together since first entering the MDM Program almost 1 and half years ago. Steve Rechtschaffner and Dr. Dave Fracchia are their supervisors at the CDM.
During their time at HAX, the team’s high-level objective is to get familiar with the whole process of bringing a hardware product to market, and have a feasible product for crowdfunding and raising further capital.
Walkies joins the ranks many other start-ups that have developed through the MDM program including NearTuit, H+ technologies, V7 Entertainment as well as Quupe, which is another pitch project from the same C10 cohort. Learn more about HAX.