This week on Art of the Kickstart, we’re talking with John Stanley, Harsha Venna and Harshit Aggarwal from the RoadWayve team. Check it out and hear more about how they designed their product, what they did to prepare for their Kickstarter campaign and what they’ve learned from the entire process.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What to consider when designing a future-ready product
  • How to overcome product design challenges
  • How to choose between Kickstarter and Indiegogo
  • How long it takes to prepare for a crowdfunding campaign
  • How to determine your target audience
  • How to choose a crowdfunding marketing agency
  • Why it’s important to make sure you are production-ready before launching a crowdfunding campaign

Links

Sponsors

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. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy:
Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president of Enventys Partners, the top full-service, turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over $100 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 you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Roy:
Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and the Gadget Flow. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with three guests. I think this is probably the first time we’ve had three guests on the show, but I want to welcome everybody with John Stanley, Harsha Venna and Harshit Aggarwal with the RoadWayve. Thank you so much for joining us today.

John:
Thanks so much for having us.

Harsha:
Excited to be here.

Harshit:
Yeah, likewise.

Roy:
You guys have come up with this really beautiful, bright led display that produces a super hi-res message for other drivers, and also hopefully facilitates a safer environment on the road. Let’s talk about the RoadWayve and where this idea came from, and what inspired you to create it.

John:
Essentially it was a road rage incident when I was a kid with my mother. As road rage incidents go, it was fairly benign, but this kid got out of his car and started yelling obscenities to my mother. She was a beautiful person, but she happens to be a bad driver. I wasn’t necessarily afraid, but I looked at her face, and she was. There, that gave birth to decades of trying to figure out what can we do to try and help this epidemic, to quell this epidemic. That’s very basically the incident that gave birth to what is RoadWayve today.

Roy:
When you were creating RoadWayve, what did that process look like, and how did you go about deciding what features to include and how to design it for multiple different vehicles?

Harsha:
Right, so the idea started off, when I was on this project, we knew that an LED display in your rear windshield is a good solution, but we actually questioned to see the actual problem here. The problem here is communication, so we tried to go really high-tech with it and see if you can actually communicate with your fellow driver in other ways like, you know, tapping into their radio, talking to their phone directly through an app. We did our research and realized that’s not possible yet, so then back to the original solution of putting a display in the rear windshield and controlling that with a remote and a smartphone.

Harshit:
Yeah. We tried to incorporate all the latest technologies, so what we have out of the box is Bluetooth 5.0, just released last year, and we’re including mesh networking capabilities. What that means is that it’s future-ready for anything that comes in the future, and it’s compatible with the past. With this, we can introduce new accessories into the system that just improve the whole driving experience.

Roy:
What were some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered thus far while designing the product?

Harsha:
Yeah, so as I was telling you, we decided that it’s an LED display, but there wasn’t anything out on the market that could actually serve our purpose. You can put a smartphone display, but it isn’t bright enough to penetrate the windshield and go for a 50-foot distance. The first display we had, we had a problem with the resolution and the brightness, so we actually designed a product, went to test it for shooting an ad, and we found out that it doesn’t work. We actually went back to square one, did our research. We found this really bright, pixel-dense display, and we had to restructure and reengineer and basically redesign the whole product around that, and now we have a really well-functioning device.

Roy:
You guys have a Kickstarter campaign upcoming. I know when we’re recording this, it’s a few weeks before it’s launching, but likely when this podcast airs, your campaign will be live. I’d be interested to know, and our audience is always very interested, in why you chose launching on Kickstarter over Indiegogo.

Harshit:
The main difference between Kickstarter and Indiegogo is that Kickstarter, you get 100% funding or no funding, whereas Indiegogo, you could be stuck in limbo where you have some orders, you have some money, and you don’t know how to proceed further. Just the fact that there’s that 100% guarantee gives it more authenticity and makes our backers more trustworthy of us, and makes it that there’s an actual product. Besides that, Kickstarter just has more users, so it just makes sense in that regard.

Roy:
Interesting. Let’s talk about the prep work leading up to the Kickstarter campaign. What does that look like, and how long have you guys been prepping for this upcoming campaign?

Harshit:
We’ve been prepping for this for a while, I would say two to three months now. We had to decide exactly what would go into the Kickstarter video, because that’s very important. That’s like the first thing everybody sees. We had to generate some interest, collect some emails, see what people think about this before it actually goes live, and get some first impressions.

Roy:
How did you go about deciding what your target audience or market may look like? Now, obviously we haven’t launched the campaign out, but do you guys have a good idea or sense of who that customer may be and what they’re looking for in this product?

John:
You know, I think we do. I think it just came from … well, the two largest demographics are currently millennials and baby boomers, and the way I looked at it are first-time drivers in that first four to five years and folks that are probably driving their last car, just like my mother. These are the folks that we see have … maybe they’re not as aware as maybe someone in their mid-30s, and they’re prone to make more mistakes or traffic infractions than other folks.

John:
We thought, if you bought a car for the first time or someone is buying this for you, you might have a first aid kit in your car. You’d also have a RoadWayve in your car, and you might have a kit that if you get … you know, a roadside assistance kind of thing. Those are the two demographics, and that was our thought process in terms of why we thought they’d be the best for this.

Roy:
You’ve been working with us at Enventys Partners for a while now. What were your biggest considerations when you were choosing an agency to partner with on your upcoming crowdfunding launch?

Harshit:
Right. We have like a lot of skill sets on the table, so we were looking for somebody who brings something special. Our main points that we looked at were like previous successful campaigns and what kind of interest they received, and what kind of media and PR capabilities they have which could help get this product out there.

John:
If I could just add, you know, this is our first rodeo, so we wanted to work with someone who had done this before and was really skilled at it, and the team has been so receptive and so available, frankly. There were times where I’ve been a little anxious, and frankly, I wanted someone to hold my hand. That has been so cool that you guys have been there for us, so it’s been awesome.

Roy:
Absolutely, and I know we’re excited for this launch to get out there and share this product with the world. Even though we haven’t launched the campaign yet, what’s been the biggest takeaway that you and your team have learned throughout the whole process of preparing to launch this product on Kickstarter?

Harsha:
Yeah, so we as a team really knew what Kickstarter is and how it works, but we were surprised to see the amount of homework you needed to do, the prep work you need to do, to actually launch a campaign video. Like taking the photographs, making the live action shots, the lifestyle pictures, making the actual demo video, all of that takes a lot of effort, and we were surprised to see that there was so much effort that needs to be put in. I would say be ready to prepare yourself and get a little work on that before you launch.

Harshit:
Adding to what Harsha said, there’s small details that we don’t think about, which is how much is it going to cost to ship and where are we going to ship, and how is it going to get through Customs at legal countries and all of that, and there’s just so much to think about that people just don’t see.

Roy:
Absolutely. What tips would you have for someone else looking to develop their tech product like this?

Harsha:
One of the things is obviously you want to make a product production-ready, make sure it works, make sure it can be produced, and just not launch a concept. That’s what we learned, to make sure that your product is ready to be made and introduced and given out to people.

John:
I would just add that the iterative process … and you can kind of substitute that for failing fast … I know that’s something a lot of folks say, but it’s 100% true. If you can figure out how to fail really quickly, and then on to the next and on to the next … what we have now is a beautiful piece of technology, and what we started off with was not at all that, so fail quickly and keep going.

Roy:
Absolutely. Solid advice. All right. Well, John, this is going to get us into our Launch Round, where I’m going to rapid-fire a handful of questions at you. Are you good to go?

John:
I’m good to go, I think.

Roy:
All right. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

John:
I think the ability to just be uncapped, in terms of we could build something and it could be anything we want it to be. I think over the past 15 years, the landscape is littered with failures, but being an entrepreneur means as much effort as I put in, that’s what I’ll get out, and I think that has always been super attractive to me.

Roy:
Absolutely. If you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to go for a drive with?

John:
That’s a great question. Tomorrow might be different, but I think for me, Benjamin Franklin is the Steve Jobs, the Elon Musk, the Jeff Bezos of his day, the Oprah of his day. I think he’s an unbelievable entrepreneur, and someone that I would love to talk to.

Roy:
Interesting. What would have been your first question for Mr. Franklin?

John:
“How do we fix the world’s problems? How do we arrive at world peace? How do we feed everyone? How do we stop polluting? How do we stop killing ourselves?” I think I would start there. Sorry if I got too heavy.

Roy:
That’s not too big of an idea. That’s fine. I’m sure Benny Boy will figure it out for us.

John:
Yeah.

Roy:
Who did you look up to, growing up as a kid?

John:
As a kid, I think my dad for sure, and then it was different people I met through my life. I didn’t have an opportunity to go to business school, so there were people, restaurateurs … basically, that was my MBA program … who I just sat and listened to. I think the book or the person that kind of changed the way I thought, when I used to be a trader on Wall Street, I read my first business book and it was Jack Welch, Straight From the Gut, and I was hooked. I refer to that book. Even though it might be outdated and I’ve read tons of books since, I still have lessons from that book and his career, so maybe Jack Welch.

Roy:
Yeah. That’s definitely a great book to recommend to our listeners. Where do you see yourself in five years?

John:
Launching more products, and my hope is that RoadWayve can make a serious dent in road rage. It’s of epidemic proportions, and my hope is that we can solve some of that problem and people see their fellow human in each other. In five years, I hope RoadWayve isn’t necessary, frankly. That’s probably contrary to business, but I hope that folks get along with one another and get to where they’re going safely.

Roy:
Last question, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

John:
I think it only gains more steam. I believe that it puts the power in the people’s hands, which is really exciting to me. I think that the VCs seem to be the folks that sometimes are pulling all the strings, and I think crowdfunding gives an opportunity to everyday Americans and folks globally to be able to stick their head in the game, stick their hand in the game and kind of get involved. I only think it gets more popular.

Roy:
I think so as well. Well, this has been awesome. I want to give all three of you an opportunity to give all of our listeners your pitch. Tell people what you’re about, where people should go, and why they should check out RoadWayve.

John:
We believe that the current setup for cars is antiquated. I don’t think things have changed dramatically for more than 100 years. In fact, whether it be brake lights or horns, these are set up to almost irritate you, and I think we have a precognitive bias. We judge folks from their actions and not on their intentions. In fact, RoadWayve is supposed to let folks know our intentions are good and we’re coming from a good place, in hopes that we can shave 5% or 10% off of what is now in epidemic proportions in road rage.

John:
I don’t know that we’ll solve the problem, but we’re hoping that if we can shave off 10% of how angry someone is, that in fact they don’t go on and create a problem and create a crime, and then of course lives could change. Family of the perpetrator and the victim are changed forever. That is our hope, as I have young kids that will begin to drive, and as I have my mother, who is driving her last car. I hope that helps.

Roy:
Got it. Well, audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcripts, links to the campaign once it goes active, and everything else we talked about today. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Harshit, Harsha and John, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Harshit:
Thank you.

Harsha:
Thank you so much indeed. Thank you.

John:
Thank you for having us.

Roy:
Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com and tell us all about it. There, you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It, and of course, if you loved this episode a lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs and startups find this show. It helps us get better guests to help you build a better business. If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on enventyspartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next week.