BY AMY PHARE
There is no better time to produce a great idea. Unlike centuries ago, there is greater access to design tools and software, along with limitless outlets for creativity. These days, anyone can be an entrepreneur and create a prototype—but not everyone can scale up. Until now.
The brainchild of Dorian Ferlauto and Alex Henry, BriteHub (formerly Elihuu) is a web-based service connecting entrepreneurs with service providers and manufacturers, turning ideas into reality. Or as Ferlauto sums it, “We’re the match.com for manufacturing.”
Launched last year right here in Colorado, the tech startup is a solution Ferlauto conjured after scouting products nationwide for retail. “Designers often got into publications with small batches or prototyping but had no idea how to scale up,” said Ferlauto, BriteHub founder and CEO. “I saw a lot of white space when it came to consumer demand, like someone wanting 200 chairs.”
So Ferlauto dove in head-first, conducting extensive market research and tapping into the expertise of Henry, whose background lies in design and web development. “I was interested in the whole process, because I not only enjoy problem solving and building web applications, but also I knew the pain and frustration of approaching and finding quality manufacturers,” said Henry, co-founder and CDO who designed and coordinated manufacturing for a line of bicycles. “The gaps she talked about I understood from first-hand experience.”
After partnering with Henry, creating a small team, and using the power of the Internet to connect communities, Ferlauto—with a non-tech background—launched a tech company. The solution is the first of its kind, and business is booming. But just how does it work?
Have an idea? For $19.99 an entrepreneur can submit a request for quotation (RFQ) on the BriteHub site, specifying requirements such as the location of the manufacturer or the type of material used. BriteHub then submits the requirements to a vetted community of engineers, designers, CAD specialists, and production run experts. BriteHub’s matchmaking algorithms provide at least two quality manufacturing bids to the entrepreneur, who may return for post-production help with packaging, labeling, shipping, and distribution.
“We’re really trying to remove any intimidation in creating a product or business,” said Henry. “There are a lot of things scary about that and a lot of unknowns, but with our platform, we want to see people succeed and not to be intimidated.”
On the production side, manufacturers get a snapshot of a project as a match comes across. To learn more, they sign a non-disclosure agreement and are charged $49 to be able to submit quotes. “We don’t lock anyone in,” said Ferlauto. “It’s more engagement. We are building collaboration between two parties so everyone stays on the site.” The platform offers messaging capabilities, allowing both parties to manage the project in one place. “It’s the Airbnb concept. You talk and negotiate online,” she said.
BRITEHUB IN ACTION
One company that benefitted from that collaboration is Boulder-based Ubooly, which wanted to increase production and move manufacturing domestically. CEO Carly Gloge met BriteHub’s founders after they participated in Techstars, a startup accelerator program. While they haven’t produced yet with the new vendor, Gloge said the difference already is the stability in communication. “That’s been a huge piece and important to us,” she said. “The great thing is we can hop on a flight and see manufacturers the same day. There is more of a dialogue that takes place.” She also cites flexibility as a benefit with BriteHub vendors, as small and new companies may find difficultly with mass production.
Victor Angel, VP of Product Development at Uncharted Play, also benefitted from a logistical standpoint when they partnered with BriteHub. “There was a lot of back and forth, doing same thing over and over with vendors,” he said, “When we starting using BriteHub, it was gratifying uploading one file and it sending to multiple vendors at once without having to answer the same questions.” Unchartered Play produces an energy-harnessing soccer ball (above) and jump rope. Used in pilot programs in Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa, energy is produced when children play with the toys, which they use as lighting at home to complete homework. “These are already thriving companies who are taking it to the next level,” said Ferlauto.
Among the things they hope to see expand is the type of talent within the BriteHub community. “In New York, we saw a lot of engineers who are designers. They have this extensive knowledge and education, but their careers might be making things for medical devices,” said Henry. “But they could team with the soccer ball company, for instance, and maybe that would bring them excitement.”
While BriteHub has its roots in Colorado, the team recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to be among the hardware startups. As they expand, the struggle isn’t in building a community, but rather bandwidth and time. “This space is huge, and we’re trying to solve a giant problem,” said Henry. “We have all these ideas and solutions, but it’s a matter of getting them out and doing it quickly enough.”
To keep up with the demand, they will focus on growing their engineering and development teams and expanding BriteHub features, all while continuing to empower entrepreneurs. “We’re the total service solution from beginning to end, and we really care,” said Ferlauto. “Our mission is that you’re connecting dots along way so when you get to production, you’re ready, empowered, and educated to take next steps.”