In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we speak with Joel Paglione of Levitating X. Learn more about designing a beautiful product and how to use your Kickstarter page to create a successful campaign!

LEVITATING X: Levitate Everything


Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to use past Kickstarter campaigns as inspiration for new products
  • How to enlist Kickstarter backers to help make your product better
  • What to focus on when writing your Kickstarter page
  • What to keep in mind as you’re designing a product
  • How to create a winning campaign

Links

Connect with Levitating X

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art 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 25% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

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 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 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 luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined by Joel Paglione with the Levitating X. Joel, thank you so much for joining us today.

Joel Paglione:

Hey Roy, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

Roy Morejon:

You launched a Kickstarter campaign a few weeks ago. You and I met in person at the International Home and Houseware Show in your hometown of Chicago. Let’s talk about the campaign and where everything started for you. What’s the backstory on Levitating X?

Joel Paglione:

Sure, yeah. I grew up in Canada. I went to engineering school, finished my MBA and really my journey in entrepreneurship started back in 2008 when I started working for a defense contractor who recruited me to Chicago. We were building MRAPs and armored vehicles for the US military and other militaries of our allies around the world. During the wartimes a lot of our team we were working on some of the most important military programs out there in terms of Afghan war, Iraq war and really changed the face of that war with this vehicle that a lot of our team had a firsthand in designing, including me, which was the MRAP. It was an armored vehicle with a V-shaped hull that would diffuse the energy of an IED or an underground mine under the vehicle. Previous armored vehicles had a flat hull, so when you ran over an IED it would be detrimental to the vehicle and to the soldiers and war fighters that were inside.

Whereas, our V-shaped hull would diffuse the energy and tip the vehicle over, as opposed to having a flat bottom and a catastrophic event. My real introduction into product development, and I had a macro level through that experience and I wanted to, after the war died down and the sequester happened, a lot of our team went off and started doing our own thing. As part of that, I started developing my own products, started looking into things that I really was interested in and passionate about. My first product was the Oak Bottle, which was born from an experience I had at my family winery in Canada. I was walking through my family winery with my uncle and I said to my uncle, said, “[Tino 00:03:28], why do we put so much … Or, how do we transfer all of our wine and why are we doing this from our steel vessels to all these individual oak barrels? Why don’t we put it all in one big barrel? It would save a lot of time transferring the wine from one vessel to another.”

He said, “What you don’t understand Joel, is the smaller the vessel, the faster the oak infusion.” That’s when I started to look into what is the smallest possible oak vessel we could create and that is the actual bottle made of oak. I launched the Oak Bottle. It was very successful on Kickstarter. This was probably three years ago now and it works through service area to volume ratio optimizations, so essentially we’ve created the world’s fastest oak barrel and it’s … We’ve had our first experience to get three years on Kickstarter and gained a lot of momentum. What happened was, the Oak Bottle took off in the beverage industry and especially with bartenders and world-class bartenders around the world. They started using it in bartending competitions. Getting exposed to these bartending competitions where they were utilizing the Oak Bottle to speed up the aging process for various cocktails, like Negronis and Old Fashions, I realized there was a need for maybe a spectacle around the cup.

It seemed like there was a lot of really cool things going on in plating in restaurants, in Michelin Guide restaurants out there, but nothing around … That was centering around the cup itself. I decided that I would create a levitating cup for use in these competitions and that’s where it started. The levitating cups was developed out of that experience, stemming from the original product, the Oak Bottle. After launching the levitating cup on Kickstarter a year ago, we had such tremendous support from everyone that we decided that we would develop the Levitating Design Lab, which would center around creating levitating products of all kinds and all categories that would utilize a common levitating electromagnetic suspension base, because there’s some pretty cool boutique designers out there developing levitating products, but there’s really been … I found that there was a lack of a central company focusing on levitating products of all kinds.

Not just the small design projects with a particular use. We wanted to create a company that would allow you to pick if you wanted to, levitate a plate one day, and then switch to a cup, and then utilize a plant, or décor, or jewelry pillows, and switch it and constantly be able to develop and buy new products that would float and work with your existing things. That’s kind of the concept and how we came to where we are right now with the Levitating X project.

Roy Morejon:

That’s an awesome background Joel, from saving lives to Oak Bottles and levitating cups, truly interesting in terms of background. You’ve gone through a few different iterations with a few different products now and now have kind of settled on the Levitating Labs. In terms of taking the levitating cup to Levitating X, where basically you can levitate anything, what did that process look like in terms of deciding what features to include on this design and future designs?

Joel Paglione:

Well, we learned a lot coming out of the Kickstarter. A lot of feedback from our original supporters and that’s what’s so key about crowdfunding, is that not only does it fund your first round of production, but it allows you to kind of utilize that first group of people, those first early adopters as a sounding board and a way to finesse and iterate your products. We realized we wanted to make sure it was absolutely the simplest device in terms of being able to levitate easily and quickly, so we developed levitating assist plates that allow you to very quickly learn how to levitate and learn where the sweet spot is in the electromagnetic suspension base, because that can be a little tricky sometimes. I know there’s other products out there where it makes it very difficult for you to find the part, the port, the location above the base where the product becomes levitating.

That’s one aspect of the design that we wanted to make sure was absolutely very easy to do. There’s that and then developing the products, really it’s how do we take regular activities that people do throughout their daily lives and apply levitation to it. We didn’t want to create something that was not useful, or could not be used in your home, so we focused on home products. The cup, naturally that ended up developing into the plate as well, so you got the cup and the plate. Then when you look at the levitation, what other items in your home you could utilize that technology for, naturally you’d think, sculptures or décor, and that’s where the multiple décor items that we developed came from. We’ve got the Buddha head, which is a really cool free-printed resin sculpture, plus we’ve got the skeletal leaf design, and we’ve got the skeletal coral design as our first three products, and they’re available in both white and black.

Then we’ve got this jewelry pillow, which is another thing that I think is really cool for people who want to show off their jewelry and timepieces in a way that allows them … Because once you float the levitating pillow, it rotates 360 degrees and it does that almost indefinitely when you hit it, or when you rotate it. It would play very nicely to showing off the spectacle of a beautiful timepiece, or ring with diamonds. We think that that’s another way to also bridge into the B2B, because I think that this could be very applicable to jewelry stores and anyone who has any sort of smaller item that they want to show off 360 degrees of that design. This could be retrofitted into the jewelry displays or just used directly in a case to show off products. Not only jewelry, but anything really that’s small enough to fit on top of the pillow.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. You talked a little bit about your experience with backers. Obviously, you’ve done a few campaigns. How have you gone about managing some of that feedback and promoting it within the campaign, and then taking some of that feedback and putting it into the product development side?

Joel Paglione:

Well, it’s really key to conduct interviews, or go and do like a focus group type exercise. There’s some pretty cool tools out there that we utilize. Facebook surveys, you can also use Survey Monkey, just to send some additional information. Also, the survey itself from Kickstarter, after the Kickstarter’s a good way to get clarity on preferences of your backers, even in advance of you producing the individual products that you’re offering on the Kickstarter. That’s really useful, getting that feedback back in a statistical way where you can take a look at it and see what preferences everyone has and prioritize the design aspects and the specs that you want for your product.

It’s key though always to make sure that you’re not over-developing, or over-engineering. Some things are better left simple and especially the first time that you’re launching your product. When we first developed the Oak Bottle, we had friends and family test the product. I went and met with some pretty famous bartenders that were the heads of some famous mixology bars in town and they just have organic direct feedback, was so key. Utilize it as a kind of an alpha, or a beta launch initially and then turn that into revising and iterating your final product design.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, some solid advice for all those first time entrepreneurs, in terms of keeping it simple and focusing on the biggest challenge that you see that’s out there. In talking about the campaign itself, what are some of the … Or, the product itself, what are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered while designing this new version of the product?

Joel Paglione:

Definitely making sure again that it’s very easy to use and then ensuring that the products that we’re initially launching are going to work and they’re cross-functional so that they kind of apply to a wider group of people. That’s what’s key. Some of the niche products that exist out there, I think are too specific to a certain type of person. Whereas, we wanted to create a line that was gender neutral, that age neutral, that depending on whoever you are, I think that you could utilize it in any type of home, in any type of environment. Then making sure that we included universal adapters that could be used anywhere around the world.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned through this whole process of launching a Kickstarter campaign?

Joel Paglione:

I think that … I think we’ve done, I think I’ve done four now. You got to make sure that you’re telling a story and that it’s not … In my opinion, I don’t think it’s as important to have a really deep-thinking storyline behind the product. It could be something that you developed as simple as what happened with me, where we realized there was a need out there and it stemmed from a previous product. In utilizing that product, something came up and you realized that could be a cool product and you just didn’t have the funding to be able to support the initial orders, and you also wanted to utilize the crowdfunding campaign audience to tweak and get some good feedback. What better than a group of people who already have skin in the game and have trusted you enough to put money towards it. They’re going to be the most honest people to give you feedback, whether they really like it or not, right?

Story’s important, I think it’s important in terms of getting the product details out there and ensuring that it’s very clear and easy to understand what the product is, but not spend too much time worrying about having a really unique background, or how it came to be. I think some Kickstarters, I think that there’s too much emphasis on the whimsical-ness of the storyline. It doesn’t need to be that in depth. I think Kickstarter communities appreciate honesty and just being very clear and easy, or very I guess simple in terms of how you describe the product. What I’ve always kept in mind in any of my products, I’ve always named the products based on its core function and make it very simple. Like, the Oak Bottle. I mean, what other thing could you call it possibly, right? It’s an Oak Bottle. Levitating cup, it’s literally a levitating cup. Levitating X, X is a variable and you can plug anything into it. We’ve got levitating plate, levitating décor, levitating plant, and X again is a variable.

I mean, all my products have been very clear just in its name what it does. Then, just I think in terms of how I approach product development, I always make sure that I try to minimize the complexity of the product itself. I very, very rarely pursue anything that has to do with an app, which requires constant development. Anytime a new operating system comes out you constantly have to relaunch and reiterate on the software. I barely ever do anything with electronics, except in the case of the Levitating X product and levitating cup product, because electromagnetic suspension technology’s fairly mature and so there’s very little risk of serious issue in terms of electronic failure, or FCC and CE testing certification and all that. A lot of my products are very simple. I utilize form factor and very little moving parts in order to create function and when you combine form and function, you’ve got a winning product. I mean, if it works as well as it looks pretty and people appreciate it for how beautiful it is and you can capture that market at the same time that people who want it to work well, if you do that right as well, I mean you’ve got a perfect combo.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Solid advice, Joel, for all of our entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs that are out there. This gets us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go

Joel Paglione:

Yep, good to go.

Roy Morejon:

All right. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Joel Paglione:

I think my experience of seeing … Working in the defense industry and watching us save lives through product development and I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. I wanted to make sure that I touch people’s lives, whether it’s something as serious as what I was doing within the defense industry, or something as simple as making people laugh and have fun in their daily lives.

Roy Morejon:

If you could share a beer with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Joel Paglione:

Definitely Elon Musk. I mean, the guy is doing exactly what I would be doing if I had the money he has in terms of his success. I mean, he’s not baking in the sun somewhere on a tropical island. He’s pursuing companies that have purpose and I really respect that. The guy takes a look at a common issue and simplifies it and doesn’t set his ceiling very low. I mean, he’ll pursue … He’s even talking about space travel. I think that he does things in a practical way, makes it very simple for people. He doesn’t stop at what he thinks can be done, he goes and pursues and makes sure that he can … That he gets things done. I really, I look at what happens up there in terms of other defense type stuff and I think there’s really a simple way to solve some of the issues that exist, and so I want to utilize that same kind of core principle that he has and apply it to what I want to pursue.

Roy Morejon:

What book is on your nightstand?

Joel Paglione:

4-Hour Work Week. That is-

Roy Morejon:

Solid read.

Joel Paglione:

Yeah, solid read. I mean, it does … It talks about the new rich and it talks about being able to make sure that you have the capability of being wherever you need to be when you need to be there and being able to divide up your time and focus on efficiency, as opposed to quality. Yeah, great read.

Roy Morejon:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Joel Paglione:

I hope to be in charge of my own think-tank. I’d like to be able to product develop multiple products every week. I’m a big believer in the law of large numbers, where you flip a coin ten times, you might get heads eight times and tails two times, but if you flip that coin a million times it will always be 50/50. The odds will always come out, so I believe applying that to product development, the more you develop, the more chances you are of having a successful product. I’d love to develop a think-tank in the Chicago area, wherever I end up being, and we’re going to throw as many ideas at the ball as we can and see what sticks and launch them very quickly and really take advantage of the probability of success that way.

Roy Morejon:

Or maybe see what levitates, right?

Joel Paglione:

Things can happen … Exactly.

Roy Morejon:

Last question on the launch round. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Joel Paglione:

I’m not sure. I think that it’s going to … I think we’re going to see … I’m kind of a little bit disappointed with what’s happened with crowdfunding, frankly. I see a lot of marketing firms helping entrepreneurs, but I think that there’s probably another way to do it. I think that there’s probably more organic projects coming out, where there’s less emphasis on traffic to the page and more emphasis on the quality of the product and maybe a review at the end of the campaign so that good projects who end up delivering on time get credit for that and the developers get credit for that. I think that there’s a lack of followup in terms of the success of projects and allowing the audience to grade that individual developer.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. Well Joel, you’ve been great. Please give our audience your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where they should go and why they should go buy at Levitating X.

Joel Paglione:

Get over to our Kickstarter right now. It’s live and you can search Levitating X for our latest levitating products for your home and hopefully you guys will see more products as we develop it. If you come and support us, if we’re successful, we’ll be developing multiple products every month and they’ll be fresh and new. Yeah, come check us out. You can always find my other products on Google just Googling Oak Bottle, or levitating cup.

Roy Morejon:

Joel, you’ve been awesome. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all the show notes, a full transcript, links to everything we talked about today, and of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Joel, thank you so much for joining us today

Joel Paglione:

Thanks Roy, appreciate it.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another 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, be sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It. If you loved this episode, leave us a review at ArtoftheKickstart.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding strategy, please feel free to request a quote on CommandPartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you soon.