Reach Robotics first unveiled the MekaMon in the fall of 2016 and then produced a limited run of 500 units last year that sold out completely during that holiday season, Adekunle says. "It was great to see your product in consumers' hands and … for them to actually write in feedback," Adekunle says.
Many of the first customers who tried the MekaMon came back with praise, calling the robot "amazing," Adekunle says. But, others had suggestions for improvements that proved useful to the team at Reach Robotics, including ditching a patterned mat that users of the first iteration of the MekaMon needed to place on the floor to allow the robot's sensors to recognize its surroundings. Moves like that, as well as cutting down the time for a firmware update, were aimed at "making the experience better for the customer," Adekunle tells CNBC Make It.
After selling out its initial run of MekaMons, Reach Robotics landed a major investment round in July 2017, raising $7.5 million from a group led by Korea Investment Partners and iGlobe Partners. (Reach Robotics' total fundraising now tops $10 million, Adekunle says.)
In November 2017, Reach caught the attention of Apple and the tech company signed an exclusive deal to sell the robots online and in brick-and-mortar Apple stores across the US and UK. For Adekunle, it was an amazing feeling to have Apple take an interest in his product and it gave the MekaMon a stamp of approval from one of the biggest companies in the world.
"As a startup launching a product for the first time, and for them taking it on board, that is a huge badge of approval," Adekunle says of landing distribution deals with the likes of Apple and Amazon. "That just shows the quality of the product."
While Reach's distribution deal with Apple was initially exclusive — meaning that MekaMons were only sold either by Apple or on Reach's own website — now, the robots are also sold by Amazon as well as by the Harrods department store in London and, soon, the MekaMon will be sold by the US toy store FAO Schwarz, Adekunle says.
"These are some of the strongest brands in the world, so that gives our customers confidence that the products that they're buying are also high quality," he says.
Of course, as a first-time entrepreneur, Adekunle admits that it was often intimidating to go into a meeting with companies like Apple and Amazon to pitch a product he'd build. But, he says, confidence is key.
"You want to make sure that you're putting forward your best foot. So, for me, I actually had the confidence in our product and the work that our team had done to be able to go into those types of meetings quite confidently," Adekunle says.
Reach Robotics is a private company and does not divulge its sales numbers, but the company is definitely growing, having more than doubled its headcount, to 59 employees, in the past year, according to Adekunle. And, as of last month, the MekaMon is being distributed in more territories than ever before, as it's now sold in a dozen countries, including the US, UK, and Canada.
For now, Adekunle is focused on continuing to expand the reach of his robotic creation. His primary goal at the moment, he says, is "to get our product out into as many hands as possible to share the magic that we're building."
Additional reporting by
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