Pleo: too much, expensive, unuseful, innovation


Looking at it, it seems like a simple toy, a toy dinosaur.

Well, it definitely is a toy. But why are we talking about it in this blog?

In reality Pleo is a robot designed and engineered to mimic the movements and appearance of a baby Camarasaurus of a week old (bear in mind, of just a week!). It was created by Caled Chung, the co-founder of Furby, cute little soft toys that move and do a thousand things (the modern version can also be managed through smartphones).

Camarasaurus baby

Why did Chung chose the Camarasaurus? For its appearance: the large head, with a relatively wide skull made ​​him ideal for accommodating the sensors and engines needed to manage its movements.

According to Pleo’s instructions, each single piece can learn from the environment and from the people in its surroundings through a sophisticated artificial intelligence system, thanks to which he would be able to develop his own personal individuality (there certainly is room here for the descendants of S. Freud).

The presentation of Pleo took place in Scottsdale (USA) in February 2006 although shipments only began almost two years later, in December 2007.

The introductory price?

$ 349.

So expensive!

But the first 2000 dinosaurs were sold out in a few days and between 2007 and March 2009 (15-16 months) over 100,000 of them were sold in the world. Really important numbers. It was liked very much.

My partner in Wish Days, Cristina Pozzi, received one as a gift and I can assure you it was a lot of fun as a toy, even for adults.

Despite the high sales unfortunately the producing company, Ugobe, closed for bankruptcy in 2009 laying off its employees.

On the 8th June, 2009, Jetta Company Limited, the company which built and assembled Pleo in China, acquired the rights to continue to distribute Pleo and its accessories.

In December 2009, with the name of Innvo Labs, a new version of Pleo was re-launched directly on the website at the original cost of $ 349.

The new Pleo had a more resistant skin, the neck and tail were made ​​with a different shockproof mechanism, and its battery charger was capable of restoring old batteries no longer working.

Pleo inside - Startup over

But it was no longer the same thing.

So why did the producing company of Pleo fail? What mistakes were made?

There are lessons to learn from this failure story.

1 – Over promises. As for the history of Segway. The company declared that Pleo was able to adapt to the environment around him creating his own individuality and personality. But it was not true, and immediately there were many angry customers because apart from moving slowly and emitting strange noises it did nothing more.

2 –
Economic Crisis. Pleo is certainly a victim of the crisis. It is a very expensive toy and we shouldn’t forget that the global crisis of 2008, (despite good sales) made their lives impossible in the recourse to credit.

3 – Cash problems. It was this crisis in fact that led to the inability to finance its growth. Cash is king.

4 – Inability to renew the product. The 2009 version was equal to that of 2006. Minor changes were made to improve the software but the hardware was never modified and changed.

5 – Placing Price. Too high. Too much technology “not understood” by consumers. Or that was not needed.

Questions arise spontaneously: have tests been done on the impact that Pleo would have on consumers? And what about a price analysis?

In general, more and more I perceive that to promise too much and to not be able to keep the expectations created is a strategic mistake to avoid.


Italian version of this article here. Versione italiana dell’articolo.

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