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One alarm you won’t sleep through

Sean Cole Apr 9, 2007

One alarm you won’t sleep through

Sean Cole Apr 9, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: We had a story on last year about an alarm clock. Not just any alarm clock. Clocky’s an alarm with wheels. It rolls off the bedside table after you hit the snooze button. So not only do you have to get out of bed to turn it off, you actually have to chase it down.

Back then, it was just a prototype, wrapped in what looked like shag carpeting.

Well, Clocky’s all grown up now and on the market. Marketplace’s Sean Cole brings us up to date on the morning torture device that just can’t be stopped.

SEAN COLE: This is what Clocky sounded like two years ago in the MIT Media Lab:

[SOUND: Grinding clock]

COLE: It’s like trying to make love to my tape recorder here.

And it didn’t work too well. In fact, Gauri Nanda, the MIT “Marquis-de-grad” student who invented Clocky, couldn’t even get it to roll off the table like it was supposed to. She had to push it.

[SOUND: “Clunk”]

COLE: Oop, it just stopped.

GAURI NANDA: Yeah, I think the battery popped out. That’s probably why it’s causing trouble.

So when I visited Clocky again at Nanda’s apartment in Boston the other day, it was like going to a distant cousin’s bar mitzvah.

COLE: And here he is! Look! Oh my gosh.

The shag is gone, replaced by sleek plastic that comes in three colors.

NANDA: We call this aqua, mint and then like an almond white.

It looks like a cannon mount. The wheels on either side are bigger than the body, so it easily survives the drop to the floor.

[SOUND: Clocky clacks to the floor.]

And this is what Clocky sounds like now:

[SOUND: Clocky beeping]

COLE: It’s R2D2!

Its creator is kind of all grown-up, too. After graduating from the Media Lab, Nanda started her own company.

NANDA: It’s called “Nanda.”

Surprise. And with about 100,000 bucks from her family, she plunged into the deep end of entrepreneurship without water wings.

NANDA: Cause of course, my background was in design and technology, so . . . you really can’t underestimate the marketing and the sales that’s . . . you know once you have a product and it’s design, you know, the work has really just begun, so. . . .

And when she first launched Clocky on the Internet the week before Christmas, the biggest challenge was just getting enough of them made.

NANDA: Yeah, a lot of people wanted it at that point. At that point we didn’t have, you know, that much in stock. So, you know, we tried to fulfill as many orders as we could.

COLE: But you couldn’t fulfill all of them.

NANDA: No, no. It was much more demand at that point than we could handle.

Still, she’s managed to sell about 5,000 of the little guys so far. And at 50 bucks a pop, that’s more than double her initial investment.

But then, each of them costs about $17 to manufacture in China, and she has to pay a couple of people helping her part-time and . . . finally, I just asked her point blank.

COLE: How much money can I borrow?

NANDA: Well, you know, we are a start-up company, so actually I . . .

COLE: So you’re not rich yet?

NANDA: I’m not rich yet.

COLE: Damn.

And I should point out that money wasn’t her only motivation. She also wanted to make her own hours. ‘Cause she . . . likes to sleep late.

In Boston, I’m Sean Cole for Marketplace.

[SOUND: Clocky beeping]

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