This week on Art of the Kickstart we spoke to David Majeski, co-founder of Brightloc, a 2-in-1 bike lock and light system. Tune in to hear the story of how he was inspired to create the Brightloc, the product development process he went through, and how he ultimately launched it through a Kickstarter campaign.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to decide what features to include when building your product
  • How combining form with function can be tricky when developing a new product
  • Tips for turning an idea into a product ready for a Kickstarter campaign
  • What to look for in a crowdfunding marketing agency
  • Why understanding your customers is key

Links

Sponsors

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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.

Roy Morejon:
Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and the Gadget Flow. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool 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 am joined with David Majeski, NC State student and co-founder of Brightloc. David, thank you so much for joining us today.

David Majeski:
Oh, thank you for having me on Roy, I’m excited to be here.

Roy Morejon:
So you are a super smart guy coming at an NC State, dual degrees, graduating here in May, so congrats on that. And you’ve come up with this really innovative two in one bike lock and light system that’s going to be launching here very quickly. Probably by the time this episode goes live, the campaign will be live. So listeners make sure, we’ll include a link to the campaign once it goes live. But this is a really unique solution for not only bicycle security and visibility, but it also combines this advanced lighting system with a high grade U-lock. David I’ve got to ask as always, where did this idea start? What inspired you to create Brightloc?

David Majeski:
Yeah, thank you. So Brightloc was actually started out of the product innovation lab at NC State. In fall of 2016 myself and actually our lead designer who was a student then as well were on a team together in the product design and development course. Both myself, Brian, and a few other members of the team had either been active cyclists or were very active cyclists at the time. And all of us had had some pretty close encounters or actual accidents with vehicles while cycling in and around campus and in the Greater Raleigh area. So we were tasked with coming up with a novel solution to a problem or unmet need in a consumer facing market and we decided to tackle cycling safety.

David Majeski:
So we were out interviewing a lot of cyclists who primarily use cycling for method of transportation or recreation in urban environments. And what we discovered is that we weren’t the only ones having these problems with potential close misses and actual accidents with vehicles. So we realized we are not able to change the infrastructure of bike lanes and city planning but we realized that the current accessories on the market today weren’t really meeting the needs of the consumers. So we developed a couple of prototypes and took them back out and kept interviewing these consumers at various bicycle meetups and areas. And ultimately ended up where Brightloc is today with a sleek design that not only encompasses a robust deal up but also has very large lighting modules on either end of it.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk about the creation process for Brightloc. What did that process look like? How did you go about deciding what features to include with the upcoming designs? And what did, you know, NC State’s innovation lab help out with specifically there?

David Majeski:
Yeah. So a lot of the features we sought to include really started out through asking consumers what problems they were facing on a regular basis. We took a sort of a jobs to be done approach to this and rather than kind of asking people, what features would you like to see? We really wanted to understand what their problems were, that way we could address those with a novel solution that we felt was appropriate. So we definitely realized that security and visibility were the top two needs. 90% or more of cyclists across all segments that we interviewed were highly concerned with being visible to motorists and other individuals in their surroundings. So because of that, we felt that absolutely no matter what our end design was, it had to encompass visibility aspects as well as security aspects for the property.

David Majeski:
We developed a number of different prototypes, I believe four or five actually, that were all distinctly different from one another. And the one that you see today for Brightloc was overwhelmingly favored amongst all of the interviewees that we were able to speak with. We had some other interesting features that we haven’t included at this time, sound indicators and various little things like that because we felt that, from our interviews there just wasn’t a strong enough need in the market for that. So we really honed in on what the true needs were and what we felt was the most marketable design and what our users really want out of the product.

Roy Morejon:
I love that the idea came out of obviously solving a problem, and North Carolina and South Carolina lead the nation in wrong way deaths or motor vehicles. So, I don’t know whether it’s the drivers down here in the south or the signage or roadways or whatever it may be, but certainly safety is obviously of key importance, especially for cyclists.

David Majeski:
Yeah, definitely. I’m not entirely sure why that seems to be the case, but I know as well that between 650 and 850 cyclists actually die from a collision with vehicles just in the USA each year. So it’s a pretty, it’s quite common. It’s unfortunate that this problem is as common as it is and we’re hoping that we can do something about it to ultimately help save lives and prevent accidents.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what have been some of the challenges that you’ve encountered when designing the product?

David Majeski:
Well, when we first started, I think a lot of our problems for design was the size. Today the product is much more sleek and small than what it was when we were first working with it. So I think just trying to have an intelligent design that encompasses the features and the necessary hardware in order to do that and design, that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also form fitting and is not just too bulky and too large. So today the design that we have actually, it doesn’t weigh any more than your standard bicycle U-lock or anything like that, and the light modules on either end of it are only a couple inches large. They’re quite small, and when we were first testing this, they were considerably larger and we were really unfamiliar of where the best placement would be and what size some of the items and LEDs and things like that needed to be.

David Majeski:
Beyond that I think, at least in the university standpoint when we were first getting started, just having the right tools to do it. We were able to access 3D printers to get some mock ups off the ground and get going, but prior to that we were working with PVC piping and spray paint and things like that. So it was a little bit difficult to display our message and our true intentions of where we thought this could go to an audience when they’re looking at something with PVC in duct tape on it.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah David, I know when we were talking earlier offline, we had met originally two years ago I think this month when I was presenting at the Innovate Carolina’s Conference and their product looked much different than it does today. So let’s talk to the audience now a little bit about that prep work of taking it from that ideation stage to a prototype that was very rudimentary to now what it looks like, fully finished working prototype. Talk about some of the prep work in terms of the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, what you’ve done there.

David Majeski:
Yeah. So after that I continue to work on refining the business plan and what I felt would be the best track to commercialize this product. And eventually I was able to actually, fortunately win $16,000 in seed funding from a competition at NC State. I was able to utilize that funding to actually attract on some new partners to assist in refining our design and our commercialization strategy to get us to the point where we are today. So I was able to encompass the help of Trig Innovation, which is a design firm here and they do some other startup support as well in the Greater Raleigh area.

David Majeski:
In fact, the design student at the time, Brian Himelright, who was leading our design at the time, you met with us, he’s actually working at Trig now. So that’s sort of where that engagement and partnership was really formed. On top of that, we’re also partnered with CEA Manufacturing in Smithfield just south of Raleigh. And Steve Yock from there is an NC State alumnus, worked on a number of various entrepreneurial projects and products that have come out of NC State. After speaking with Brian, we really felt that these two networks were the best opportunity for us to bring in not only design prowess but also a manufacturing capability that could get us out and in retail.

Roy Morejon:
So now you’ve been working with us on the marketing side here at Enventys Partners for a while now, what were some of the considerations that you looked at when choosing an agency to partner with to help you with this product launch?

David Majeski:
So, we also have a member on our team, Brian Bokem, who’s a seasoned marketer and has served as a CMO for a few startups and I was able to actually share your contact information from when we met at the Innovate Carolina’s Conference. I spoke with him and the rest of the team and really recommended Enventys for our Kickstarter launch just based on a couple of features that seem very impressive. For one, Enventys has a long history of successful Kickstarter campaigns as well as social media advertisement, Facebook ad placement, things of that nature. So for us, the opportunity to work with Enventys was really a simple solution and decision. I think we were able to reach out and very quickly come to some terms to work together and I think it’s gone quite smoothly.

Roy Morejon:
Now that’s great to hear him and we’re obviously all very excited for the launch here very quickly. So what tips would you have for someone else, whether they’re young or old looking to develop a bike product like this or even an outdoor product in general? What are some of the tips you would give them?

David Majeski:
I think to start truly understanding your customers is important, especially, assuming that this is a consumer facing front. So really understanding the problems and the needs of your consumers is of the utmost importance. There are certain instances in life where a technology push venture has done very well, but I think more often than not, the market demand is really going to dictate whether or not your opportunity is successful or not. So beyond just understanding what it is that your consumers are having a problem with, you need to understand what the appropriate solution is to address that.

David Majeski:
It’s kind of … Henry Ford is famous for saying, if I asked consumers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse. So he ended up developing The Model T and became very successful, and it really was because he understood the problems and the needs involved and wasn’t just simply asking, well, what are the consumers desiring? He really took it from a little bit more of a strategic and analytical perspective. I’m also personally just a big fan of the Jobs Theory or Jobs-to-be-Done Theory and understanding why various items or services are hired to complete the jobs that they do and understanding not just the functional dimensions of that, but the emotional and social dimensions that are contained within that as well.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what’s been the biggest thing that you’ve learned so far through the whole process of developing and launching a new product?

David Majeski:
Oh Man, I’ve learned so much. NC State’s motto is think and do, and I’ve been able to take a lot of various aspects of material that I’ve learned at the MBA program and apply it directly to Brightloc. Various marketing tactics, everything from, SEO and search engine optimization, advertisement, marketing, placement, moving on, logistical challenges and various supply chain and fulfillment objectives that we’re looking into. Just understanding your strategy.

David Majeski:
I think strategy is incredibly important for any entrepreneurial endeavor because you really have to understand what your differentiators are and how you’re going to compete in a market that you obviously are coming into without having prior experience in my specific case. I don’t know if there is exactly one big thing that has stood out the most, but really just the entire journey has been a lot of learning new things and new skillsets and then trying to apply that in the best way possible towards this.

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

David Majeski:
Yeah, bring it on.

Roy Morejon:
So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

David Majeski:
I’ve been an entrepreneurial person ever since I was born. As a young teenager I worked on farms and sold various little like crops and things like that of that nature. I tried to start a skateboard company when I was a freshman and undergrad, so I’ve been an entrepreneur my entire life. My true inner drive is to create change in the world around me.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to go for a bike ride with?

David Majeski:
Steve Jobs.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. All right. So what would be your first question for Steve while pedaling down the streets?

David Majeski:
I would ask him how he maintains his focus on such future facing fronts. He’s very innovative and really did a wonderful job at looking at new technology that was being underutilized and applying it to a consumer facing front and making it massively popular.

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

David Majeski:
My father.

Roy Morejon:
What book would you recommend to our listeners?

David Majeski:
Actually the latest book I just read was Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen and it really talks a lot about The Jobs Theory, Jobs-to-be-Done Theory. And I think it’s an excellent read, it’s a very simple read and I would highly recommend it to anyone working in a consumer facing front, an entrepreneur or even someone just working on marketing.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. That’s a new one for the show, so I’m sure that’ll be great. Last question, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

David Majeski:
I think the future of crowdfunding is going to continue to grow. I think you’re gonna see even more entrance and excited entrepreneurs. I think the future of it is not just growing again from that front but also from an adopter or back or front where you’re going to continue to see adoption from consumers in this space. And ultimately I do see crowdfunding really growing and being able to assist in starting a lot of new small consumer facing companies.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I hope that as well David. This has been awesome. This is your opportunity to give the audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check out Brightloc.

David Majeski:
To start, as the population of urban and metropolitan areas continually grows, cycling has become a much more popular method of transportation. Unfortunately, the infrastructure we see has not kept up with this rapid growth and cyclists are regularly exposed to a high rate of risk of accidents with vehicles as well as having their property stolen. Brightloc is different in the fact that we offer not only passive use features in the lock itself, but also active use features while you’re cycling in the robust and very large lights. So this allows you to be seen quite easily when you’re on the road and will hopefully prevent any accidents with vehicles. I would really recommend you check us out brightloc.com, B-R-I-G-H-T-L-O-C and give us your view, check out our Kickstarter and feel free to email us or check out our social media pages.

Roy Morejon:
David, great job. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign that’s going to launch soon and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. David, thank you so much for being on the show today.

David Majeski:
Thank you Roy, it was a pleasure.

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 of our past episodes, a 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.