Moshi’s Mega Pivot: From Web Telephony to Apple Accessories

Courtesy Moshi

Moshi, formerly an Internet telephony company, has found a big business in selling accessories for devices such as the iPad.

Technology startups are notorious for making dramatic product changes, whether that means moving from hardware to software or from an ad-supported business to one based on subscriptions. In Silicon Valley, it’s called the pivot. But few companies have pivoted the way Moshi has.

Founded in 2003 as Aevoe, the company developed technology for Web-based telephony, a market that would eventually be won by Skype and Vonage. Eight years later, Moshi is one of the leading sellers of Apple accessories, such as iPod cases, iPad sleeves and patented iPhone screen protectors — called iVisors — that eliminate the annoying air bubbles found in rival products.

While Moshi is still in a highly competitive market and has to fight to stay in Apple’s favor, business is booming. Moshi has sold more than 5 million iVisors for various mobile devices, and its MacBook keyboard protectors are also popular. Apple’s online store lists 31 of the company’s products for sale and three of its products are sold in physical stores, said Moshi Executive Director Jon Lin.

The company recently opened a San Francisco office, where it plans to more than double its staff next year to 40. It has over 100 employees globally, with products sold in more than 10,000 stores in 45 countries, Lin said. It’s a reality that would have been unthinkable five years ago, when Aevoe was still trying to slog it out in the telecom world.

Back then, the company had moved to Taiwan from Silicon Valley and cut its staff from 20 to four. With no venture capitalists willing to fund the business, Aevoe started developing soft microfiber pouches for iPods and other electronics under the brand name Moshi just to bring in a little revenue. After some success, they then built keyboards for MacBooks and followed that up with keyboard protectors that were thinner than similar products made from silicon.

“We took a big detour,” Lin said.

By 2008, Aevoe only existed as the corporate name with all of the company’s resources focused on the Moshi accessories business. The company reopened its U.S. operations in 2009 in Sunnyvale, California, and moved its headquarters to San Francisco a month ago.

Now, as it competes in a market that includes companies such as Belkin and Incase, Moshi is using its growing money pile to fund new products, including an audio line with earbuds that range in price from about $40 to $200.

“Apple consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are unique, well-designed and well-made,” Lin said. “We’re never going to make me-too products.”

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