The inspiration: Smartstones are about connecting people in new ways, creating a community of support and feedback, and establishing a comforting presence for those in need.
Smartstones Founder, Andreas Forsland, said the inspiration came from being bedside for 7 weeks while his mother was in ICU struggling to survive, intubated and unable to move, talk, write or use any fine motor skills.
"Maybe if you can't talk, you can still express that you need help, are happy, or upset" Forsland said. "In return, your loved ones can give you peace of mind by letting you know that although they aren't there physically, they're thinking about you. Sort of a tactile moral support or way to communicate if something urgent arises and help is needed."
For her 70th birthday, his mother Sarah who lived on the east coast came to visit Andreas in Santa Barbara. Shortly after her arrival, unbeknown to anyone, she developed severe pneumonia while he was out of town for a day. She went into septic shock and kidney failure. Fortunately she was able to call 911 and have an ambulance pick her up. Upon arrival to ICU, Andreas was confronted by a team of doctors. Moments later, he was asked, "Do you have her affairs in order. She may not make it. It's really bad. Should we try to recover her should her functions begin to fail or go into cardiac arrest." This was almost too much for Andreas all at once, but he held steadfast, with little hope and a lot of prayer. She was intubated, and put on life support for weeks in the ICU. During that time, she remained intubated, arms tied to bed rails to avoid pulling out tubes and all the wires, literally unable to communicate.
During this time, Andreas was bedside with her most of the time, acting as a central communication point for her to doctors in Santa Barbara, her friends and doctors back east, lawyers, as well as his large team and responsibilities at his own work.
A little more than a year after her recovery, which surprised everyone in the hospital, Andreas attended Startup Weekend in Santa Barbara for his 3rd year of serving the entrepreneurial community as a mentor and coach - helping teams form and build great businesses in 54 hours. Andreas pitched a solution for this need of sensorial non-verbal communication - for people who are unable to talk, write or type - to a crowd of about 300 entrepreneurs.
He invented a product called Hopestone, later renamed Touchstone, that would enable anyone in a situation where they either cannot, or should not be using a cell phone to communicate with loved ones or the most important people the need to stay in constant contact with.
He imagined "What if my mother's friends back east were praying for her by simply rubbing, moving or twirling a pebble-sized rubbing stone that sends out a simple message". Messages like, "we're here for you", "way to go", or "I love you". And she could have simple ways of expressing "I'm ok", "I'm really nervous", "I love you, too" or "I need something right now". Simple messages being sent anonymously to a larger social network, or privately within a personal cloud network of Touchstone users/friends/family/colleagues/teams - it is the ultimate sensorial way to stay in touch and "send good vibes" to each other.
This idea was presented to a small team at Startup Weekend on November 15, 2013, and immediately Andreas Forsland, Leonard Zerman, Lucas Cohen, Zack Zerman, Madison Haynie and Ben Koch began to build the business model, prototype the product and validate the Touchstone market.
The Touchstone team was recognized by a distinquished panel of judges and won two categories at Startup Weekend; Best Physical Product and Most Crowdfundable.
O'Connor said it was a unique invention. “I have never seen anything like this before, I’ll give you that. It’s pretty wild.”
The Smartstones (aka Touchstone) team is hard at work building out its next iteration of the product, and preparing for a crowdfunding campaign and soft launch in 2014, where it hopes to raise enough funds to cover the cost of development and production of its first commercial ready version of the touchstone product.
Subsequently, Andreas Forsland heard such positive customer responses that he resigned from his executive role as Senior Director, Brand Experience at Citrix in order to dedicate his time toward bringing this life changing concept to market.
We've been working hard for the last year and a half developing Smartstones Touch, and working on two Smartstones apps that will ship with the Touch, as well as an API for developers to develop their own apps. We have a lot further to go, but with your support, we will be able to launch the first Touch-based communication device, and improve communication for millions of people.
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Thank you for your support!
The Smartstones team