In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Bjorn Ekeberg, Head of Brand and Marketing at Recharge Health. Recharge Health has taken red light therapy—light at specific red and near-infrared wavelengths clinically proven to trigger a physiological healing response in the body—a step further by creating FlexBeam, a state-of-the-art therapeutic device that can be used by anyone, anytime, anywhere. FlexBeam offers a targeted application of red and infrared light, which works directly where it’s needed to help the body relieve pain, repair cells and recover faster. Learn how Bjorn raised over $1.5 million with the support of almost 4,000 backers for their IndieGoGo campaign.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • The strategy that allowed Recharge Health to raise over $100,000 in the first 24 hours
  • How Bjorn’s screenwriting and storytelling background helped FlexBeam’s marketing efforts
  • How Recharge Health dealt with skewed expectations from first-time backers
  • Why Bjorn decided to use IndieGoGo for their campaign over Kickstarter
  • How FlexBeam’s IndieGoGo campaign attracted a large demographic
  • Advice for startups looking for press coverage

Links

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Sponsors

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Transcript

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Roy Morejon:
Welcome, entrepreneurs and startups, to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, President and Founder of Enventys Partners. The world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2,000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010. Each week, I interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert, in order to help you take your startup to the next level. This show would not be possible without our main sponsor, ProductHype, a 300,000 member crowdfunding media site and newsletter, that’s generated millions of dollars in sales for over 1,000 top tier projects since 2017. Check out producthype.co to subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition Art of the Kickstart. Today, we are talking with Bjorn Ekeberg, Head of Brand and Marketing at Recharge Health. Now, if you haven’t heard of Recharge Health, where have you guys been? This campaign ran last year and is still currently active over on Indiegogo for the FlexBeam product. And FlexBeam is this truly revolutionary recovery device that helps relieve, repair, recover faster, with the world’s first targeted red light therapy device. So, this product’s been in development for years. It’s finally shipping. So, Bjorn, really excited to finally be able to get you on the show. I know you’ve been busy.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. So, let’s tell our audience a little bit more about the product, as if they’d never heard it before. So, what is Recharge and what is FlexBeam?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Yeah. That’s been an interesting challenge to work with this, is to tell people that there actually is a technology that’s been around for a long time. That’s been developed for over decades, scientifically and clinically shown that light at certain wavelengths do trigger physiological responses in the body. And to know this thing existed, this technology is out there and to work with a product that’s actually the first one to design it for use on the human body, as a wearable. So, to actually, to be able to show it to people as though it’s a brand new thing to most people, but for people who know about red light therapy and what it can do, it is also a game changer.

Roy Morejon:
So, in terms of tackling a few different issues with this product, talk about, what was the mission, I guess, at the outset of creating this product and has it changed over time?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Now, I’d say when I first came into this company, with the early prototype, what I saw … And I come from a screenwriting background, I’m a storyteller. I don’t really work with marketing to begin with. But so, when I encountered this product and this technology that existed and also the will among the founders, to actually get this message out to people, it’s amazing to sell a lot of devices, now we have a lot of traction, but that there is just this alternative way in which you can heal and recover better. You can relieve pain and repair yourselves in ways that pharmaceutical products could not, or the typical medical or clinical products could not. Right. So, there’s also a bigger message to be told here, which I’ve found to be particularly inspirational in all of this. And FlexBeam is just the first product of our line of new therapeutic technologies, that actually do benefit, based on science, can really improve healing for everyone to use at home.

Roy Morejon:
So, let’s talk a little bit about your background, Bjorn. You had mentioned that you were a screenwriter and now you’re the Head of Brand and Marketing and of course, chief storytelling officer, if you will. What led you down this path to working with a wellness brand?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
In this case, it was just the opportunity I could see, along with really believing in the product, I could see that it worked. So for me, having worked with scripted drama and developing stories for long format and feature films and stuff, I know the best stories are the ones that sort of tell themselves, they’re so good that they tell themselves. And with this product, when we tried it on people, it was the first reactions from the neighbor down the street, who first heard about it, about our inventor audience invention. And they were lining up to try it and they actually could see the results.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
And the other founder of the company, Christian, my friend from Norway, he was also blown away, and that’s when he founded the company, like that there is something here. So, I came into this completely as an outsider in a way, but I was fascinated with the technology and I could really see that this has a huge potential, that there is a little revolution that lies in this kind of product for people, just the general approach, the understanding we have about the fact that light can heal.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
It is actually when you start thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense, but we’re not trained to think that way, that there are other ways that you can influence your body physiologically in this way. So, that was part of why I came into this. The two years I’ve been part of this now, there’s been less and less time for screenwriting and more and more time for interviewing people who have effects, who are using our product and sharing their stories. And their stories are really now the main feature of the content we make and the message we try to get into the world, is through all the now, we have about 100 of these testimonials and we have thousands of products coming out and we’re just collecting these user stories, they speak for themselves.

Roy Morejon:
So, describe a typical day for you at Recharge Health.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Oh, there is no typical day when you’re doing a startup that’s bridged across two worlds. I’m in Oslo, Norway and the operational headquarters is in … We make the products in Thailand and that’s where the founders have … It’s a group of Norwegian, Dutch and UK-based people in Thailand, have developed this product from the ground up. And we ship from there, but the company headquarters is now being moved to Norway as part of also an expansion in the US, which is coming up for us, that we’re selling more in the US and the UK. And so, shifting the focus towards US and Europe. So, the normal workday in that scenario, there’s a lot of virtual office, to put it this way. There’s a lot of video calls. I would say non-recorded calls, like these ones. Yeah.

Roy Morejon:
So, you mentioned a lot of storytelling, but directly coming from the consumers, which I think is great because it allows them to tell your story for you, and also how personal it is in terms of the problems that they may be having with their body and how light therapy is helping them. So, what was that shift in terms of potentially focusing on the consumers more, once they get their product to use them as marketing material, whereas before it was simply, here’s why we’re creating this and here’s how it can help you?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Well, it is that we’re getting more products out into the world and hearing the stories back. So, it follows from its own logic and now we’re having thousands already out there, and we’re excited, we have seen great results from our early surveys, and we’re very excited to see what’s going to happen with all the people who are right now, as we speak, many of them are actually getting the devices they ordered a long time ago in some cases, on Indiegogo, but they’re finally out in the world.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. So, the original campaign ended December of last year. You did over $800,000 in backers, with 1,800 backers coming in and now you’ve been in InDemand and you’ve pretty much doubled your numbers with over 3,600 backers and almost 1.6 million raised. And as you mentioned earlier, you guys have now shipped actually 3,500 units. So, interested to hear some of those potential issues or any logistical nightmares that you guys have encountered there, that could help the next founder deliver on a million dollar campaign.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Well, it’s kind of chaos pilot activity to go through COVID on the top. The one thing is being a startup and going to crowdfunding and then having the world ending at the same time, it’s definitely been a challenge for the supply chain. We forecasted production, the bigger production of devices that we sold on Indiegogo to be shipping already in February. But so, as we were getting closer to that, it started getting delays on individual parts. And we worked really hard to get through this extended period, but this is why we’ve stayed on InDemand for a longer period than we first anticipated as well, is until we have fulfilled all the orders and have a surplus and actually have produced 5,000 units. And so, that moment is coming in, kicking in now, we’re facing our last month on Indiegogo, on InDemand. We’ll be running a special promotion because it’s going to be the best price you will be able to get on a FlexBeam is while it’s still on that platform, for about another month, before we sell it in our own web shop.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, let’s talk a little bit about the Indiegogo campaign. How was it decided internally that that was the right platform to launch this innovation with?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
I mean, in this case, for us having a health tech product and having an interest in the cluster around Silicon valley, San Francisco, with hotspots around in different parts of the world, it made more sense for us to go on Indiegogo than Kickstarter. And I believe Indiegogo has more traction for the kind of technology that we’re bringing to market. So, even though it’s smaller platform, we saw that, that was for us, the only logical choice.

Roy Morejon:
In speaking of logical choices, why was crowdfunding the logical choice to launch the innovation on and not direct to the consumer through a website?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
I would say one of the main reasons is the ability to generate pre-orders, that people are on a crowdfunding campaign are willing to put money down for something that’s not made yet. Right? In some cases we launched with a few hundred devices that were ready to ship and they were sold out immediately. We can see that this is actually what people wanted, was if it was available, they were willing to pay more. But for the pre-orders you can give yourself three months, four months, five months lead time on however long it takes to make the product. And you can’t do that very easily in e-commerce.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
With today’s consumer expectation, that you come to a glitzy webshop page and you add it to cart, and it says they will ship in four to five months maybe. Crowdfunding is very special for that. I think that there’s a certain kind of community, especially that Indiegogo has been able to generate around these kinds of products, that there is also a type of user who’s willing to take a risk. And we really needed that to be able to scale up production from being able to offer a few hundred units, to being able to now take an order of over 4,000, right? Which is going to take some time to fulfill.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So, walk me through the product launch strategy then with Indiegogo. What did you guys do, prep work leading up to the launch?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
We focused a lot on the first 24 hours and the first 48 hours, to make sure that we had a good game plan for the initial launch and the uptick in the algorithm. We got as much advice as we could from smart people who’ve been in this game before, on how to make the most of the actual launch date itself. In our case, because we are based in Asia, we managed to maximize the first 24 hours by starting the campaign on Asian time, Bangkok, Singapore, where we had some pledges that we knew that we had lined up, people who were ready to start putting it in. And by the time Europe woke up, we could do another round of emails and have people pitch in. So, the idea was that by the time, San Francisco PST, which is the California, is where most of the … Even though the platform has reached everywhere, that’s clearly the main focal point.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
So, by the time they woke up, there was a campaign that was already taking off. And I believe we reached the first $100,000 within that first day, right? So, very early on in the campaign and so, that was very important to set the tone and to be able to follow that up consistently. It was only then that the advertising started kicking in, but the most nerve wracking and the most instrumental and key part of launching a crowdfunding campaign is that initial phase, it’s like a movie premiere, but you have even less control.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. Indeed. So, in terms of pre-campaign marketing, it sounds like you guys were segmenting your lists based on geography or time zones, but what did you guys do to build up such a high quality list of people ready to engage and buy and how big were those lists?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
I would say we had a smaller list, through the network of people we had already pre-sold, we built a community of friends around the company that were crucial in this phase. That was an inner kernel we could count on. And then, the list were mostly generated through Facebook leads in the last three weeks before the campaign. An aggressive lead-gen campaign to try to get good lists. It worked, but I would say, the emails didn’t work as well as we thought. It was really advertising, when we could show people videos with user products and building the credibility through the content, is when we saw better results. I would say that worked better on the whole, but the lists were important to get things started.

Roy Morejon:
For sure. So, when the campaign was active then and running, you guys shifted up, I guess, a little bit in terms of creative or focus. Who were you marketing to in terms of community or brands or affinities that they fell into, that quickly resonated with this product to help you guys achieve six figures in the first day?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
On the advertising front, we targeted, I mean, the early tech adopters that you can naturally get through the Indiegogo platform and that Indiegogo’s own digital services can help to reach. It was either crossover alternative medicine or people who have some sort of interest in things like acupuncture, et cetera. There was a precise interest targeting or overlapping of interests worked well. And we saw increasingly, we learned from the campaign that our typical buyer was older than the usual demographic on Indiegogo.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
So, it was on the higher end of the spectrum and we have known this for a while, that it’s a product that is even more … To put it simply, older people tend to have more pains and aches and health problems. And the most motivated purchases we could find … We believe from our surveys, a lot of it is driven by health problems and pain, more than it is just wanting to have a new gadget for your health, right? That the purchasing motivation lay in a very specific condition, in many cases.

Roy Morejon:
Interesting. Did you see much hesitancy or pushback from an older demographic, potentially backing their first product ever on Indiegogo?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Yeah. Our campaign brought in a lot of people to the Indiegogo platform that wouldn’t normally, that are not typically on there, that didn’t quite know about crowdfunding. And in some cases you do get, you get a mix of both, that we could see with our support team fielding a lot of questions in this direction from people who struggled to understand and some of the dynamics of having to wait and not necessarily having things as clear cut. Like with the customers in Europe, for example, unfortunately VAT has to be added, you can’t charge it on the Indiegogo platform. So, those customers are experiencing suddenly getting an added bill and even if you tell them, they’re notified, it still doesn’t click in for them. Things like this, definitely issues for … We had a really good support team throughout the whole thing.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Being on Indiegogo is a very public activity. Everything we do there, it’s also commented on. So, in the month we had, when we were actually delayed in production and were missing part, it was also visible to the public that we couldn’t deliver. Right? So, I think this is a very interesting feature of crowdfunding, that you don’t have in a web shop where you can, again, hide behind the facade. You both have a ticker saying how much you’ve sold and it’s also public knowledge when people start complaining. If it’s for other campaigns, if it’s a scam products, you will see it on the wall. In this case, thankfully, people are responding positively that are getting it and now we’re having positive comments again, but it can be challenging.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. No, I can imagine. I mean, during the campaign, you guys got some great press coverage, Men’s Health, New York Mag, The Atlantic even picked it up as a top biohack product. So, what tips might you have for other creators looking to get great press coverage for their startup?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Well, I mean, in some of those cases, the press coverage is about red light therapy generally and stuff. I would say press coverage is one of the hardest things or most unreliable things to get. We have a lot more coming out now, but that’s also taken a lot of time. It’s one of the experiences I have with approaching journalism with crowdfunding, crowdfunding is a very special kind of space. There’s a lot of hesitance in the public sphere around it as well, for journalists to be interested. In some cases, I think it can also suffer from there being bad products on the market, but this was a concern we had about going on Indiegogo is like, we know that there are products on there that are just not that great, to be honest, or that may not work or may not deliver, what they failed to.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
And so, to have a product that we know really, really works for people, but to go on a platform that’s associated or has a taint for some consumers, that’s a challenge. But what we were counting on the whole way is that this will show … You don’t get to a million or $1.6 million in shipping product, unless something is really working and it’s actually legit. But building credibility is the main challenge in launching a product like this and crowdfunding doesn’t necessarily help you with a wider circle.

Roy Morejon:
I’m sure. No, I agree.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
[crosstalk 00:19:46]. So, that’s the next leap for us.

Roy Morejon:
So, with all the marketing efforts in the crowdfunding campaign and project so far, where have you guys seen the biggest return?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Where as in?

Roy Morejon:
Whether it was Facebook Advertising, Instagram, YouTube, influencers, email marketing, all of those omni-channel opportunities, where did you guys see the greatest return?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Most of the money is with Facebook because that’s how the Indiegogo platform works and how most of it goes. I would say Facebook Ads has been the biggest part and then whatever we could get of organic traffic and through the Indiegogo platform, like newsletter bumps through that community was very important, as part of it. But I think the biggest benefactor was probably Facebook.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, after Indiegogo’s campaign ended, you guys are still InDemand right now, talk a little bit about why you guys have decided to stay on Indiegogo InDemand and what was the process like there? Because you guys have obviously had a ton of success there, continuing to stay on the platform.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Yeah. It’s for us, a way to keep selling and taking pre-orders to fulfill all the orders and build our web shop and just get to unveil the next platform. And InDemand gives us the flexibility that we can have all our ducks in a row before we switch, basically. So, it made sense for us. Definitely, you get more traction. We got more sales in the crowdfunding phase because that’s the horse race intensity part of the sprint, whereas InDemand is more slow and steady. But it’s been a way to keep the company afloat and running, while we are planning for the next platform. So, it’s been good to us, and we’re also excited now to see what we can do in our last month. We also have lots of product to sell, also ready to ship stock that we haven’t had for a few months.

Roy Morejon:
No, that’s great. So, in terms of reflection, what, if anything, would you guys have done differently if you were to start this project over again?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Have more time to do more planning and to not have to wing it, would be one thing, but yeah, I’m not sure actually. You can cut out that part.

Roy Morejon:
What would then be your top tip for raising over a million dollars on Indiegogo?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
You got to have a great product and you got to have a lot of people who believe in your product. Then it’s totally possible to reach that goal, if you can tell that right story, I think.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So, where are you guys headed next? What’s the next category or product that you guys are planning on putting out there to the world?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
That is a trade secret. We’re working on it. We have some serious upgrades of this targeted red light therapy technology that we have in FlexBeam. And we have some very interesting additions or other things that will complement use of FlexBeam but that’s still in the works.

Roy Morejon:
Well, I’m excited to see what’s going to come out next with you guys. It’s really innovative what you’ve already created. So, congrats on not only having a ultra successful Indiegogo campaign, but actually shipping products close to on-time. I know it’s been difficult over COVID. So, congrats to you and the team.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Yeah. Thanks a lot. And it’s really been an amazing team effort as well, and I’m just excited to see all the people out there being interested and trying it for themselves.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Bjorn, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You good to go?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
All right. Okay. Okay. I’m ducking for cover, but all right, fire away.

Roy Morejon:
There we go. So, what inspired you to manage a brand of an up-and-coming startup?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
I saw the product and I believed in the people.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
The founder of Oura Ring, I think, I’m very impressed with that company.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I love Oura Ring. I love getting my score every morning. So, what would be your first question for him?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
How they laid the plan from their first device till their second, because it’s the current Oura Ring that you have is number two, I believe.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I’ve had to upgrade the ring. My first one had an issue, but now we’re on track, so we’re good to go there. But any books that you would recommend to our listeners?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. That’s definitely a good read for all those startups out there. What advice would you give to a new inventor or entrepreneur looking to launch their product, using crowdfunding?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Make sure you know how to tell the story to the people you want to sell to. In other words, marketing, but not to follow just the normal scripts, but just to know the core, what is it that you’re actually proposing to people? What is it [inaudible 00:24:50].

Roy Morejon:
Nice. What’s one invention that’s made your life easier?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
That will be Oura Ring again.

Roy Morejon:
There you go. All right. Last question for you, Bjorn, what does the future of crowdfunding look?

Bjorn Ekeberg:
I think it’s still going to be bubbling with exciting new projects.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I look forward to that future as well. Well, this has been an amazing interview. This is your opportunity, Bjorn, to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where they should go and why they should check you out.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Well, FlexBeam is a brand new way for people to relieve pain, repair cells and recover faster. I think it’s going to be in a lot of households in the future, and you have a chance to check it out early while it’s still in the crowdfunding mode. This is about the last month before we launch our own web shop. This is a brand new form of red light therapy. It’s targeted, it’s more effective, and it’s designed for the human body. If you think it sounds too crazy to be true, just try it for yourself. That would be my pitch. If you haven’t heard of this technology before and what you can do, check it out for yourself.

Roy Morejon:
Amazing.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
And check what the users will say.

Roy Morejon:
I can’t wait. So audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the current campaign and everything else we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors The Gadget Flow and ProductHype. And of course, if you liked this episode, as much as I enjoyed it, make sure to leave us a review on your favorite podcast channel. Bjorn, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Bjorn Ekeberg:
Thank you so much for having me on.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing 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, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes. And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you on the next episode.