Hiku is a simple physical device that helps you build a smarter grocery list. Simply speak into the device or scan the products you need and it syncs to a smartphone application so users can access their shopping list anytime, anywhere.
San Jose, CA
Rob Katcher, Founder and CEO
What was the hunch that got you started?
Simply put, I got tired of running out of stuff. We have 3 kids at home home, and we call it a win if everyone here has clean underwear. There’s this general sentiment from families that you can’t be on top of it all. In the heat of the moment, mobile apps (while great) have way too many steps to have to worry about – you have to swipe and unlock your phone, navigate to the page, open the app, then enter the item you need – which is way too many steps. With Hiku, my kid can add an item to my list for me and help me out, without having to worry about managing the 30 steps to open an app.
I’ve been in mobile for a long time, and even designed some of the first mobile apps in the US. Connected devices feels like mobile did back in 2002, its still very new and there is a ton of innovation happening. So that’s exciting.
Additionally, technology inside the home has been geared toward entertainment like movies and games, but I kept wondering how can we use technology to actually make our lives easier? So we felt very passionate about building something useful for consumers.
What have you learned? How have you failed? How have you had to pivot?
We are still very early on in our company stage development. We just closed our first round of seed funding only a few months ago. When developing Hiku, we did some initial user trials and learned a lot about how people shop for everyday household stuff: where they shop, what they like and what they don’t like, what they typically shop for, etc. We also got a lot of great feedback from the Kickstarter community.
The tech-heavy crowds are really skeptical about the product, and want to know why they can’t just create lists on their mobile phone. Those types of people definitely aren’t going to understand who the product is for. Hiku is a great product for a Mom who loves her iPhone but doesn’t want to fuss with her iPhone every second of the day.
One of our favorite customer insights was from this woman whose husband had been unsuccessfully trying to persuade her to use Evernote for their grocery lists: “This is like Evernote, but easier”.
We intended it for busy families when we created it. In terms of the next steps, we’re focusing on our product beta (which you can see in the demo videos). After that, putting the product itself in people’s hands and fine tuning it.
What is your team like? Company Culture?
We have an office in Downtown San Jose, and are unabashedly a startup. We’re 2 people full time. We contract other people as necessary. If we include them in the overall count, that puts us around 10 team members.
Right now it’s more about product culture than company culture because the company exists to create this product and live out this huge product vision. At the end of the day though, I guess the culture is that we’re really passionate about bringing simplicity and beauty to people’s lives. If we’re ever in doubt about what the device should be, we always fall back onto what is the simplest way to solve this problem.
We’re really maniacal product people. We’re all about details and how that matches up to usability for people at the end of the day. So every little detail goes through an “is this necessary” filter – from the swipe behavior, to the product material, to the voice recognition feedback.
We’re geeks and we know it.
What is your plan for monetization?
We have an Amazon-like business model. We are doing for consumer packaged goods what Kindle did for books. Consumers will buy the device, but everything else that comes with Hiku like the mobile app and cloud service is free.
We absolutely plan to have a ‘shop with you’ element as well, and will partner with retailers on that. However, there’s no retailers that we’re ready to announce, as of yet.
What can brands learn from you?
One of the things that we think about a lot – especially on the product side – is contextual commerce. It’s about incorporating opportunity into the behavior that Hiku will build.
The thing that I would encourage companies in general to do is to create something useful for people, build it as a part of the service, and do it in natural ways.