For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Dave Zuverink of SlimFold™ to learn more about the Slim Pack. Tune in to learn more about designing a new product, relying on your network of previous backers to create a new product and how to launch multiple successful Kickstarter projects.

Slim Pack Weatherproof Minimal Commuter Backpack by SlimFold

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How backer feedback often guides product decisions
  • Why it’s important to listen to your audience during and after your Kickstarter campaign
  • Where to start with designing a new product for Kickstarter
  • What to expect when blogs and tech outlets cover your Kickstarter project
  • How to calculate the size mailing list you need before launching on Kickstarter

Links

Connect with SlimFold™

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!

Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy:

Welcome to Art Of The Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, the top full-service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raised over $70 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 take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. 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. To learn more visit thegadgetflow.com. Let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art Of The Kickstart. Today I am joined by Dave Zuverink with the Slim Pack by SlimFold™. Dave thank you so much for joining us

Dave:

Hey, thanks for having me Roy.

Roy:

Dave, you’re a serial Kickstarter. Tell us about the history, where does it all start?

Dave:

I actually started the company back in 2010, there wasn’t really Kickstarter around. I created a very slim wallet, it’s actually the thinnest wallet in the world, made from Tyvek. I was selling those at street fairs in San Francisco, Renegade Craft Fair, stuff like that. Once Kickstarter came around I launched my follow up product on there, which was the SlimFold™ Micro. From there the first campaign was a really good match for my backers, and continued on to create the company out of that.

Roy:

That’s [inaudible 00:01:58]. Yeah, you’ve done 2 previous campaigns all around a wallet, now you’re running right now this Slim Pack weatherproof minimal commuter backpack. How has your product line evolved? Has it been from the consumer feedback and tapping into the community of backers that you’ve build?

Dave:

Yeah exactly. This latest project did kind of take turn because I had previously done 2 different wallets and I did a survey actually after my second campaign and asked folks, “What should I make next?” I was expecting a taller wallet, shorter wallet, lots of different things. Meanwhile I had been looking for a backpack at the time, I actually asked for one for Christmas for my wife. I couldn’t find one that I liked so I put that on there as one potential option and to my surprise it came out as the number one request. Really that set me on the path to create this different product, even though I knew it was going to be more difficult to make and take longer. It took about 2 years in the development process but having that survey and listening to the backers helped me know that that was something that they were interested in.

Roy:

That’s what I love Dave, that you tapped into your audience, you asked them what they wanted, let alone you still wanted a backpack on your own and you snuck it in there. You actually took their advice and now you’re seeing success from that by tapping into it, raising over 100k already for your campaign with 3 weeks to go. Obviously you’ve listened and people are backing you because of that.

Dave:

Yeah. It gave me that kind of, imagining the launch day as always, a bit of a concern, especially if you’re making something that’s different than previous products. It made me feel then more confident that people were going to want it.

Roy:

We noticed some unique trends in your campaign strategy where you’re getting a lot of feedback and asking for a lot of feedback with a lot of your campaigns. Do you feel like that’s been really a key to your success with your campaigns, is that you’re actually listening to your audience?

Dave:

Yeah definitely. It helps make the products better not just during the campaign but after the campaign. In my last project I made a wallet made from a material called Softshell that’s a lot stronger. Overall that product was in response to making something that’s absolutely the longest lasting possible wallet, but I had a label on the front that I spent months tweaking. I had special molds made and I personally was in love with this label, but when people saw that they were like, “I don’t know, it looks a little thick to me.” My concept is for a thin wallet, so during the course of that I actually completely changed that and then researched and learned about heat press and a way to make a flat logo. The backers responded to that, but as well then that became my product after the Kickstarter, which I feel like that’s made the product be more successful because otherwise I would never have know before launching the actual product, people would be saying, “Yeah that’s a nice product but I’m not so sure about that thick looking rubber label on there.”

Roy:

What have you done to show backers how your backpack is different from other bags that are currently on Kickstarter. There seems a trend right now with a lot of bags and backpacks. We recently finished marketing a campaign that did about a million dollars for a backpack. What have you done to differentiate yourself?

Dave:

A couple things. For one, it’s surprising there are other bags. I know Peak Design is a huge one out there. I knew they were working on a backpack, but I pretty much try to keep an eye on the product that I’m trying to make and not worry too much about what other people are making. One of the ways I’m able to do that is to really look at the needs and the goal of the product that I’m making and the way that I’m making it. I really deconstructed the whole way that a pack is made. I started with what the things are that you carry, instead of thinking of the typical backpack and then you have something in your mind and you may tweak that starting design a little bit. Instead I started from 0 and started from the foot …

I literally have a CAD drawing of what a MacBook Pro size is, what a mirror-less camera is, what an iPad is. I started with the footprint of those items that I knew people wanted to carry and then built the minimal amount around that as a shell. I think from that design approach and rethinking everything about every piece of the bag, that allows me to arrive at different design conclusions. Then for the campaign what I basically have to do is describe that process and illustrate what the solution is that I came up with and why it solves that problem, then if people resonate with that then they’ll jump in.

Roy:

You guys launched it with a $20,000 funding goal, you’ve reached that very quickly in the same day you launched it, did about $60,000 in the first 48 hours. What do you think led to your success right off the bat? Was it just tapping into your community? Letting them know, “Listen, we made it. You asked for it, go buy it.”

Dave:

Yeah. I was really blown away by the response. I was hoping, like I said I had done that survey and hoped that people wanted it. It was really my email list and previous backers that helped make that first day. I guess I did it slightly differently, I didn’t so much do a lot of pre-campaign sneak peek stuff, building stuff up. I more released it when it was ready and then people could go and check it out. Over time I’m describing more and more detail as we go in the campaign.

Roy:

Interesting. How did you guys start getting your first press hits on this campaign? Was there anything different that you’ve done campaign to campaign that’s seen more success on the press side?

Dave:

Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s funny, any kind of plans you have going in, you never know what the hit rate is going to be. What usually happens is something comes up that’s unexpected and unplanned. This was pretty similar, I did the traditional outreach to several places. Some of them wrote about it, some of them didn’t. One of the ones that ended to be the biggest contributors was it got picked up in The Next Web. That was actually a previous customer who has the Softshell wallet, loves it, was on my mailing list. When I announced the product he wrote back and said, “Hey, I’d love to feature this on The Next Web.”

I ended even sending him a sample. He wrote one description, just that the project had launched. Said, “This might be the perfect back pack,” and then when I sent him a sample and he used it he wrote a follow up that said, “This actually really is the perfect backpack.” That was awesome to get that. I basically had one really more larger press hit, but then the rest of them it’s been a little bit more hit or miss.

Roy:

Yeah. It can tend to be that way definitely, but it’s obviously great to have a backer of your campaign have quality media outreach capabilities for your product, like The Next Web that certainly sees millions of visitors a month.

Dave:

Yeah. Maybe I should search through my email list for other folks, I don’t know.

Roy:

It might be a good idea, they should have reached out to you if they loved their product so much. Maybe you need to do a sample request email and see if anybody wants to review it while you’ve got a few weeks left on the campaign. You mentioned a few things but what has been the biggest surprise so far from running this campaign to running your first campaign 5, 6 years ago?

Dave:

My first campaign was more like 4 years ago. The original time was selling at street fairs. One difference was that when I ran my first campaign I brought 20% of my backers from my own lists and my own activities. Whereas Kickstarter, it got traction and it was one of the first really popular wallets on Kickstarter. Kickstarter brought 80%, and then in my last 2 campaigns I’ve seen that flip, where I’m bringing 80% and Kickstarter is only bringing 20% of the backers. I think that’s been a change, that there’s so many projects that it’s not something where you can just put something up there and if people like it, it will get it’s own traction. That probably used to be the case but isn’t so much the case anymore. I was also surprised by the positive res- and quick response from my backers, even though it’s at a higher price point. I was also a little bit surprised at the price sensitivity within the different tiers. Once the very first tier filled up the backer rate really slowed down a lot. The difference between the tiers was only $10. I was surprised by that.

Roy:

Definitely, definitely. What’s the biggest piece of advice that you would give to someone looking to launch a product on Kickstarter?

Dave:

I think for one the obvious is these days you really need to bring at least some of your own audience to Kickstarter. Look at your email list, think how many backers you need in order to be successful. Set your goal as low as you can, what you would really need to actually want to do the project. If it’s below that then it’s great information and you don’t want to do the project if it doesn’t have that support, you want to change something about the product. You can figure on something between 3%, possible 10% conversion rate. That will give you the number of actual people that you need to be responsible for, for creating that conversion and bringing them to Kickstarter.

I guess the last thing I’d say is Kickstarter is not necessarily the best place for the very first concept of an idea, it doesn’t have to be. If you can create some kind of prototype, try to sell it yourself in some other forum or even online. See what the response is. Kickstarter might be a really good place for a version 2 or version 1.5 of something, once you’ve done some initial tweaks, or plan on doing 2 Kickstarters. Do one really small one as a proof of concept and do a follow up once you have it more together, instead of shooting for the million dollar project with a 1.0 product. Especially that all goes double if you’re making any kind of product for the first time.

Roy:

Absolutely. Sound advice Dave, this gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Dave:

Yeah sure.

Roy:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Dave:

I guess I’ve been a tinkerer for all my life, making products, and then I went to industrial design school and really enjoyed the process of coming up with an idea and making it, but in my industry you don’t come up with the complete concept yourself, unlike schools projects. This is kind of this ability to go back to that school project experience, where you’re coming up with the end-to-end solution and then having that resonate with people is really rewarding.

Roy:

Absolutely. If you could go backpacking with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be

Dave:

Oh man, probably I’d say James Dyson. I really resonate with his design approach and the methodical prototyping that he engages in, as well as his explanation of his products. I’d like to pick his brain.

Roy:

We might be able to make that happen Dave, he’s actually one of our contacts here at Command Partners, I’ll connect with you after this and maybe we can make that happen. What would be your first question for James?

Dave:

I’d like to understand his connection with the Japanese market. I read his autobiography and I think it’s interesting how someone with a quirky approach to things resonated with Japan. I’d like to see what that connection is.

Roy:

Got it. What book is on your nightstand right now?

Dave:

One that I’m really happy with that I just got done with is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. That from a mindset point of view really helps eliminate all of the extra unneeded things we do and we think about.

Roy:

Indeed. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Dave:

5 years, I’d like to continue to expand the SlimFold™ brand and do some other every day carry products. I’d also like to add some other brands potentially or products, maybe aimed at helping people lead simpler, happier and more productive lives, and then just sharing more about entrepreneurship also, to try to help others make their own products.

Roy:

Awesome. Last question Dave, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Dave:

You know I hope that it can help more the little guy again. It seems like there was kind of a golden age for that. I feel like if I were to launch my product again today, my first product, I don’t know that it would be successful. I hope that there’s maybe a new platform or a category, even the UI in Kickstarter can have a huge difference honestly. They changed things where it used to be that it was most popular to where it became staff picks. Even a little change like that has a huge impact on which products are deemed successful. I hope maybe they can figure that out, or someone can figure that out, to where the products are connected to the people who would have the opportunity to support projects they’re interested in because I think it’s a shame if somehow good products, good people are launching things that are not getting supported, not because there’s anything wrong the product, it’s just people don’t see it.

Roy:

I agree. I agree. Dave you’ve been awesome. Please give our audience your pitch, tell us what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should go buy a SlimFold™.

Dave:

Sure. The Slim Pack has basically got a lot of the technical features that you’d find in backpacking backpacks. It’s super durable but it’s more appropriate in a professional setting. It’s weatherproof and modular, so it’s great for commuting and it will keep your stuff dry even if you don’t have a rain cover or anything like that.

Roy:

Awesome. Dave thank you again for being on here. Everyone obviously thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, a full transcript, links to the campaign and everything we talked about today. Dave thanks so much for joining us.

Dave:

Sure, thanks a lot for having me.

Roy:

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’re enjoyed today’s episode be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.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 artkick.wpengine.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 free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you soon.