Dylan Brodsky has checked quite a few things off his bucket list for a second year student in the Orfalea College of Business. In just the past year, he’s experienced the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, landed his first capital investment, and, most recently, debuted his product at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
He owes the wild ride to a device called Spritely, a smart alarm clock and sleep analytics system developed as a senior project at Cal Poly. With its smart sensor that communicates via Bluetooth with your smartphone, Spritely can detect when you are in and out of bed. The catch? Once your alarm goes off, it won’t stop until you get out — and stay out — of bed.
Brodsky was part of a team that was accepted into the CIE’s 2015 Summer Accelerator program, where he and CTO Fred Wilby worked for three months to refine the technology and lay out a business plan. They were able to raise a small amount of seed funding from investors, but knew they needed something more to get the company off the ground and help their new product go viral in the swelling health and wellness technology space.
Now leading the team as Spritely’s CEO, Dylan Brodsky set his sights on attending the much-lauded CES event, one of the world’s largest technology trade shows held once a year in Las Vegas. The annual gathering has been a hotbed of tech product splashes from major players like Apple and Samsung, but small scale startups have been known to make their mark on the trade show floor. With this opportunity at hand, Brodsky went into full planning mode, beefing up his team with nearly a dozen fellow students specialized in marketing, UX (user experience), product development and entrepreneurship.
Thanks to some planning help from Mary O’Brian, a CIE advisor, and travel funding from the Orfalea College of Business, the team made their way to the show in early January. Brodsky says the experience was a lot to take in at first, from the paid models hocking other products at CES to his entire team bonding in one hotel suite. With an intense itinerary of appointments, the team had the chance to present a Spritely prototype to the consumer electronics world and network with innovators and retailers from around the globe. Brodsky found he was making fast progress with online and brick-and-mortar outfits interested in one day carrying Spritely.
“It was pretty crazy,” said Brodsky. “It was like Learn by Talking. I realized that in-person marketing has a huge impact.” While there, Spritely earned mentions in major media outlets like NBC, the Chronicle of Higher Ed, CNET, Silicon Angel, and CRN. The mentions are helpful, and they’re igniting buzz — Brodsky says — for its first litmus test with consumers.
The trade show was the launch pad for Spritely’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. They’ve set a goal of raising $100,0000 in order to commission the product’s first manufacturing run. Brodsky says getting this initial funding is a crucial next step in bringing Spritely to a larger market.
“All guns are around the campaign now,” said Brodsky. “Once we get the funding, it’s on product development, getting orders filled, manufacturing them, and shipping them. Hopefully simultaneously capitalizing on all the relationships we made with retailers at CES.”
Looking ahead, Brodsky and his team hope to return to CES next year and start selling market-ready Spritely devices to the larger retail community. To his fellow students looking for entrepreneurial advice, Brodsky says his major takeaway from CES wasn’t just true at the convention, it was true for the entire startup process:
“Plan everything out. And always expect the unexpected.”