For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Caleb Light of Power Practical about running six Kickstarter campaigns. Tune in to learn more about how to build a team for your startup and how to use crowdsourcing to create new products.

Luminoodle COLOR & BASECAMP: Versatile & Portable Lighting

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Why it’s beneficial to get your company started through crowdfunding
  • Why every startup needs a diversified team
  • How to use your backers to develop new products and grow your company
  • How to turn your backers into brand ambassadors
  • How Kickstarter can lead to a Shark Tank appearance
  • How pitching on Shark Tank differs from the traditional investment pitch
  • Why it’s important to respond to your backers quickly
  • Why you need relationships with key media targets

Links

Connect with Power Practical

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 crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. 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 with crowdfunding. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined by Caleb Light with the Luminoodle. Caleb, thank you so much for joining us.

Caleb Light:

Thanks, Roy. I appreciate the opportunity.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. So the Luminoodle. This is your sixth campaign now on Kickstarter, is that right?

Caleb Light:

Yeah, that is correct. This is our sixth Kickstarter campaign and it’s been an exciting journey thus far.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Tell us about the project and the journey that you guys have taken to get here.

Caleb Light:

Yeah. We launched our company back in 2012 by doing a Kickstarter project around a product called the Power Pot and that was a thirty day campaign and we were able to raise about a hundred and thirty grand roughly, which for a lack of a better way of putting it, kickstarted our business. We’d seen so much success given all the benefits of crowdfunding that any time we do a product launch, we try to take it to the crowds first because there’s a bunch of inherent values of doing that.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. So what got you started then first and foremost thinking that crowdfunding and Kickstarter was a means to launch your company?

Caleb Light:

I was part of an incubator. I was in a previous startup before this one and a couple of my buddies had been doing crowdfunding campaigns and it had been working well for them and I met these two engineers that invented the Power Pot and I thought there would be a real opportunity to take that to the crowds.

Given we were all in our twenties, young guys, didn’t have a bunch of capital to play with that would be necessary for a hard good company to build a bunch of inventory and take it into a traditional retail channel.

We saw it as a really good opportunity for us to leverage the power of the crowds to collect the cash upfront. To get our manufacturing going. That ultimately would help us sell into other channels as we progressed and moved along.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. Do you have a technical background? What does your team look like? How has that been structured?

Caleb Light:

I went to school for accounting and like I said, I was in a startup before this one and that’s really where my passion is. We have two material science engineers, and then we have a guy that does marketing and our graphics, and then we have another internal sales guy and then we also have a CEO.

It’s been an eye-opener for me, the necessity of having a diversified team because of all the different components that are necessary to get a business up and going and keeping it going.

Roy Morejon:

Let’s talk about crowdsourcing and innovation and how you guys have actually built a company around Kickstarter and crowdfunding as platform. You’ve done six campaigns now. What are some of the things that you’ve learned along the way that you continue to improve upon or advice that you could give to other entrepreneurs and startups?

Caleb Light:

One thing that we are learning more about crowdfunding, especially this most recent campaign, is before we looked at crowdfunding as a means to get a new product up off the ground because you do these pre-sells so you’re able to collect the cash. You get a bunch of earned media if you’re willing to hustle so you can build a lot of momentum for the product launch.

All those are really great things and have really helped contribute to the growth of our business, but with this latest Kickstarter campaign around the Luminoodle Color, in September last year, we did a Kickstarter campaign for the Luminoodle which is just a white version of what we’re Kickstarting today. What we did after that campaign had completed and after we fulfilled is we sent a survey out to all of our backers.

We had almost eight thousand backers I think it was. We thought a lot about the questions we were going to ask to see what kind of feedback we could get from that user base because it’s a pretty good number. It’s a lot of people that have the product. They’re playing with it. They’ve been using it. When we sent out the survey, we were pretty astonished with how many people actually took the time to give us responses.

We got over two thousand responses, and directly from those responses, it molded the direction we were going to go with the next product because it was real feedback from real people that had used it. The top five things that they asked for is what we put into this new product which was really interesting because up to that point, we had never leveraged the crowds in that aspect. The big eye-opener was the sheer volume of people that were willing to spend the time to give you that feedback. That is actually insanely valuable.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Any time that you’re tapping into the crowd for advice, these are the people that you’re involving into the process. They feel like they have a stake in the company and are your most passionate brand ambassadors. It’s great that you guys have done that and have built product now specifically around the feedback from all of the people that you’ve surveyed. That’s great that you’ve continued to engage that community that you’ve built and nurture them along the way.

Caleb Light:

Yeah. It’s been a really interesting experience and one that will continue to tap into. Like I said, we were just blown away with people’s willingness to give us feedback.

Roy Morejon:

Shifting gears a little bit, you’re on your sixth campaign currently. Back in 2014, you guys were on Shark Tank and got an investment from Mark Cuban, how did you guys end up getting there and what led up to that?

Caleb Light:

The interesting thing about the whole Shark Tank experience or what led to that was honestly our first Kickstarter campaign. That got us on Shark Tank and the reason that was is because one of the producers emailed us through our contact us form on our website asking us to apply because of the success we had with our first Kickstarter campaign.

Really the funny thing is is that since we went on Shark Tank, we have continued to do Kickstarter campaigns and we’ve actually been contacted two more times for two different Kickstarter projects asking us to apply because they thing the product’s interesting and we got a bunch of traction on Kickstarter.

The crowdfunding arena is actually a legion for that show. Kickstarter helped us launch our business. Kickstarter helped us get on Shark Tank. Helped us secure the help of Mark Cuban, and continues to help in various other ways.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, that’s awesome Caleb. Our agency Command Partners, just had our fifth client on Shark Tank this past week with the Coolbox. It’s always interesting to see the nurturing. Shark Tank is always looking for the next greatest technology or whatever it may be. What sells ads basically on their tv shows.

That’s great that they’re tapping into the community and looking at the innovation that’s being built through startups like yours. Can you give some of the communities some of what your experience on Shark Tank was like then?

Caleb Light:

Yeah. As far as the application process, you have to do some videos and fill in some paperwork and things like that. Then once we found out we were selected, we spent a lot of time preparing, thinking through the questions that they were going to ask just to make sure. You really only have one shot, especially with that show.

We had raised money previously to going on Shark Tank through local investors in the Salt Lake area. That’s where we’re based out of. There’s a big difference between the traditional investment pitch and the Shark Tank pitch in that, with Shark Tank, you negotiate in the first conversation what the terms of the deal will be. Then there’s this whole due diligence process that happens afterwards.

Whereas, if you were pitching traditional investors, you’d do the whole due diligence on the front end and then you drive to what the deal terms will be months down the road. Understanding that, we knew we had one shot to make it happen and so we spent tons and tons of time thinking through the questions because that’s really when the rubber meets the road.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s your experience been then post Shark Tank?

Caleb Light:

Working with Mark has been a tremendous asset, not just in the name recognition but he has a whole team of employees I guess you could call them at Mark Cuban Companies that have all these varying skill sets that we can tap into at any point and it doesn’t cost us anything. For example, they hired a full time accountant and that took a ton of time. It freed up a ton of time for me personally.

Then I have graphic designers and people that specialize in product development and business development. They’re constantly bundling all the different brands and going to large format retailers and negotiating endcaps. There’s tons and tons of benefits of closing that deal, not just on Shark Tank, but thought that whole deal with the due diligence process to make sure it actually closed and him and his team joining our team, which has been fabulous.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. You’re glad you went into business with Cuban then?

Caleb Light:

Yeah. No regrets.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, we’ve had similar sentiments with a few of our other clients that have worked with him as well. You’ve got Kickstarter, you’ve got a platform, you’ve got a ton of rabid fans that love your products. How are you guys going to continue to use Kickstarter to come up with new products then?

Caleb Light:

It’s really in our DNA that any time we’re going to introduce a new product, we’ll take to the crowds first and it really helps on various fronts. Not only in product validation, but building momentum that we can then leverage after the campaign through various sales channels that we take our products through.

We’ll continue to use it. It’s a very interesting tool that anyone contemplating entrepreneurship, especially in the hard good technology design space should really consider leveraging because there’s a ton of benefits. Tons and tons of benefits.

Just getting access to a community that you can continue to tap into is something that is insanely powerful, not to mention that there are media that you could get. The articles that will come out about it. Then for any startup, cash is super important.

Roy Morejon:

Cash is king. You guys have really embraced your crowd very well. How do you see Kickstarter potentially evolving to maybe support future entrepreneurs to embrace their crowds individually?

Caleb Light:

That’s a good question. It’s hard for me to speculate about Kickstarter specifically, but I think what we’ll see is more options for crowdsourcing more things. Right now how crowdfunding works is it’s part based where you give money and you get something in return. With some of the things that are going on in politics and the jobs act, crowdsourcing equity is becoming more of a hot topic.

I think what we’ll see is more of the kind of different functions of a business embrace this whole notion of crowdfunding. You’re seeing it with graphic design. With a Ninety-nine Designs for example where you can take a project and you can leverage a whole group of designers to accomplish some end goal graphically speaking.

I think we’ll continue to see more and more of that, which I think from my position, being an entrepreneur, that just gives me more opportunity to refine more parts of our business.

Roy Morejon:

Got it. Great insights. In terms of crowdfunding itself or the campaign that you guys have run, how is each campaign been a little bit different each time for you guys?

Caleb Light:

Well, we’ve crowdfunded different categories of products, so that’s different. Then as we do subsequent products, we take the learnings from the other projects and try to make the next one better. For example, on our first Kickstarter campaign, we felt like we could have spent more time or have been quicker about responding to people’s comments and questions.

That’s something we spent a lot more time just trying to be more realtime in our responses. Then the other thing that we try to do is build relationships with key media targets which in the end just helps you tap into that group or the media partners reach easier.

If you can create those relationships at your brand level, then you have the ability to reach out to those people at any point and you’re not relying on just a press release or some kind of third party service to get access to those. That’s a huge driver in the success of a campaign is driving eyeballs to that page. That’s something we really focus on as well and try to do better every time.

Roy Morejon:

Great advice. It’s always about the relationships. Especially with media. They make or break these campaigns many times.

Caleb Light:

Yes they do.

Roy Morejon:

What’s next for you in the Power Practical team?

Caleb Light:

We have a whiteboard full of different product ideas and we’re just finalizing what we want to do next. It’ll be something within the Portal Power realm. That’s what we’ve always played in and that’s what we like doing. I don’t have anything specific today, but I think you’ll see something from us again on Kickstarter within the next four to six months for sure.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. We’re always looking forward to what you guys have. You’ve been crushing every single campaign. Caleb, this brings us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you. You good to go?

Caleb Light:

Yup.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to ditch the accounting degree and become an entrepreneur?

Caleb Light:

Honestly, I wanted to be an entrepreneur from the beginning. It just took accounting to learn the books. I had no intention of every being an accountant, to be totally honest.

Roy Morejon:

Fair enough. If you could go camping with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to camp out with?

Caleb Light:

I would love to go camping with Elon Musk.

Roy Morejon:

Everybody loves Elon. You’re sitting by the fire with Elon having some s’mores. What would be your first question?

Caleb Light:

How he can stomach taking millions that he makes immediately reinvesting it into another startup and being at those points when the cash is so tight that you don’t know how you’re going to make the next payroll. How do you compartmentalize that and continue to figure out what are the most important drivers to move forward? That’s pretty intense to think about.

Roy Morejon:

Indeed. He just basically ran the most successful pre-sale campaign ever selling billions of dollars worth of Tesla 3’s. I think his gut’s not in check as much anymore on the payroll side.

Caleb Light:

Yeah, but if you listen to his story, there’s definitely been those occasions. Multiple occasions where how do you just dig deep and continue to plow knowing that it’s going to happen? It’s something that I think anyone that’s in this scenario will come across and having the stomach for it and just understanding it better would be interesting for me.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s not only on the individual level, but all those people included in it on the startup side. It’s not a straight line to success.

Caleb Light:

Nope.

Roy Morejon:

Caleb, if you were to recommend any business books or life books to our audience, what would you recommend?

Caleb Light:

I honestly don’t read a whole lot of business or life books. I read more books about historical figures over time. I had a really interesting book that I read recently was Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern Era. Reading about someone that had no education and had the foresight to do incredible things like create a postal system, and understanding the importance of writing down the language, and the religious tolerance is really impressive and an eye-opener for me.

Roy Morejon:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Caleb Light:

Probably in another startup.

Roy Morejon:

What do you think the future of crowd funding looks like?

Caleb Light:

I think, as I mentioned before, I think that the future of crowdfunding is going to evolve into more crowdsourcing everything that you can imagine. I think that’s where it’s going to go.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Final question. What’s the one big thing you want to accomplish in life?

Caleb Light:

The one big thing I want to accomplish in life, I just want to, when it’s all said and done, feel like I provided real value in everything that I did. That ultimately people’s lives were effected in some way, shape, or form.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. Okay, well Caleb, I appreciate you being on the show. Basically at this point, I want you to give our audience your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about, the company, where people should go, and where they can check it out.

Caleb Light:

Well, we’re Power Practical. We do, like I said, Portal Power. We have products that we have a pot you can stick over a fire. Put water in it and it can charge your phone or Go Pro. We have batteries that charge insanely fast relative to anything on the market. We have these really cool LED lighting solutions called Luminoodles that tons and tons of [inaudible 18:08]. For more information, you can check out our website, Power Practical.com

Roy Morejon:

Okay Caleb, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. Audience, thank you for tuning in. Remember to visit Art of the Kickstart.com for all of the show notes, links to things that we’ve talked about, and the full transcript.

Caleb Light:

Thanks Roy. Have a good day.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art of the Kickstart, a show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit Art of the Kickstart.com and share it with your friends. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding marketing strategy, please visit our website at Command Partners.com and request a quote. Thanks for tuning in, catch you next time.