Helping the Harbor team rest easy with its baby monitoring system

Harbor co-founders Charlie Hill and Kevin Lavelle

Harbor co-founders Charlie Hill and Kevin Lavelle

As a new parent, Kevin Lavelle made a frustrating discovery. With his infant son asleep upstairs, the baby monitor video camera and app he relied on had shut down without warning. He wasn’t sure how long it had been off and raced upstairs to check on his son. All was well, but it left Kevin wondering how these baby monitors could claim to be so reliable and quickly uncovered a bunch of limitations. 

Fast forward seven years; shockingly, a lot has stayed the same in the marketplace. Baby monitors are still tied to apps that run on a phone and often don’t have record, rewind, or remote viewing capabilities. 

Kevin set out to change all that. With his cofounder, Charlie Hill, he launched Harbor, a baby camera and monitor system unlike anything available today with a revolutionary “remote night nanny” platform to help parents sleep easier.  

“I needed to understand if my idea was even feasible,” said Kevin. “In the early days of starting a new company, you don’t know what you don’t know. Everybody knows that to be a truism. I knew nothing about hardware and software technology.” Kevin set out to find a network of trusted advisors to help bring his idea to life.

Discovering informal  

When Kevin started his first company, Mizzen+Main, he didn’t tell anyone about it because he feared someone would take his idea. With Harbor, he told everyone who would listen because he knew he needed help and the idea would improve with feedback.

“To me, informal is a trusted network,” said Kevin. “There are recruiting agencies, and if you do a lot of hard work, you can find any number of consultants, but hardware is a very unique atmosphere and a difficult environment.” 

Kevin connected with Chris Rill at informal, who quickly made introductions to people in the industry to help Kevin get a rapid prototype together. Chris’ guidance and expertise were invaluable from the start. “I don’t think we would’ve been able to achieve the pace and quality that we’ve now been able to achieve without informal,” said Kevin.

In addition, Harbor needed someone to help them in a substantial way to establish relationships on the hardware side and vet manufacturers from a technical perspective. At this point, Kevin and Charlie were introduced to Sean McBeath at informal. Sean began working with Harbor as an informal freelancer to help build up the hardware side of the business, including vetting manufacturers and vendors. He traveled with the team to visit multiple manufacturers and build relationships with trusted vendors. Today, Sean is the VP of Hardware at Harbor. 

It takes a village

“As founders, we need experts who can push against assumptions and challenge vendors,” said Kevin. Looking back, Kevin acknowledged that informal played a significant role in Harbor’s success. Informal offers a level of flexibility and expertise that’s hard to find. With options to consult for a few hours a month, bring on a full-time contractor, or identify a full-time hire, Kevin found it was just the type of network he needed.

“A lot of investors run away from anything with a physical product,” said Kevin. “From day one, I’ve tried to bring in a range of people to problem-solve and avoid making a lot of costly mistakes.”

Kevin could bring up problems he needed to solve or explain that he was looking for a specific skill set in a particular location, and informal would almost always find an option. “It may not be exactly the form factor you want, but you’ll get the expertise you need,” said Kevin. “Ultimately, that’s the most important thing.”

Making life better

Kevin looks forward to any and all guidance through the informal network in the future. There’s comfort in knowing that he can reach out to informal to schedule anything from a one-hour phone call to setting up more extended consulting opportunities to even full-time hires.

“Knowing where to ask the questions can change the trajectory of your company,” said Kevin. “If I can ask the right questions, that’s helpful. But when you have access to the people who have been there before, they’ll help you address the questions you didn’t even think to ask.”

Harbor is lucky to have Sean McBeath, a former informal member who can quickly navigate the network and make connections, and Chris Rill, who continues to advise Harbor after nearly two years. Harbor is also working with several part-time consultants with extensive niche expertise.

“You’re never going to get it 100% right, but you can get it 99.99% right by planning from the beginning around the types of problems that other people have encountered. That’s been really important for us.”

informal is a freelance collective for the most talented independent professionals in hardware and hardtech. Whether you’re looking for a single contractor, a full-time employee, or an entire team of professionals to work on everything from product development to go-to-market, informal has the perfect collection of people for the job.


Client Stories
Nate Padgett

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