We are always happy to hear success stories in the HWTrek HQ, and so the news that Petbot had started taking orders put us in a state of ecstasy. PetBot is a funky device that lets people interact with their pets remotely through AI by seeing them, playing sounds, dropping treats, and getting selfies.
We spoke with Zoran Grabovac, Petbot’s CEO, who told us in more detail the experience of reaching this milestone. He was also kind enough to offer some pearls of wisdom for other creators who were looking to reach this goal. We had previously spoken to Zoran after the Spring 2016 Asian Innovation Tour, so it was great to catch up again:
How does it feel to be finally taking orders for a project you have been working on for so long?
Absolutely tons of emotions. I’m excited about the prospects, but at the same time just extremely relieved that we got to this point. It’s a relief as a lot of companies don’t get there. At the same time, it’s terrifying, we have so much more on the line than we had before. It’s a strange feeling to describe if I’m being honest. So many things had to happen for us to get to this point, so many things had to function. We’ve been working on getting PetBot manufactured for a long time, and it’s really exciting to see people using it actively and enjoying it!
I’m excited about the prospects, but at the same time just extremely relieved that we got to this point.
Moreover, as I said, a lot of people do not get to this point. We really have put 100% into this. You have to do that to succeed with these types of projects. I have seen so many people who have an idea but kinda half-ass the process. You can’t do that, you really need to give everything. Which is especially hard as at some points it feels like things are begging you to quit.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome to get to this level?
The biggest hurdle was learning the manufacturing process and taking our idea from prototype to a real factory-made product. There were a ton of minor changes that had to be made, all the way to the last minute, and those minor changes always had a major impact. The devil is in the details with manufacturing.
We learnt so much about manufacturing that we didn’t know before. I found out that you can design things in a way, but when you go to have something manufactured, what you had originally planned is not actually viable. We had a lot of ideas at the beginning and we did a lot with Raspberry Pi and other things, but then found out that this is not really how products are made. We really had to make huge adaptations going from prototype to product.
If you could have changed anything about the journey to this point, what would it be?
I would have started engaging with manufacturers much earlier. Having them be part of the design process would have helped avoid problems and saved time down the road.
How do you feel HWTrek really helped you with your project?
Was super helpful to see the factories with HWTtek on the AIT tour. Really great to be able to speak directly to factory owners without the barriers of language or distance that make things so difficult. Just seeing the actual manufacturing process just taught us so much
We met our manufacturer on the tour, we wouldn’t have been able to do that without HWTrek. It’s so good to be working with someone you have had real face-to-face contact with. It just makes everything so much easier.
You have got a decent amount of media attention for your project, how did you manage that?
Being a brand new product, there’s always some element of education in communicating to potential customers. We focused our energy on creating a video that we thought was a good reflection of our product functionality, our company’s personality, and why someone would need it. That video proved to be pretty popular, and that helped us boost our PR efforts.
What advice would you give to other hardware creators, looking to get to where you are now?
The main piece of advice would be to be persistent and constantly engage with everyone, from customers to the factory. It may feel uncomfortable sharing information and accepting criticism, but in the long run, it saves significant time and improves the quality of your product.
Thanks so much for your time