In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Roh Heekwon, cofounder of KOMMA, pronounced “comma”, a design and technology brand. Their first Kickstarter project, Löv, is a slim, wall-hanging air purifier that’s inspired by Scandinavian style and functions in four adaptable positions. Learn about how a passionate newlywed couple turned their need for a thoughtfully-designed home appliance into a successfully crowdfunded campaign.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Why the Scandinavian style appealed to the founders
  • The challenges that came with Löv’s extensive design process
  • What marketing tactic proved to bring in the most revenue
  • How they’ve secured so many first-time backers, about 40% of their entire backer community
  • The surprising celebrity that inspirired Roh to be an entreperuer

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 100 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 edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I’m really excited because I am speaking with Heekwon Roh, founder and CEO of Komma. Roh, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Roh Heekwon:
Thank you for your inviting, and I’m really happy to be here.
Roy Morejon:
That’s great to hear. I’m really excited for your innovation and the backstory on it. I know that this is a company that you founded a couple of years ago with your wife, Kim. So please give our audience the story of where this all started and what inspired this invention.
Roh Heekwon:
Three years ago, in late 2017, it all started with a very personal reason and personal motivation. After I got married with my wife, we really wanted to decorate our first house very well and considered every part of our house in depth. We didn’t think we should develop a new air purifier at the time. At that time I feel like home appliances were mostly disturbing the mood of our house and especially the air purifier. We thought about what we can do to make this fit into our interior design, and the answer was to make it able to hang on the wall with a slim figure, less than four inches, approximately three inches. This is how Löv was born and how this whole project started.
Roy Morejon:
It’s a beautiful product. Give me an idea of what that process looked like. I know you guys have gone through, over the last 28 months, five different designs, over 180 different lab tests. Talk about the challenges and the process of bringing a product to market for the first time.
Roh Heekwon:
Well to be frank, it was hard experience and it was really [timing 00:03:00] experience for us because it is for me, it was first time to make work, create new product and it was the same for my wife also. So it was really [timing 00:03:13] again and actually we get so many frustrating moments, especially when we feel ourselves to complete satisfying design. For example, just after two or three months, we start our project. We show our design mock-up to random 30 people and their reaction was not good. At that time, we feel really bad.
Roh Heekwon:
Maybe you know that. Maybe every startup creators have this kind of experience. Since we finish complete showing design, which we really satisfy with ourselves, we got failure like that more than five times. And it was really hard time. We are not sure we can launch our product. Even after two years, we start our project and now it’s going on I don’t feel like it’s easy and very well going at any time, but I think it is a kind of process to learn how to enjoy, to get accomplishment, or overcome some failures.
Roy Morejon:
What are some of those tips? Again, we speak with a lot of startups and a lot of founders and they have a lot of obstacles they have to overcome. Any tips for startups out there that are going through the struggle right now, that you can recommend?
Roh Heekwon:
I’m not sure I can give some tips because we are still learning and now we are still on the process. We’re still not sure our method is good or not. Nowadays, we found that one of our method was not good. We try to persuade every user of Kickstarter. I mean, we had to stick to our attractiveness of our product and atmosphere of our brand, our original philosophy and something like that. We want big amount of fundraise, so we will not stick to our original philosophy or our atmosphere. Now we are trying to change our things like a landing page or our SNS account to change to stick to our original things. I want to say that stick to yourself and stick to your one originality.
Roy Morejon:
Stick with the vision, right? We always talk a lot about how important the month or two or six, leading up to the campaign launch is. You guys were over 200% funded on launch day. Talk a little bit about the marketing and preparation that your team did to put yourself in a great position upon launch.
Roh Heekwon:
Like many other creators, we studied a lot about Kickstarter and because it’s first launch for us, including every types of launching places, including Korea. So we studied it a little bit, but we can’t prepare the prelaunch campaign with many big agencies because we want to give our revenue to our backers and we want to show low price. So we tried to prepare pre-campaign our service. At that time we collect mail address from Facebook advertisement and our landing page. After we start the campaign, we send them, we are not just started and please visit our page and enjoy it. And I think some of them response our requests and it was helpful, really.
Roy Morejon:
Talk to me a little bit about your campaign video. It’s a very professionally, well done video. Includes you and your wife, tells a lot of the backstory. Talk a little bit about going through that process in terms of how that was created and how you decided what to include in the video itself.
Roh Heekwon:
It’s a really good question because I really want to tell about our video story because it was really hard for us because we can’t put enough money to make that video. After we make plan about our contents in video, we visit many video studios in Korea and their price is really high for us. So we decided to make them ourselves. Me and my wife and we hire one professional video producer, and our marketer Sophia, make that video ourself. So we reserve studios and we rent all of the gadgets such as camera or tripod. And also we calls to model agency to find person who act. Also we worked with English narrator and whole the process was delivered ourselves. It was really hard and long time, but it was really [inaudible 00:10:05] experience for us.
Roy Morejon:
Well, for a first time creator on the video side, it’s definitely a great job. You guys did a great job on that, explaining the story, the process and the product behind it so we want to make sure all the listeners check that out after they listen to this episode. With the campaign currently active right now, as we’re recording this, hundreds of backers, over $50,000 in capital raised thus far, with all the marketing efforts that you guys have put forth on this project, where have you seen the biggest return?
Roh Heekwon:
We tried to analyze all backers. Where they are from and how they act after they came to our campaign page. But it is not perfect to analyze them because the Google analytics, it’s not a perfect tool. I guess that the newsletter email, which we send for our subscribers, was most effective, I think.
Roy Morejon:
Excellent. I noticed that the majority of the backers have come from Seoul, South Korea. That’s great to be able to tap into that community there, but obviously the U.S. has been the top country in terms of overall backers, which is typical for most campaigns that we do. What’s unique with your campaign is roughly 40% of all of your backers are first time backers. And that’s typically, quite high. Usually it’s around 30% that we usually see. With that, what sort of engagement have you had with your backer community so far?
Roh Heekwon:
Frankly, I’m also curious about that. Why many of our backers are first time buying of Kickstarter. I’m not sure of that. I think maybe we run our Facebook ads by ourselves before we start our project. We just show our advertisement to random people. I think that is the reason why many people who don’t have experience to back in Kickstarter came to our campaign. But I think we still want to know that, and we think it is good sign for us because it can show that we [persuade 00:13:00] people to become a first backer of Kickstarter.
Roy Morejon:
It definitely takes a little bit of a hurdle for folks to overcome in terms of what it is, when am I going to get my product, how is this different from typical eCommerce transactions that they do. So it’s great to see that you’ve been able to convert so many people. I think it’s a testament to your overall campaign page, your video, and the marketing materials that you guys have put together to prove that this product has been a lot of love gone into it over the last couple of years, and that you are truly dedicated to delivering a high quality product for people at the end of the day. My hats off to you guys on the great work for it.
Roh Heekwon:
Thank you.
Roy Morejon:
With this being your first Kickstarter campaign, what’s been the biggest surprise thus far in the campaign?
Roh Heekwon:
Well, we are still learning about Kickstarter. Before we start our campaign, we were not sure about our accomplishment. We imagined that just three person or five person back our project after a week or three weeks, then what can we do for that? It is platform of United States, so trying this platform itself is the adventure for us. And we are not sure many foreigners see our video and react for us, but after one night we came to our office, we found more than 100 backers back our project. At the time we were really surprised and also really [inaudible 00:14:58] because it was never about the fundraising money.
Roh Heekwon:
We felt like we found many friends who share our thought together. When I start my project, many of my friends and even my family were very anxious about our project and our adventure, because it is totally risky and nobody can be sure about our idea and many people tell me that if we have this good idea, then why many big companies don’t do that? So we were actually not sure about our project and from 2017 and on, we were very anxious. We were often under very unstable emotional state. But after the night, it doesn’t matter about the amount of money and amount of people, now we have convince that some people love our product and like our product. I think that was what was really surprising thing, and that is the reason why I recommend many colleague in Korea to try Kickstarter or crowdfunding.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I know the campaign is active and you guys are focused on this individual product, but I’m excited to hear your thoughts on where is your company going to head next and what other products or gaps in the market do you see?
Roh Heekwon:
We want to stick to our original philosophy. Our philosophy is combine beauty of Scandinavian design and Korean technology. Following the Scandinavian design is from my personal taste, but after I sought this project, I thought a lot about Scandinavian design and I realized that the power of a Scandinavian design is sustainability. The key feature of Scandinavian design is nature and simplicity, and I can’t imagine the world nobody like those features. The number of people who love this kind of design, could it be increased or decreased, but I’m sure that those kind of people will exist after 10 years or 10 years later.
Roh Heekwon:
We want to make products more and more stick to Scandinavian design. Also, we want to combine that with Korean technology. We can work with the high quality engineers in Korea very easily, and we can easily find them because in Korea, it is really not easy to survive as appliance company. It means a really good appliances company launch their products in Korea, so hard competition make many engineers very tough and hard. We can work with the many technology companies and many times they suggest good new technology for us. So we want to combine two factors.
Roy Morejon:
Excellent. Well, Roh, 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 ready to go?
Roh Heekwon:
Okay, let’s go.
Roy Morejon:
So what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Roh Heekwon:
Well, the people who impact me to be an entrepreneur was not an entrepreneur, he was actually Michael Jackson. I think all of the great artists were people who make their originality to the norm of the world. When they launched their idea to the world, there was not the normal thing in their world and maybe that was totally the new thing or a little bit tricky thing, but they make their idea or their creatives to one of the norm of the world. After I think, how about starting my business? I realized that the entrepreneurs are who make that. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t be the one who make their originality to the new standout of the world and change the world and make this specialty to normal thing. So, he was the most impressive person for us when I start my business and in my YouTube playlist, I have many clips of him and whenever I watch his video, I imagine how feel he start to dance his first moon walk and I really want to feel like that someday.
Roy Morejon:
That is a first for the show. We’ve never heard Michael Jackson on here, but I totally get the connotation and the pains that he went through to just launch himself and change the face of music at the time. I really appreciate that. If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Roh Heekwon:
Several months ago, I read a book that was autograph of Phil Knight, who is the founder of Nike. His story was really interesting and really amazing. But the most amazing thing for me is that his experience is really similar for me. I’m not yet accomplished some big thing, but in one chapter he explained he and his partner used waffle machine to test their new material for their shoes. It could have been a really ridiculous story, but because Nike is a really huge company nowadays, and maybe it is a little bit ridiculous they use just the waffle machine to test those things when they started. But it was really interesting for me and I always laugh about that because when I started my business at that time, I’m not sure I can start this business. We didn’t get even a small office. So we tested our air purifiers in our bathroom and we made our mock-ups with hot peppers. If I have chance, then I want to read more about him and I want to get more impressed from him.
Roy Morejon:
Shoe Dog was quite an amazing story and [crosstalk 00:23:25] incredible story. So definitely one, I think I try to recommend all the startups and entrepreneurs out there looking to get their…
Roh Heekwon:
Yes. I totally agree with you.
Roy Morejon:
Who did you look up to growing up as a kid?
Roh Heekwon:
When I was kid my father was really big person. Many people, including my family, my mother and my sister, and many people around me, look him with respect and also a kind of fear about his kind of perfection. He’s also an entrepreneur and now he’s running his own business. I heard that many son encounter a moment when they want to overcome his father and make new philosophy or new thoughts against him. Now I’m on that stage. Now I’m starting my own business, so I have to survive myself. Now I can make him a lot because now I’m so busy, but it’s really ridiculous that… Nowadays I can learn why he act like that or why he has something like that. I want to experience more things that make my own originality as a person. Surely it’s not about brand. And I think now I’m on the process to do that.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. It’s always great to reflect on those moments. Last question in the launch round Roh, and I know you’re in your first active Kickstarter campaign, but we’ll be interested to hear your take and maybe it’d be more of a regional answer as well, but I’m interested to hear what does the future of crowdfunding look like?
Roh Heekwon:
I don’t know how Kickstarter is satisfied with themselves, but I really hope they still be existing even after 10 years or 10 years without any change or stick to their philosophy because humans instinct and nature to create or creating new, invent something by their hands, I think that started since Stone Age or maybe even before. I want to say that it is not about robot or AI things. Those kind of creativities, the most original thing for human. I really want to attend Kickstarter after 10 years later and 10 years later as one creator who have a hope to make something, to change the people very creative way.
Roy Morejon:
Amazing. Well Roh, this has been a great interview. Thank you so much for being on the show. This is your opportunity to tell our audience what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
Roh Heekwon:
Okay. Thank you for your interview.
Roy Morejon:
Certainly. Well audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign and everything else we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors the Gadget Flow and Product Hype. Roh, thank you so much for being on the show today.
Roh Heekwon:
Thank you so much, Roy.
Roy Morejon:
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 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.