Chipolo is perhaps one of the most renowned Slovenian start-ups. They have made their fortune with something that seems to be a simple idea – a device that finds lost things – and continue to grow every year.

According to the company’s CEO, Primož Zelenšek, the product has its origins in his friend’s ability to always misplace the keys. In the spirit of a true innovator, Zelenšek gathered a team and together they conceptualized a product that would serve as a solution for all lost items in the world. While at first sight it might have seemed that the product is as simple to develop as it gets, they later realised that wasn’t entirely true.

Primož Zelenšek was a guest on 11th INNOtalks that was organised by ABC Accelerator. According to Zelenšek, they first developed the product, which took eight months, and only later realised the universal usability of it.

At first, they had the tracking device installed into a teddy bear which would make noise when misplaced. However, they realised that with the bear they would drastically narrow down their target group on the market. With this in mind, they conceptualized a product that was a simple circle available in a vast variety of colour choices. Boldly and against all the unwritten rules of business, they decided to continue with the universal product without any prior market research and with the only goal of reaching as many people as possible. Eventually, they succeeded.

Foto: Siniša Kanižaj

Zelenšek and his company also serve as a prime example of what can one achieve with one great idea – even if there’s lack of initial funding. When asked at INNOtalks “how much money the development of Chipolo took?” he simply stated that it took much more time than money. All the money they had on the side they invested into buying equipment, and Domen, one of the teammates, arranged for a small credit so they could buy basic materials. But all this was outshone by their enormous success on Kickstarter, where they pledged 15.000 euros and received 300.000 euros worth of pre-orders. This was a game changer for their company and fuelled the development of their product even further.

At the INNOtalks, Zelenšek also gave advice to the numerous audience and the start-ups-to-be: you can lose a lot of money if you are inexperienced. As he put it: “[our inexperience] really showed. The idea had matured, the market was ready for it. If we had known exactly what to do and when to do it, we would have earned tens of millions more.”

Zelenšek stated that they simply came to the market too soon. Their main competitor wouldn’t have launched a rival product in a year’s time. So if he had to change something, he would have waited, perfected the product even further and limited the functionalities of it. With that, he had in mind less features, which would have simplified the device and the user experience. This way he and his team could have entered the market more focused and firm than they were.

Foto: Siniša Kanižaj

As for the plans for the following year, they plan to release the so-called Chipolo GO. With the new release, they wish to upgrade the existing Chipolo concept with WiFi, LTE technology and Bluetooth in one simple colourful tracker. When asked about the hardest thing to upgrade, Zelenšek answered it was the battery. A Chipolo contains one battery, which should last at least half a year, and with a combination of different technologies this can prove difficult.

More new devices will be also revealed at The International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next year, where Chipolo will be present for the fourth time.

As for the question of every aspiring entrepreneur – “how to succeed?” – Zelenšek stated that it’s a combination of many factors.

One of the most important factors is never to underestimate the importance of human connection. Chipolo has many competitors, but so far they have been able to listen to their customers and understand their problems. This way they have prevailed, as technological giants are often deaf to the consumers.

He added that Skyping with business partners can be great, but once in a while you have to meet them in person over a drink to discuss future affairs.

Overall, it is important to enter the market with confidence and with the right amount of bravery.