Atbay Surpasses Kickstarter Goal on First Day

A Hatch Founder Interview Series


If you’ve been keeping an eye on the newest technologies coming out of the Asheville startup scene, you might already know about the makers at Atbay, a hardware startup designing products to keep you off your phone and in the moment. The team successfully launched their first crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter on October 2nd for their debut product, Candle. They have seen an extremely enthusiastic response from the community in the first few days, and already surpassed their fundraising goal! (Psst… There are still Candles left to buy for a discount if you want to pick up one of your own!)

How have they had such an exciting launch for their young company?


They started with compiling a lively team of entirely different makers. Russell is a practicing Buddhist with a background in Psychology. John is a meticulous industrial designer with a major in philosophy. And James is a mechanical engineer who can make just about anything. Plus, with Atbay, it isn’t just about the product. Rather, it’s about the combined team, which has invested all of its time and effort to create a product that truly makes a difference in their customers lives.


Where it all Began

John and Russell met in college, but didn’t start working together until John moved to Asheville last summer. The duo was already trying to figure out how to tackle the problem of helping consumers live in the moment by getting off their electronics when they met James at a local networking event hosted by Pop Benefits. The team began working full-time on the Candle at the Asheville Makers in the Refinery Creator Space, a place for makers of all kinds to bring their ideas to life.

Earlier this year, the Atbay team took the plunge into Hatch Demo Day, an event that helps early-stage entrepreneurs go from an idea to a full pitch, in just one day. From there they were ready to begin beta-testing the first version of the Candle, which, to be frank, wasn’t the beautiful product that Atbay has now.

This is where they ran into their first big wall.

First Round Product for Atbay's Candle


Russell, John, and James created several early copies of the Candle and handed out prototypes to their first round of eager beta-testers. The beta-testers were aware that they were getting a ‘rough around the edges,’ but functional version of the Candle to use for three weeks. This original version was made from 3d printed plastic and laser cut wood.

When they sat down with one of their testers for feedback, the Atbay founders were dismayed to find out that he had never even plugged it in. The tester lead with the comment that, “it was ugly and I didn’t like it in my home,” so he put it in his closet after unboxing the prototype. Instead of ignoring the negative feedback and chalking it up as “not understanding Candle,” they decided to take a deep-dive into making sure that the product was beautiful.

The Atbay team went back to the drawing board, worked on a new design and made something that everyone would want in their home. With a 2nd round follow-ups, they gained more valuable information related to user experience, emotional responses, and efficacy. From here, the team felt ready to test their new design on the market with a small batch Kickstarter launch.

Going All In

Many entrepreneurs who are knee-deep in their own projects know hurdles don’t just come from the products, but also from finances. About three months into developing Candle, following two rounds of beta-testing and iterative development, the team was running out of money to continue working on Atbay full-time.

Atbay team hard at work


Instead of giving up, each team member got part-time jobs; John cleaned gutters, Russell worked catering, and James was a waiter and dishwasher. Each of these jobs, while not glamorous, enabled the team to spend a majority of their time finishing the design of Candle.

But why didn’t the Atbay team pursue outside investment?

The answer to that question also speaks to the long-term vision of the Founders. They believe in their product and are willing to go through the laborious process without reaching for outside investment, as of now. Regardless of the fact that hardware companies face lower margins than software services, the team of three are all willing to instead invest their collective efforts to make sure they have a product that customers can also believe in.

Their ethos in regards to funding has more than paid off, as they received 100% of their intended funding from their crowdfunding campaign, the very day it launched. In just under 5 hours at that! Kickstarter, which allows the public to provide funding to products and companies they believe in before seeing the final product in person, was their first real test in seeing how the public perceives the Candle. And clearly, the community is excited about where this company is going.

As of the time of this article, Atbay still has another 100 or so Candles available to sell before the campaign ends on November 2nd. If you want more information about the Atbay team and their products, go visit their website and Kickstarter campaign.