Featured Startup Pitch: Vaska Technologies is developing an automated inventory management and purchasing system for the home

By Editor November 6, 2013
Michael Schmidt, VaskaTech

Michael Schmidt, VaskaTechBy Michael Schmidt, Vaska Technologies co-founder and president

Elevator Pitch: With the Libra System, you don’t have to go to the store, and you don’t have to remember when to place an order online. Your purchases simply show up at your door, right when you need them.

Product Description

Imagine waking up to realize that you’re out of coffee. Your morning routine has been thrown off. You’ll have to run to the store or a Starbucks for your morning coffee. The Libra System solves this problem and many others. With the Libra System, you’ll never have to think about replenishing coffee or any other frequent purchase ever again. Imagine not having to go to the store and not having to remember when to place an order online. Instead, your purchases simply show up at your door, right when you need them, whether it is coffee, razors, pet food, or camping supplies. You receive exactly what you need, nothing more and nothing less, at the lowest available price from multiple online retailers.

The Libra System is a fully-automated ecommerce shopping solution. The system consists of a network of Wi-Fi enabled pads that can be placed under any product. The pads measure the remaining quantity and usage rate of each product. The Libra System software determines when to reorder based on your usage rate and shipping times. It also allows you to compare prices to ensure you are buying from the lowest-cost vendor. The system is completely passive once it is set up, and the setup is quick-and-easy—it’s like having a personal assistant that does your shopping for you.

Founders’ Story

Yash [co-founder Yash Ambardekar] and I both have engineering and product development backgrounds. We have known each other since 2009, when we worked together in General Electric’s wind turbine engineering division. Four years later, we have both left GE for other endeavors. Yash moved up to Boston with GE, and then transferred to a healthcare technologies company. I came up to Boston to attend Harvard Business School for an MBA. Since we were both living in Boston and both interested in entrepreneurship, we began meeting regularly to discuss startup ideas.

The Libra System was born out of frustration with our options for making routine purchases. Living without a vehicle in Boston requires us to spend a lot of time and energy for routine purchases. We tried online subscription services, but did not find them effective because of the difficulty of matching delivered quantities with consumption. I was using online subscription services for several products, and I was always either running out of the product before the replenishment arrived, or having to login to cancel delivery of products that I had not yet used up. Managing the subscription was not saving me any time, so Yash and I decided to create a more passive and user-friendly solution.

Marketing Strategy

There are many potential applications for the Libra System, both commercial and consumer applications. Our go-to-market strategy is to target the consumer market first. The target customer segment is young professionals that live in city centers. Our market research has shown that this group is receptive to new technologies and places a high value on convenience. Often, these target customers do not have vehicles, which makes shopping a great inconvenience while limiting their retail options.

Our initial sales will be through the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The initial promotion will be through social media and advertising on technology websites. Longer term, we are also pursuing partnerships with several brick-and-mortar retailers for in-store promotion of the Libra System.

Market Opportunity

With the rapid growth and popularity of Amazon Prime memberships and other ecommerce subscription sites, we see an emerging market for a more convenient customer experience. There are currently more than 10 million Amazon Prime users, and that number is growing rapidly. Morningstar estimates there will be 20 million users by 2017. We see every user of these services to be a potential Libra System customer. Therefore, we estimate the U.S. market size for the Libra System to be greater than 20 million potential customers.



Competitive Advantage

Our competition includes online subscription services. The Libra System offers all the convenience of the current subscription services, such as eliminating trips to the store, plus a number of additional advantages. For example, the Libra System adjusts to your consumption, so that you only receive what you need when you need it. You’ll never run out of a product or waste excess product. The Libra System also saves you money over a subscription service because it provides you access to multiple vendors and ensures that you always order from the lowest-cost vendor instead of tying you down to a subscription with one retailer.

The solution also creates a lot of value for brick-and-mortar retailers that are trying to grow their ecommerce business, especially those that do not have a rapid-response supply chain to quickly fulfill ecommerce orders. Since the Libra System measures usage, it can provide advance notice that a product needs to be shipped. This allows brick-and-mortar retailers to compete in ecommerce without making as much of an investment in infrastructure.

Business Model

Vaska Technologies’ revenue will come from hardware sales, plus a monthly subscription fee of $5 per unique user for access to the software tools that allow users to interact with their Libra System, such as setting up reorder preferences and selecting preferred vendors. We also expect to generate advertisement revenue on the Libra System software platform once we reach critical mass of unique users.

Current Needs

Vaska Technologies is currently seeking a Seed capital investment to support hiring employees, marketing efforts and hardware production. The Seed investment will provide working capital for production of the Libra System hardware in order to support sales growth through retail partnerships. We are currently seeking employees for software development positions.

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VaskaTech logoWebsite: www.vaskatech.com

Indiegogo Campaign: www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-libra-system

Founders: Yash Ambardekar, Michael Schmidt

Headquarters: Boston

Investors/Previous Funding: Harvard Business School Rock Fellowship

Year Founded: 2013

Twitter: @vaskatech

Facebook: facebook.com/vaskatech

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/3362338