Seattle-area smart tracking technology company Pebblebee, which makes hardware devices and an app to locate lost keys, pets and more, has tracked down a new partnership, funding and CEO in a quest to further scale the 8-year-old startup.
Pebblebee has entered into a partnership with Sourcenext, a Japanese distributor and creator of software, hardware, and IoT products. Sourcenext has made a “significant” investment in Pebblebee, which previously raised a $1.25 million seed round and another larger SAFE investment.
Sourcenext is also the source of Pebblebee’s new CEO, Doug Bieter, who has served as head of partner development at Sourcenext for two years. Bieter brings 25 years of experience working for and alongside brands, including TiVo, Dropcam, Nest and eero.
Joe Miller, Sourcenext’s general manager (Americas) is also joining the Pebblebee board of directors.
The addition of Bieter will allow Pebblebee co-founder Daniel Daoura to transition to CTO, with a focus on product innovation and development.
Daoura launched Pebblebee in 2014 with Nick Pearson-Franks, a fellow Boeing engineer. Pearson-Franks died in an accident in June 2020 at the age of 40. A year later, Daoura recounted the challenges of running the startup without his good friend and partner.
“I have more responsibility. I have more work. I have more challenges,” Daoura said of life without Pearson-Franks. “As we grow the team, he’s always with us, but I can’t do it alone, obviously.”
Daoura told GeekWire Wednesday that he knew in the back of his mind that the help he needed would come in the form of Bieter, who he’s known for about four years.
“He’s always been my No. 1. It’s a dream come true,” Daoura said. “I wanted Doug to lead the company and bring us to new heights.”
Daoura said he’s always been passionate about bringing new products to market, but was less intrigued by the distribution and sales side of running his own company.
“We’ve done quite well on our own but not the level that we needed, in terms of scaling and growing,” Daoura said. “It’s just a huge weight off my shoulders.”
Pebblebee, which employs roughly 20 people, previously fulfilled its online orders from a warehouse in Issaquah, Wash. That work will now be performed by a third-party company out of Minneapolis for Sourcenext.
Bieter called Daoura a “brilliant engineer and product guy” and said Sourcenext feels good about the company’s current product lineup and what’s in the pipeline. His job will be to get the operational side of things in order.
“It’s about taking the great product and technology that exists and bringing that out to the distribution world,” Bieter said. “Whether it’s online partners, B2B partners through traditional retail, or even a bunch of enterprise companies that we’re engaged with today.”
Pebblebee has sold more than 1 million devices and has more than 400,000 active customers. Sales are currently 100% online on its website, Amazon and elsewhere. Previous deals with physical retailers included sales of its Finder tracking device in Costco locations across the U.S.