In this episode of the Art of the Kickstart podcast, we talked to Sam Hickmann. With the team at Joy, he has created the perfect icon-based watch that teaches kids the concept of time and helps them develop good daily habits. Listen below to learn more about their work with the HAX Accelerator, how they leveraged their community to make their Kickstarter campaign a success and other crowdfunding tips and tricks.

Octopus by Joy, the training wheels for good habits

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How incubators like HAX can help startups create and develop products
  • The benefits of being in China while building a hardware product
  • Why you need a community behind your product
  • How to build a strong community before launching on Kickstarter
  • How to get valuable feedback as you’re creating a product

Links

Connect with Joy

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code AOTK for 20% off!

Transcript

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Roy Morejon:

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, the top full service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over seventy million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more, visit thegadgetflow.com. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined by Sam Hickmann with Octopus by JOY. Sam, thank you so much for joining us.

Sam Hickmann:

Thank you for having me.

Roy Morejon:

I’ve got to know, what is this icon based scheduler for kids?

Sam Hickmann:

That actually is the first icon based watch that teaches kids good habits and the concept of time.

Roy Morejon:

I’ve got two kids of my own. One of them is very young and the other one is about two and a half. Is it too young for her already?

Sam Hickmann:

Yes. The ideal age is in between three and eight years old.

Roy Morejon:

Got it. Tell us a little bit more about the watch, how it works as a scheduler for children, and where the idea came from.

Sam Hickmann:

Sure. Actually JOY is a company that wants to help families live in harmony thanks to technology. Octopus by JOY is actually the first product of the company. It came from a personal story. I have two kids at home. My son is twelve. I’m really proud of him now. When he was younger, we had a really hard time teaching him good habits. Sometimes he didn’t want to cooperate. He didn’t want to dress up, to help set the table. Depending on the day, either we were stressed and it would finish in power struggles or we were exhausted and we would give up. Sometimes he would simply forget to do things. We had to remind him, and it was requiring a lot of energy.

With our daughter, she’s four, we decided to be more prepared. We read a lot of books, we spoke with other parents, my wife even took some classes in child development here in San Francisco at the University, and we discovered the power of routines. If you have kids, you probably already know that having routines in place in the family helps them to be more organized, thoughtful and dependent. The catch though is that to be very efficient you need to be consistent. You need persistency. It’s hard for a majority of parents because most of the time, like us, they work a lot and they have a hard time disconnecting from their jobs, even at home. The kids, on the other hand, they have a lot of activities besides school and they are exposed to a lot of distractions, TV, computers, tablets, so it’s really hard to maintain routines.

We tried a bunch of tools available on the market such as daily routine charts, apps on smart phones, programmable watches, and none of them gave us entire satisfaction. We knew that we needed to empower our kids. We knew that they need something that is wearable, visual, that can grow with them. That’s when the idea came actually. We said let’s do a watch. It makes total sense. It’s small. Kids love it. Electronics now is so small that we can do stuff that are very suitable for young kids, and we decided to go for it actually.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. We’ve seen some similar … Not similar products, but some children’s wearables do very well. I think that goes to show the growth not only of the platform, but forward-thinking companies like yourself. That kind of lends itself into how did you guys get associated with HAX in terms of their hardware incubator?

Sam Hickmann:

That’s a good question. My personal background is I created some companies before, but I actually never created a hardware company. For this product we decided to create the hardware as well. We could have done only the software, the apps, and pre-install it on some smart watches for kids, but actually we haven’t found a smart watch that is cheap and that we can tweak just for the kids. We spoke with a lot of parents, as I was saying, and we discovered that parents don’t want to have an additional layer of distractions. They don’t want games, they don’t want a messaging system for such young kids, so we decided to go with the hardware.

I was a little bit scared to go to China, for instance, alone and try to build this product. We got lucky because we got accepted by HAX, and it’s like I say one of the best hardware accelerators in the world. I met with my partner, he quit his job, and we went four months in China with HAX and it really helped us to build the prototypes and to iterate really fast.

Roy Morejon:

Tell us a little bit about your experience with HAX. I know many of our listeners are very interested in these incubators, especially on the hardware side, and we’ve seen some of the most successful hardware crowdfunding projects come out of there. Tell us a little bit about the experience you’ve had.

Sam Hickmann:

Awesome experience first of all. The team over there is really good. What I liked a lot is that they go beyond just the hardware and the technical aspect. They challenged us right from the beginning to really have the core product. We were thinking of adding a lot of features, like GPS trackers and stuff like that, and really to help us to focus on what really matters on the position, and basically you are coached as if you were in university. Every single day you have one-on-one interviews. Every single week you need to present the progress you made, the roadblocks, what you will be doing the next week. A lot of mentors and a lot of very successful entrepreneurs came to share their experience with us, so that was very great. On top of that, of course, and that’s the beauty of being in Shenzhen, China, is that you are at the heart of the Silicon Valley for hardware.

We were just crossing the streets and we could buy everything. We could buy a lot of smart watches for kids so we can evaluate the markets, see what’s good, what’s bad, and we could buy a lot of electronic pieces to assemble all the different prototypes. I definitely recommend HAX, because they are very involved, very committed, a very great experience.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. That’s great to hear. It’s been very similar with other founders that have come out of their incubator. You guys crushed your campaign. You’re well over six figures. You guys hit your funding goal within three hours. You’ve got a little over a month left. Any other surprises that you guys have from the success of the campaign so far?

Sam Hickmann:

It was a good start, I have to admit. I think the hard part is coming now, because we managed to do that with a strong community behind us. That’s one of the advantages of HAX. They recommended us to create a community right from the beginning back in February, so we bootstrapped the campaign with Facebook right at the beginning and then with word of mouth we could manage to grow the community. I think the beginning of the Kickstarter campaign is successful really thanks to them, because until four or five days we didn’t have any press at all. We just started to reach out to some journalists and now we start to have some exposure, but I think really the hard part is now.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. You mentioned starting to build your community months and months in advance and now you’re actually starting to include them in terms of asking for feedback on stretch goals and some other things. How have you felt in terms of bringing the community into your project, how it’s helped your campaign and your project succeed?

Sam Hickmann:

I have to say that building a community is not only to have a successful campaign. Throughout the process we discovered, for instance, that our product can be very beneficial for kids with special needs. That really encouraged us to work even harder. We didn’t think of that before. I have two kids, they don’t have any special needs, so it was hard for me to work on this subject. Thanks to the community, we created some small groups and we gathered a lot of feedback. We really wanted to keep the project simple, but we really wanted to include this community in the project. Building a community, I definitely would recommend that to everybody. It’s really great. Then when the company launched, there are kind enough to share that with their friends and I think it’s what is expected naturally. It’s really great, and I thank everybody for that.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What advice would you give to someone hoping to crowdfund their project for kids or parents?

Sam Hickmann:

I think you need to listen first. I think the right way is to reach out to some parents and instead of doing like I was doing at the beginning, like come in with my idea and pitching my idea, actually the parents were like that’s cool. Actually I don’t gather any feedback, and I think it’s not the right way to proceed. I read a very good book, by the way. It’s called Value Proposition Design. I recommend this book. They explain the way of presenting the idea to really gather very valuable feedback. My recommendation is have your idea in mind, don’t say too much because the goal is to gather feedback. Actually you will end up having very interesting feedback that will help you to build your product.

Roy Morejon:

Some great advice there, Sam. That gets us into our launch round, where I rapid fire questions at you. You ready?

Sam Hickmann:

Sure.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Sam Hickmann:

Steve Jobs.

Roy Morejon:

I assume if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history it would be him?

Sam Hickmann:

Sure. Definitely.

Roy Morejon:

What would be your first question for Steve?

Sam Hickmann:

Oh, my God, please teach me how to delegate.

Roy Morejon:

That’s a fair answer. I think everyone might want to know that answer. Sam, who did you look up to growing up?

Sam Hickmann:

Being French, I have to say that I was watching a lot of American series like the A Team and MacGyver. All these guys really inspired me. Maybe it’s a funny answer, but it really inspired me actually to become like an entrepreneur and to don’t fear the risk, being afraid of the risk, taking risk actually.

Roy Morejon:

That’s a good answer. I think MacGyver probably helped you with your hardware background, no?

Sam Hickmann:

Absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

What book is on your nightstand?

Sam Hickmann:

Okay, multiple books. Success Principle is a book that I love actually, from John Canfield. You probably know that. I read recently The Hardware Startup. It’s a very interesting book. Of course some books about kids, like for instance Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Laura Markham, very interesting. I read Positioning, Jack Trout I think. I read Smaller, Faster, Better from Charles Duhigg. I read The Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg, and I will have finished [inaudible 00:13:41], a really great book.

Roy Morejon:

That’s a healthy bookshelf you’ve got there.

Sam Hickmann:

Thank you.

Roy Morejon:

Sam, where do you see yourself in five years?

Sam Hickmann:

Our dream is really to be distributed in all the big box retail stores, I mean everywhere. That would be awesome. With this company I really want to help people. My previous companies were doing games and services. It was good, it was nice, but with this one I really want to help families, so doing business, making a living of it, but on top of that helping people, that’s really what motivates me now. I’m close to my forties, so yeah, I kind of like that.

Roy Morejon:

I’m right there with you, Sam. Last question, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Sam Hickmann:

I’m afraid that there will be a crowdfunding fatigue really soon, and that’s bad. That’s my personal feedback. That’s my conviction. Hopefully it won’t happen, because I think it’s awesome. It’s really great. I really want Kickstarter, for instance, to keep the good job they’re doing by selecting good projects. We don’t want to have a project with a bad reputation, with people that won’t ship the product or whatever. Hopefully it will grow and hopefully my prediction will be wrong.

Roy Morejon:

I hope so too, but I can see your point, Sam. Listen, Sam, I appreciate you coming on the show. Please give all of our listeners your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about and where people should go and why they should go buy an Octopus for their kids.

Sam Hickmann:

I didn’t explain that very well. One, it’s a watch. It gives the time, but with icons. It links time to events. That’s the first value. The second one is it’s a scheduler for children. We really want with this product to foster responsibility, independence and self-esteem. We don’t want to create robots with our kids. We really want to have them to learn the good habits, and once it has been learned then we can move forward. That’s why we love this catch phrase, The Training Wheels for Good Habits. That’s really how we define our product. Third, it’s an assistance that helps parents to stay consistent with daily routines and to prioritize their expectations. Again, our mission statement is to [inaudible 00:16:29] share time with their children. We want to avoid power struggles, stress. We want them only to focus on what really matters, quality family moments.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Sam, you’ve been a great guest. I appreciate you coming on the show. Everyone, thank you again for listening in. Please visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, the full transcripts, links to everything we talked about, even all of Sam’s books that he’s reading, as well as a coupon code to list your project on Gadget Flow. Sam, thank you again for being on the show.

Sam Hickmann:

Thank you very much, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It. If you loved this episode, leave us a review at artkick.wpengine.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding strategy, please feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.