An engineering firm has launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, offering investors the chance to become part of its smartwatch development.
Orsto Ltd, based in Durham, has developed a prototype for a new product called the X3, which it claims will be the world’s first smartwatch that can fully function without a smartphone connection.
Company founder Paul Gill has now turned to the equity crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube, in a bid to raise the £150,000 needed to start the manufacturing of the X3.
The firm, established three years ago, has set the six-figure target, in return for a total of 12.5% equity in the business and investors are invited to make contributions starting from £10. So far Orsto have raised £54,000.
Gill said the funding will also be used by to bring manufacturing of the product to Europe and the UK, ideally in the North East, and he also believes between 100 and 150 jobs can be created at the peak of production.
Gill said: “Like a lot of small businesses we struggled to meet strict criteria for funding from local business grants and banks so we turned to Crowdcube when we realised the potential of opening the business to members of the public.
“We can’t compete against the big technology firms when it comes to marketing campaigns so we’ve just been getting interest through word of mouth – and just through that we’ve already raised £54,000.
“We’re really excited to offer the public a rare opportunity to become invested in ground-breaking technology firm.
“The focus of Orsto and our products are ultimately on the user, and making life simpler for them.
“This Crowdcube campaign continues that focus by inviting them into the business itself.”
“Smartwatches have been around for a number of years now, but with the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Gear, the smartwatch market has been opened up to the mainstream, which will help us to push our name to the forefront. And the smartwatch market could be worth around £38.9bn by 2018 so our timing has been crucial.”
Gill, who has 36 years experience in electronics and design, has spent the last three years researching and developing wearable technology products, and said existing watches had been developed to work “tethered” via bluetooth to users’ phones but that his X3 is a true standalone device like a smartphone, with its own number and ability to connect directly to the internet.
If the crowdfunding target is met, Gill aims to have the X3 on the market next Spring, at an RRP of £299, and it will boast a speaker, an MP player and an FM radio. The watch can also play MP4 videos and has camera on the side capable of taking 8-megapixel photos.
He added: “What we need to do now is get 200 prototypes working and out to people in the industry who can put the real article on and find out about it for themselves.
“I think that will be a big help.
“We are also trying to get people interested to come and look at the Crowdcube website too.
“I’ve had discussions with councils about opening a manufacturing facility and we really want to keep the plant here in the North East.
For more information on the crowdfunding campaign visit: www.orsto.com .