Jenkin Xia knows how hard it can be to launch a gadget in the US. She makes a smart doorbell called Wuuk and crowdfunded it on Indiegogo in 2019, raising more than $900,000. Although many of the backers were excited about the products, others were wary, saying they worried about their data because the team is based in China.
Backers wanted to know more about the founders, like where they’re located and their background, she says. “People seem to really care about this, and sometimes the stigma of being a Chinese founder really haunts us,” she says. “For instance, recently we [saw] some backers posted [a question] on Facebook or social media about the name Wuuk, like, what does Wuuk mean?”
Some backers thought Wuuk meant “military” or “army” in Chinese, she says, which isn’t true. Backers also were concerned about their data, especially given that the Wuuk doorbell uses facial recognition and monitors who’s entering and exiting a home. Xia says she and her team use Amazon servers in the US to adhere to local laws and allay privacy worries. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic began, she says some backers said they didn’t want to receive the product anymore because they worried the virus would be transmitted on the packages from the Chinese factories.
“I don’t think big brands like Ring or Nest [get] questions about where [they] manufacture, and that the location that you manufacture would impact whether people decided to buy from you,” she says.
The US customers’ concerns over them being Chinese, along with other challenges, make it hard for companies to launch in the US. In the newest episode of In The Making, I chat with Lu Li, the general manager of global strategy at Indiegogo, as well as Jerry Yang, a general partner at Hardware Club, a VC firm that invests in hardware startups. Along with Xia, they discuss the challenges Chinese creators face when looking to break into the US and how they overcome those obstacles.