In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Patrick, Director of Commerce, and Christian, Director of Market at KALEA, creators of the fully automatic kitchen composter. No matter where you live or how much space you have, KALEA turns your organic waste into nutrient-rich compost in only 48 hours. Listen in to hear about the brand’s product development journey and how they came to crowdfund on Kickstarter.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • The inspiration behind bringing KALEA to life
  • Why they had to change the name of the product initially
  • What led them to crowdfunding for the brand’s first product launch
  • The marketing prepwork that went into releasing KALEA on Kickstarter

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!

Transcript

View this episode's transcript
Roy Morejon:
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 a hundred 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 you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by Gadget Flow. 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 Morejon:
Welcome to another addition of Art of the Kickstart. Today we are talking with Christian and Patrick from the KALEA campaign. Christian and Patrick, thank you so much for joining me today.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Thanks Roy. Yeah, it’s a pleasure for us being here.
Christian Gärtner:
Thank you for having us, Roy.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, thank you for creating such an innovative product. I’m really excited about this, just the way the world is and how I think we need to be doing more for ourselves, and you guys have created a truly innovative product that turns kitchen waste into real compost in only a couple of days. So this fully automatic kitchen composter, natural composting process with some smart technology built into it. So if you guys would, give me an idea of what is the inspiration to create KALEA and where did it all start?
Christian Gärtner:
And so we [inaudible 00:01:43] the whole topic or working on the topic three years ago. KALEA is a startup from Germany, from the South of Germany, and Patrick who is with us, and also Johannes, the third guy, we all live in city apartments and dealing with garbage is what’s really a hassle for us, especially organic waste. It stinks, it’s dirty, but of course it’s also a wasted resource.
Christian Gärtner:
And three years ago, we began to think they have to be a better solution for this which is convenient on the one hand in terms of waste handling, but also sustainable on the other hand, because organic waste is really a huge resource. And we started thinking in developing the idea of KALEA.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Was basically it. And just to give you a bit more extra information. So here in Germany, we have a very special system of sorting waste. So we have usually four different waste methods. Different [inaudible 00:02:42] behind the house. So you have to separate all these kinds of things and especially organic kitchen scraps. When you live in the fifth floor as I do, and we don’t have an elevator here and you always have to sort it and bring it down so you don’t do it all the day. And then it starts smelling and stinking and then that’s really unpleasant. And then when you have not so, let’s say, waste focused neighbors as I do. And then the waste bin really looks ugly in the summer and it’s, it’s definitely not a place you want to be around with. So that was my biggest problem to solve. So I don’t want to deal with all the neighbors anymore. I want to get in my own hands and find own solution.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely.
Patrick Nennewitz:
But definitely we looked around just last… And we looked around and we fought out it’s not just a Germany issue. I mean all around the world, we more or less haven’t figured out a way different than we did a hundred years ago, just throw everything out in dealing with our waste. So that definitely needs to change.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. What was interesting with your campaign is simply all of the top cities that backed this campaign were in Europe, which I think was very unique where we typically don’t see such a regional focus, if you will. Obviously a lot of great support from your German friends and the people that you reached out to into your community. Being the top country. But country or cities from London to Berlin to Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin, Zurich, Vienna, I mean a lot of support in Europe. So, this campaign raised nearly half a million euros with over a thousand backers pledging into this campaign. So I’m interested to hear what type of inspiration in the design process that you guys went about to include such a beautiful product in your home that’s doing the dirty work if you will.
Christian Gärtner:
So when we were developing the product, we noticed quite quick that this will be a product for people, especially living in the city. I mean, Patrick mentioned all the topics and problem points before, and these are problems you normally have in a city and not outside of city way of a big house with a big garden and things like this. And so we focused on designing a small and compact product which also fits perfectly in a city kitchen, but also has a high standard of convenience that it doesn’t take you much time that it’s really easy. You throw the waste in at the end you got compost out. So there was a very important requirement for us that it’s, of course, small for a small city kitchen. And it doesn’t cost any time and brings a high convenience to the customer at the end.
Patrick Nennewitz:
And what we did in the beginning is also, I mean, we did a lot of workshops and design feedback loops with our customers. So at the beginning we had this little foam blocks and more or less played a bit of a Lego or a puzzle game. So we had different height levels, and we tried testing with potential customers what they prefer. Where would you place it? Under the… well, below the surface, under the sink. And we had many, many iterations until we came to this final design, which we believe now is a really great way of entering this new category. But we learned very quickly that ideally people would love to have it also built in, into the kitchen, but obviously for a campaign or also for young start up, we are… This is a very difficult way to go. You need to go in contact with kitchen manufacturer and suppliers, then kitchens are not easily bought as a new device as that.
Patrick Nennewitz:
It’s definitely we got a lot of inspiration for future technologies to not just build a one product company here, but having a whole category. So it was really valuable with the customers, and we still get a lot of feedbacks and ideas.
Roy Morejon:
You mentioned something earlier in this that you did a bunch of different feedback or testing with your community. How long ago did that begin and how many different product iterations or designs have you guys gone through over the years of perfecting the initial designs of this product?
Patrick Nennewitz:
We basically, as Chris started, the first paper draws were two years ago, and then first we developed paper designs from the actual design itself. I mean, we had technical functional prototypes with just… where we tested the process and the way the machine works, like the shredding, the drying, and then the actual composting. But these were typical, big machine… well, not so much big machines, but definitely way bigger than what you see now in the campaign and what we are finally designing at the moment, but these are testing machines. And the way we actually… I think was probably beginning of last year when we actually had the first design prototypes. And then I think now we are in the fourth generation of the product itself then now it works. And we now just… the last tweaks here and there and finding the right components to eventually come through to very, very final design, which then will also go into production. So it was basically was more or less last year and we don’t expect many changes anymore coming up.
Christian Gärtner:
We also share a little bit of our design journey on our campaign pages. So [inaudible 00:08:08] button you can find many iterations of KALEA. So as Patrick mentioned, we were interacting a lot with potential customers just to be sure that this is a product which also will fit perfectly in the kitchen. And which also has a high design standards to be accepted by our customers.
Patrick Nennewitz:
We also found out that-
Roy Morejon:
Looks like you potentially went through a name change too.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Yes, we also had a name change, and that was I think one of the very most… or a lot of emotional goes into name changes, especially when you’re a funding group of three and everyone has sense of favorites, and it took us quite a while and a couple of workshops and maybe even one or the other beer in between, we don’t know. But yes, we had a name change. First of all, we always loved to have a… it should be a good sounding name which [inaudible 00:09:03] for something positive. But we found out that the first thing we had was [KIORA 00:09:08] was already used by another manufacturer in the kitchen space. And we also found out that the whole kitchen appliance industries is… It’s a very competitive space and there’s a lot of things are protected. So we had to change that, yes.
Roy Morejon:
Got it. So-
Patrick Nennewitz:
But lucky-
Roy Morejon:
Go ahead.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Luckily it was early enough before we actually prepared for the campaign. That could be definitely a showstopper. You don’t want to build a brand twice.
Christian Gärtner:
So we didn’t launch our campaign yet. And basically it was just on a product design draft, but we never went outside with our old names. So, that’s why we could do the transition quite smooth.
Roy Morejon:
I’m sure. We’ve seen a handful of campaigns and companies launch with certain names and then that gets wind of whatever corporation or company that already has that marker name or whatever it may be, and having to change their name either during the campaign, if it gets shut down or there’s copyright or traderight infringements, but that’s great that you guys obviously have gone through that and now have protected the name and have finally settled on something at least for the first product, and figure it out what the next ones look like. But interested to dive into the Kickstarter campaign, and obviously you guys had great success. What led you to thinking or finding that crowdfunding was the right way to launch this product initially?
Patrick Nennewitz:
So, as I mentioned earlier, we believe the home composting space is just a very… it’s still a new category. There only a very few players out there who are tapping into that space. And most of them… well, most of the alternatives we have are not really technology solutions, and use a lot of space. You have warm bins and other similar solutions. So it’s still a very new category. And when you enter it, when you define a new category, it’s usually even for a startup a very risky process. It’s not just, we are more or less copying something that works in one country and try to apply it to another so the only have that market risk, but we have technology and market risks.
Patrick Nennewitz:
And we wanted to know, do we have a fit and use to Crowdfunding, not only as a funding mechanism, but also as the best market research you more or less can get out there, right? Because you see where you get your interest from, where do you actually have buyers, where people are willing to support certain price points, because we had one or two start also with the early price points to see where these coming from. And you mentioned we expected this to be a very European centric campaign and we focused most of our ad spending and before for Europe. But surprisingly, we also got a lot of support from other countries which we not directly targeted ourselves. That we now learn that or learned that the North American market with the United States and Canada are surprisingly strong and we definitely should not keep them as a second market, but also make them together with Europe as a primary one. So it was very, very insightful for us.
Roy Morejon:
So talk a little bit about some of the marketing prep work you guys did leading up to the Kickstarter campaign.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Chris, you want to start?
Christian Gärtner:
Of course. Yeah. So we started with our marketing activities in the beginning of this year. All in the two years before we were more or less just focusing on the technical part of the product. And that’s why when we launched our website, when we started with social media activities, and our idea was to conduct the Kickstarter campaign in June this year, but then there was an issue called Corona. So we had to postpone everything up to October. And after this Corona outbreak we started again in June, and in three months the main marketing activities which were PR. We were approaching newspapers, magazines, blogs. we started targeting on social media. And of course we did also partnerships. Spoke with other startups to get some ideas how to do community building and prepare the Kickstarter campaign as best as we can. And-
Patrick Nennewitz:
I think what was…
Christian Gärtner:
Go ahead.
Patrick Nennewitz:
What was the key success factor I think here was in my eyes that we had a very specific approach or we tried to have. We spent a lot of time and beginning to build our customer personas and we actually want to target to, and we try to tailor that as specific as possible, because with this kind of product we’re… we usually think of three personas. We have this young couple living in the cities who are very tech savvy, but also environmental friendly. And we’ve thought of which are similar products they are usually buy? Which magazines do they specifically read? So a very detailed persona and target specifically those. And that was… I mean, with the power of social media, you can have very specific targeted ads and we were able to achieve excellent acquisition costs, basically. So we were able to attract even more people than we expected. That was very helpful.
Patrick Nennewitz:
And you mentioned the city approaches. That was especially designed for us. So we targeted 15 cities only with our ad spend at the beginning, and really to use… build a community there so we also have some sort of word of mouth focus because if you have more or less shotgun approach, it’s very difficult utilize that.
Christian Gärtner:
And what was also quite interesting as Patrick mentioned that we targeted 15 cities in social media. After three months we had around 30,000 people signing up for our newsletter and these were people from around 75 countries. So at the beginning, we also… I mean, we hope that this won’t only be an issue or this one only be a product for Germany or central Europe, but we really found out that people from all over the world are interested in having a better solution for treating organic waste at home.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So you mentioned that finding the three personas and then targeting the cities specifically in Europe, were there any other factors that went into some of the pre-campaign marketing that led to greater success than others?
Patrick Nennewitz:
I mean, good feedback obviously from… I think this is advice for everyone, right? So, I mean, don’t do it just on your own, but speak with a lot of people who had a successful campaign. I think it was not this very single-point, but it was many, many, many smaller hints and tips on the way which really helped us how to approach such a campaign. But I think eventually you need to have a really good plan to be more or less planned every step every week ahead, what we try to do here, how much posts, what are we going to engage? What are our KPIs? And it was really managed process, so your campaign shouldn’t be just you hit the submit button and then you wait 20 days until it’s over and see what’s there. Definitely needs to be very, very detailed plans and I think that’s key. Maybe it’s just me being German and saying we love to plan everything, but I think for us it did really work out right.
Christian Gärtner:
And one of the most important things is definitely have a great video. So that was the start of almost all of our activities that you have a great video explaining the product well and makes your customers understand the product and want to have it. And this is at the end the base for all other activities like PR like social media, that was also very important.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, I mean, if Louis Pasteur didn’t say it better, fortune favors the prepared mind. So after the Kickstarter campaign ended just recently, you guys moved over to Indiegogo InDemand. Can you tell me more about why you guys decided to go that route and any of the sales that you guys are seeing there?
Christian Gärtner:
Yes. So we have still quite a way until the delivery of our product which will be at the end of next year. And during the campaign we received between one and a half and 2000 emails, and most of them with feedback regarding the product which was very helpful for us. But we also noticed it didn’t slow down after the campaign, and if you explained the product to customers, the second question is always okay, and how can I get it? And the Indiegogo InDemand campaign was for us just the way that we can still provide a way to people who want to back us. And actually back us and also receiving a product later on. So that’s why we decided to also run Indiegogo InDemand campaign.
Patrick Nennewitz:
[crosstalk 00:18:21].
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. In terms of talking about… I’m sorry, go ahead.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Sorry. I was just saying, utilizing on the strong interest we’re still having, not just going silent now. we know, we understand that we have usually quite a long time to deliver. From the day we started the campaign channel to when we think we ship it is 15 months, which is above average what you see usually in Kickstarter there. And we’re happy to turn out and we’re able to demonstrate that we are credible. So we don’t want to go silent until then, but also keep our community engaged, tell them what we do. And if more and more people want to support us on that way, we’re happy to do so. Indiegogo is a great way to have that without us having to build up earlier than what we need to fully flesh the online shop. So, that’s a really great feature of Indiegogo InDemand.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So you mentioned a little bit about the experience with your backers so far and receiving thousands of emails throughout the campaign itself. How have you guys gone about managing that feedback and potentially pulling in some of those ideas or thoughts that your community is sharing with you into either this design or future designs given that you guys won’t be shipping this until December, 2021?
Christian Gärtner:
So yeah, we try to find a good way to collecting this feedback. So we’d say half of it was just about the product. So how much energy does the device use? What can I throw in? What means real compost? So I would say there are five or six, or there were five or six questions which would cover almost 80 or 90% of the questions. And also we took them and tried also to make these questions more or less answers more stand out on our website. And we also got many, many potential sales requests from all over the world. That’s something we definitely will jump in into the next year. And we also get many ideas for a business to business solution. That was also quite interesting because it was not really on our agenda. We had this idea, but we got many, many use case from the industry, starting from a small cafe to a restaurant, or we even got request from it from a chicken farm or Vineyard for things like this. So there were also many, many ideas for a potential B2B solution later on.
Patrick Nennewitz:
That was actually… I think we were quite lucky that people didn’t request something very different with the questions. So we were lucky that most of our hypothesis of what is important to people, like it should fit everywhere and shouldn’t smell. Definitely timings and factors, these were all supported through the questions that was good, but it mainly helps us for coming up with the next product. I think that was the most valuable insight actually, that people have a huge demand for not just taking care of their waste or organic material at home, but they see it as a general problem which hasn’t really been tackled to also in the office space or restaurant space, that was mentioned.
Roy Morejon:
Nice. So with the campaign just recently ending, I’m very interested to hear what your biggest takeaway is of launching your product on Kickstarter.
Patrick Nennewitz:
So it really is definitely a Kickstarter to all of the activities and the whole team. I mean, it’s helped us to focus all our efforts for the campaign, to bring everything together, all the work you do, it’s a massive team effort. And I can’t say how much we’re excited now that with this in the background of really making it happen. It’s a big support factor and then it gives us a lot of motivation of we’re really here on the right track, and many, many people believe in us and we want to deliver on them and then build on that success.
Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. Well, gentlemen, this is going to get us into the launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions. Patrick, you drew the short straw, so you’re ready to go.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Yes, I think so.
Roy Morejon:
All right. So Patrick, what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Patrick Nennewitz:
Actually the way of building something and see the success of it. So you really know what you did at the end of the day.
Roy Morejon:
If you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have a coffee with?
Patrick Nennewitz:
Ooh, that’s a difficult one. There are many, many great guys. So that’s not really fast round, but I think I want to meet the founder of TerraCycle. So it’s Tom Szaky. I hope I pronounce the name correctly. So he founded a firm and it’s called TerraCycle. Actually it started as a very similar idea than what we do in KALEA. It’s basically a firm which tries to recycle almost everything. And he started it very, very early already on in his university times and gave speeches on the UN already on this topic, and just love his mindset and his passion of tackling this more or less, a bit of dirty and boring topic, but tries to make something great out of it.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I had the pleasure of meeting Tom years ago before they started running their equity Crowdfunding campaign for their company TerraCycle. So I’ll definitely see if I can connect you after this.
Patrick Nennewitz:
That would be awesome, yes.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what would be your first question if you had a chance to meet Tom?
Patrick Nennewitz:
We should do something together, I think.
Roy Morejon:
I agree.
Patrick Nennewitz:
So I think it would be definitely great one, so how can we make something out of the compost we do and then build on that? I think that would be a great idea to love his ideas and his way, because he also started very early on with compost thing. So definitely what are we going to do here?
Roy Morejon:
Nice. What book would you recommend to our listeners?
Patrick Nennewitz:
It’s not actually a typical a startup book, but it’s one I read years ago and was fascinated with. It’s called “Built to Last” and it was a book by Jim Collins, and he basically was… What I really like is it’s a management book, but it was founded on a lot of research. So I don’t like books where people just share their 5 cents and everything. But he really did a lot of research and analyzed many, many companies and found foundations which they share. How do you build a successful firm, which I found very inspiring if you want to be there for the long run and not just having the quick success and sell it out. That’s definitely not what we want to achieve. So I think that was a really insightful boo for me.
Roy Morejon:
“Built to Last”, it’s definitely a great read as well as his follow on, I think right after that was “Good to Great”. Again, another great read for all the startup founders out there. Patrick, where do you guys see yourself at the end of 2021?
Patrick Nennewitz:
So, hopefully we are having a full container of ship product out there and I’m having a lot of happy, smiley customers sending us feedback and first ideas what they do with all the compost and their gardening activities. But actually already starting as we’ve mentioned earlier on scoping to B2B device or the second generation, I think it would be awesome if we have no delays and can work on the next generation.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. All right, Patrick, last question in the launch round. What does the future of Crowdfunding look like?
Patrick Nennewitz:
I think it will even further develop to even more broader views. So we saw that a lot of our people were first-time backers. So I think it’s especially in Crowdfunding, lots of mature markets and in Europe I think there’s still enough potential of going there. So if you’re having great campaigns where you also need to explain people how it works and definitely can grow even further and help a lot of small firms to not just get that first money, but also huge market insights which we found very, very valuable.
Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. Over a third of your backers were first-time backers, so that’s great to see. Well, Patrick and Christian, officially made it to the end. This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Chris, this one is on you.
Christian Gärtner:
All right. So as said, we are KALEA, we have a crate device coming which turns your organic waste at home into real compost in only 48 hours. We launched a successful Kickstarter campaign and we are still available on Indiegogo. So, please go on Indiegogo, search for KALEA and bring this amazing product home to you.
Roy Morejon:
Wonderful. Well audience, thank you again for tuning in make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript and links to everything we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors to Gadget Flow and ProductHype. Patrick and Christian, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Patrick Nennewitz:
Thank you, Roy. Was a pleasure and really nice to talk with you.
Christian Gärtner:
Thank you so much, Roy.
Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into 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 @artofthekickstart.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs and startups find this show and 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.