For this episode of Art of the Kickstart we spoke with Justin Bain of Noria. Join us as we learn more about what sets this air conditioner apart, what the team did to prepare for a Kickstarter project and how you can make your project as successful as this one.

Noria: Cool, Redefined

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Just how long it can take to bring an idea to Kickstarter
  • How to build a great crowdfunding team
  • How to choose your Kickstarter funding goal
  • What product development looks like before launching on Kickstarter
  • Why timing is everything when you launch a crowdfunding campaign
  • What leads to a strong first day on Kickstarter
  • How to use social media to promote your crowdfunding project

Links

Connect with Noria

Sponsors

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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 $70 million 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, and let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I’m honored to be joined by Justin Bain with Noria. Justin, thank you so much for joining us.

Justin Bain:

Thank you for having me.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Well Justin, you’ve got this killer product that’s active, Noria, the first window air conditioner designed entirely with the individual in mind. Tell us more about the project.

Justin Bain:

Noria is the easiest window air conditioner to install in the history of window air conditioners. You’re absolutely right, we designed it one hundred percent with user experience in mind. It’s half the height of a window air conditioners typically, around 40 percent of the size overall. There’s a window frame adapter that installs first, so you don’t have to carry a heavy bulky air conditioner to install it, and it’s smartphone-controlled. The entire user-experience app controls scheduling, everything. It was designed to make this the most user-friendly air conditioner there can be.

Roy Morejon:

So you guys are in your campaign, you’ve done over a half million dollars in business so far. We’ve got three weeks left or so. Let’s kind of jump back and go, ‘Where does this product start? What’s the backstory?’

Justin Bain:

A few years back. This product has been in development for years. In 2012 Kurt Swanson, who’s actually the true inventor of Noria and a friend of mine, we go way back, he had worked with Boeing prior to that. He had left and founded his own engineering firm. In his own time he had come up with, just with ideas that he had, he’d come up with a compact cooling device for keeping carafes you know like a jug of milk and cream cold for coffee. Like you’d picture in a hotel lobby that kind of thing.

So he came up with this design for a really compact cooling device and he showed it to me asked me what I thought. And I’d said I didn’t think there was a really huge market for that, but in the course of the discussion we talked about window air conditioners, how they’re big and heavy and everyone universally hates installing them. And that all else being equal, an air conditioner that’s much smaller would be such a huge improvement. And the market for that versus cooling milk or cream is huge. Window air conditioners are on the order of a billion dollar a year market in the United States. Room air conditioners overall 20 billion dollars a year globally. So from that point forward we went about designing the smallest, most compact, easiest to install window air conditioner there could be. It’s been in development since 2012. We thought Kickstarter would be a great platform for getting it out there and really seeing what the response would be to it.

Roy Morejon:

And then obviously the response has been great. You guys crushed it on day one almost raising $100,000. In terms of the team you’ve got quite a lot of skilled engineers on the team. How did that come together?

Justin Bain:

So as I’d already mentioned Kurt himself is a skilled mechanical engineer. His father is on the team as well, he’s also a mechanical engineer, also had worked with Boeing previously. His wife Linda is also a mechanical engineer. I also am a mechanical engineer. So we do have a lot of engineering on the team. Linda’s also a patent attorney and I have an extensive finance background, so I think we kind of round out a team that really we can deliver everything this project’s going to need.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely and I think that’s a key component obviously of the trust that you’ve built with not only the Kickstarter community, but just within your own company in terms of delivering a product and having realistic expectations. You guys set a funding goal of a quarter of a million dollars. Have you guys run into any difficulties in terms of setting that funding goal so high initially?

Justin Bain:

Well it seems to have worked out for us. We put a lot of thought into choosing that funding goal, and we wanted to choose a number that we … We wanted to choose the minimum number that we wouldn’t want to say no to. And that’s a difficult number to come up with. But ultimately we had decided on $250,000. If this device, with all the potential that we think it has, if we couldn’t sell $250,000 of Noria units, we would have to rethink something about it. So that was kind of our mindset with that number, in choosing that number.

Roy Morejon:

Got it. And I know Justin in full disclosure we had been talking for it seems like almost a year about your campaign, and we’re glad to be working with you on the Command Partners side of things.

What were some of the preparations in terms of product development that you guys looked into of the features of the product?

Justin Bain:

Likewise, we’re very happy to be working with you as well.

What do you mean specifically?

Roy Morejon:

How did you guys decide what features to include in the product when developing it out?

Justin Bain:

The entire user experience was the focus. Ease of installation was really what we brought to the table that is nonexistent in this product before. We have seen there has been a move in this product towards smart phone control, connectivity. We just thought that if we’re going to build an air conditioner of the future that’s just a necessary addition. But we’re working to make sure that we execute that right, in that same focus of having the ideal user experience.

Features beyond that … So users are very concerned also with air conditioners about them being noisy. So that was another thing. We weren’t just going to make the smallest air conditioner there was. It was going to be the easiest to install, and it’s going to be as quiet as any air conditioner could possibly be. So that’s another angle that we’ve taken. But aside from that it’s not a very complicated product to use as far as features. We didn’t want to overload it with features. We just wanted it to be the simplest to install, the simplest to use, be pleasing to look at, not be noisy. Ultimately it was a matter of understanding what the customer really would desire, what people complain about with the existing product, and addressing every point with Noria.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Have there been any difficulties in terms of product development up until this point

Justin Bain:

Well the problem of taking an air conditioner and making it this compact size, that’s basically the problem here. So smartphone control that’s been done. Making it look good, that was an iterative process. And ultimately we wanted to have the most aesthetically-pleasing design we could. But really the heart of the problem was delivering performances at the compact size. So that was something really I have to give the credit to Kurt, Kurt Swanson, that was what he really worked at, put tremendous effort in four years to deliver.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. And you guys have built a beautiful product. It’s half the size, easy to carry, easy to install. It looks like an air conditioner dream in terms of the product itself, and obviously we can’t wait to get them in our hands in April of next year.

In terms of preparations and leading into the Kickstarter campaign, can you talk to our community about kind of how far out you guys started working on building up the campaign itself and some of the preparation work that you’ve done?

Justin Bain:

It was at least six months ago, six months to a year, we came up with the idea for the Kickstarter. Six months ago we basically had a Kickstarter campaign ready to go and ultimately decided that we didn’t want to launch a Kickstarter campaign for an air conditioner in the middle of the winter. So we had this prepared ready to go and we were fine tuning it for months in anticipation of this launch in April. And the process with Kickstarter that wasn’t an overnight thing. There was a little bit of back and forth with Kickstarter making sure it met their requirements. So anybody that is looking to launch a Kickstarter, I would advise the path that we took, giving ourselves plenty of time before our ideal launch time to get it ready and fine-tuned and looking and being in every way what you want it to be. Give yourself plenty of time for that.

Roy Morejon:

What do you think were some of the factors that helped you on a strong day one? You know you almost did $80,000 on the first day. That’s obviously a tremendous amount of success and lead up in terms of building that buzz around the campaign itself. Any nuggets of wisdom that you want to instill in to the community?

Justin Bain:

We had our website up and running for quite a bit. We hadn’t really promoted it tremendously. Noria was designed at NextFab Studios in Philadelphia. It had garnered attention going back quite awhile before the Kickstarter campaign and we just were collecting emails and allowing people to sign up and keeping them updated ahead of the Kickstarter launch. We were able to amass a following of people that really wanted to buy it on day one. So that’s I would definitely say to the extent that you can get your product out there ahead of your Kickstarter. Take all the information you can and incorporate it in. Anyone else doing this, take all the information you can, incorporate it in your product, and amass a following before you launch.

Roy Morejon:

Just an idea in terms of the following that you’ve built. Can you go into how big that was? Was it more on the social media side in terms of fans and followers and friends there? Was it an email database?

Justin Bain:

Both. We had an email database, we had created a bit of a social media presence. We had Instagram, Facebook. I think that each one contributed its share to helping us build the buzz ahead of the launch.

Roy Morejon:

Any ideas on which ones have driven the most amount of pledges to the campaign?

Justin Bain:

Good question. It seems the clear winner is Facebook to this point.

Roy Morejon:

That’s typical for most campaigns that are utilizing the advertising and obviously the promotion in getting this product in front of the right audiences. It certainly can do that.

One of the things we saw, Justin, on the campaign with the product itself, we wanted to know are there any stretch goals that you guys had planned, once we hit three-quarters of a million or a million at the end of the campaign.

Justin Bain:

As far as this product goes, this product is broader than just the Kickstarter. There’s also going to be units beyond just the 5,000 BTU unit, which that’s the capacity of the unit that we’re offering on Kickstarter. There’s no particular stretch goal for if we reach any particular Kickstarter dollar amount raised, but there are broader plans for where we’re going to take this going forward. We are planning to bring this to market in mass next year. We’re looking to design other size window air conditioner units up to 8,000 BTUs.

We have learned quite a bit though. There does seem to be a strong interest in vertically oriented window air conditioners, rotated 90 degrees versus what we’re offering. That’s not something that we can promise for this Kickstarter campaign for delivery next year. There is a long lead time for us to put a new design together and actually expect that we can get it to customers in their hands next year. So we are going to take the information we have learned, like that vertically mounted units, that there’s the tremendous demand for that, as well as specific markets overseas where we’ve seen strong interest. We’re going to take that into consideration when we move forward for sure.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Awesome. Well I know the campaign’s been a huge success. We’re honored to be working with you guys. That kind of gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you Justin. You ready?

Justin Bain:

Sure.

Roy Morejon:

So what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Justin Bain:

I went to engineering school with Kurt and found when I got out of engineering school that entry-level engineering jobs weren’t what I thought they would be. I thought they would be more entrepreneurial. I thought that I would be creating more and changing the world. So I think that desire to do that, to create and to make a difference in some way is what drove me to be an entrepreneur.

Roy Morejon:

So if you could sit in a Noria-cooled room with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you have a nice glass of lemonade with?

Justin Bain:

I want to say Thomas Edison. Noria is based out of Philadelphia, but I’m from Woodridge, New Jersey. Just a few miles from where I grew up he invented the light bulb and orchestrated the whole power grid and electric utility business as it’s known around the world today. But I have to go with the cliche and say Elon Musk. Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, the Hyperloop looks like it’s going to happen now. He’s making the future happen, he’s changing our world for the better and that’s something I want to do too.

Roy Morejon:

That test drive on the Hyperloop looked ridiculous, did it not?

Justin Bain:

Yeah, and the SpaceX rockets landing now.

Roy Morejon:

So what would be your first question for Mr. Elon?

Justin Bain:

My first question for him. Let me think about that one for a second.

What’s next? That guy’s probably thinking ten steps ahead. I would ask him what’s next.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, or ten or twenty years ahead, right?

Justin Bain:

Exactly. What’s ten years from now going to look like? What’s twenty years from now going to look like?

Roy Morejon:

What is five years ahead look like for yourself and Noria?

Justin Bain:

We’re looking for Noria to be the biggest window air conditioner there is, for it to be a success globally, and for us to have our full range of products. And five years from now for us to be patting ourselves on the back for that and be looking ahead for what our next adventure will be.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Are there any business books or life books that you’d like to recommend to our listeners

Justin Bain:

Also a good question. The one that immediately comes to mind is I read James Dyson’s autobiography. I think because it’s specifically relevant to Noria as a small-time, one guy that brought an appliance to the market competing against the big boys and took over the market. So that’s what led me to read it, but I think beyond appliances, the benefit to a wide audience of readers would be just seeing how the little guy, how if you just keep at it, you can overcome any obstacle and really achieve the success you’re looking for.

Roy Morejon:

Last question in the rapid fire round, Justin. What do you think the future of crowdfunding looks like?

Justin Bain:

I think the future’s bright. I think that this is tremendous. What we’ve seen from it, I mean the ability to bring ideas to the masses, cut out the middle man. The directions it takes, the ups and downs, there will be ups and downs along the way. But I think that this is part of a brighter future for everybody.

Roy Morejon:

I couldn’t agree more Justin. Well that concludes the launch fire round.

Justin, give us your pitch, tell us what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should buy a Noria device.

Justin Bain:

Noria is the world’s most user friendly, easiest to install window air conditioner. It’s available on Kickstarter now for pre-order. We’ll be continuing to take pre-orders on noriahome.com. Next year Noria will be in stores and hopefully keeping your home cool for many summers to come.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Justin I appreciate you being on the show. Everyone thank you so much for tuning in. Make sure to visit Art of the Kickstart for the show notes, a full transcript, and links to the campaign and everything we talked about today. Thank you Justin for being on the show today.

Justin Bain:

Thank you.

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 crowd funding. 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 at commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.