Hardware is hard. We know this. But sometimes that mantra is used to justify lengthy roadmaps and delayed shipping dates. Reekon, however, isn’t letting such things stand in the way of making and selling products. The company is currently 13 full-time employees strong, after doing a lot of early work with around five.
The startup’s founding story is even more humble. Co-founder and CEO Christian Reed was working at MIT spinoff 3D-printing firm Formlabs at the time.
“Our first product, the M1 Caliber, myself and my co-founder started as a side project,” says Reed. “It was something I had thought of many years ago. We threw it on Kickstarter. [Formlabs] had just launched at Form 3 printer, and we had a bit of a cooldown time. So we put it together. We had a pretty functional “works like” model in February of 2020, and that, of course, was when COVID was just starting.”
The M1 Caliber launched on Kickstarter in June 2020, hitting $100,000 in pledges in its first six hours. Clearly there was demand for the measuring tool. The system clamps onto a saw. At the bottom is an arm with a wheel, which measures two-by-fours as they roll beneath it. The system features a display offering up a variety of different units to help provide more precise cuts. It struck a chord with contractors and DIYers alike, with a $10,000 initial goal; the system brought in $1.28 million.
The first batch of M1s shipped out in April 2021. It has since hit Home Depot, Lowe’s and Amazon, where it can be purchased for $150. The Boston-based startup has managed to avoid VC funding thus far — an impressive feat for a firm that has been shipping hardware product for more than two years. Crowdfunding is a big part of that story. The M1 has also pulled in $2.2 million on Indiegogo, while the newer T1 Tomahawk drummed up $3.9 million on the same platform.
“I wouldn’t say it’s intentional,” Reed says of Reekon’s decision to forgo a more traditional funding route. “Anyone who has a VC-backed company, if you asked them if they would prefer to make their company without VC funding, I’m pretty confident that — unless there’s a specific skill set they’re looking for — they would say yes. We’ve been fortunate about not needing VC funding. We’re not against it, and I think it’s a really great tool if there’s something we really want to step on the gas for.”
The T1 is a digital tape measure with a precise laser line project and an e-paper display. Next on the list is a smartphone connected QR printer that creates labels used to identify two-by-fours. Everything Reekon makes is designed with contractors in mind — it’s a group that tends to be fairly set in their ways when it comes to tools. Even with the clear interest on crowdfunding platforms, it could still prove something of an uphill battle.