For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Phillip Yip of MonkeyLectric about his latest Kickstarter project, Monkey Light Automatic. Tune in for helpful tips and insights into how to make a product better using customer feedback, how to use livestreaming to boost your Kickstarter campaign and much more!

Monkey Light Automatic: Our Best Bike Lights Yet

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to bring an idea for a product to life
  • How to use customer feedback to improve a product
  • How to use Kickstarter’s tools to interact with your backers
  • How to prepare for a Kickstarter livestream
  • Why you need an audience before launching a campaign on Kickstarter

Links

Connect with MonkeyLectric

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 he

 

Transcript

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Roy Morejon:

This episode of Art of the Kickstart is sponsored by BackerKit. 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. Plus, if you want to create and send surveys, offer add-ons, and pledge upgrades, or begin accepting pre-orders, BackerKit makes it simple. Over 2,000 projects and four million backers have used BackerKit, including many of the projects featured on Art of the Kickstart. Ready to try BackerKit? Visit BackerKit.com and sign up today.

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 raise 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 with Phillip Yip. Phillip, thank you so much for joining us today.

Phillip Yip:

Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:

Phillip, you ran a campaign recently, the Monkey Light. Tell our audience all about the Monkey Light.

Phillip Yip:

It’s our next generation of Monkey Lights. They’re fully automatic in that, after you install them on your bicycle, they turn on automatically when your wheel spins and when it’s dark enough outside. They are our most convenient lights ever and what we believe the most convenient way to keep your bike lit up at night to keep you visible and enhance safety.

Roy Morejon:

There’s usually a good backstory with a lot of the entrepreneurs that we talk with about producing products that fit a need. Obviously bike safety is a massive concern with more and more people using alternative modes of transportation. What’s the story on the Monkey Light team and the product

Phillip Yip:

Our founder story is that our founder, Dan, he created his first set of Monkey Lights as an art project. This was a while ago, back in I think it was 2007. He had a friendly competition between friends to do crazy things with their bike. What ended up happening is that people would stop him on the street and be like, “Hey. How do I get one of those?” This happened often enough that he was like, “Well, maybe we could start a business around this.” Thus, he began the conversion of changing an art project into something that was more capable for larger-scale production and something that was more affordable so people could actually buy it.

Roy Morejon:

Talk about, what’s intriguing with our audience is always about the product development and the process of bringing an idea from, let’s say, the art project to an actual prototype and then a fully-working model. Can you talk about deciding what features you guys included on this and the process that you guys went through and the multiple iterations to get a final working product that people will want to buy every day?

Phillip Yip:

Got you. Maybe I can start by talking about the features. We’ve been selling our older generation of lights for quite some time now. We’ve benefited from having a lot of the production done in the exact same facility, where I’m sitting right now, as the product development. We can iterate and make changes really quickly on the production side and I guess design for manufacturability in a really nice way. As far as other features go, though, because we’ve had a lot of lights out there, we do get feedback from our customers. Some people love it. Some people are like, “Hey. I really want to use this, but that one part is kind of annoying,” and so on.

One of the reasons why we decided to make these lights automatic is that, from my own personal experience, it’s the most annoying part of using lights is just having to turn it on, as silly as that sounds. When we tested this out with ourselves and with a couple of our friends in the area, people really love that. It’s kind of a mix. Definitely we involve feedback from our customers. We definitely have benefited from already having existing products out there. A lot of the other stuff comes internally from just the knowledge that we gain from actually physically trying to make these things ourselves.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What have been some of the bigger challenges that you guys have encountered while designing the product?

Phillip Yip:

We live in Northern California, where we benefit from nice weather. It’s a pretty different environment than what some of our other customers experience. It creates a little bit of a challenge when we do some of our testing, because it’s like, “Well, maybe we don’t have access to some …” For example, people on the East Coast in the winter, they still ride their bikes. They still need that visibility. They may ride on salty roads that can really tear up components, and stuff like that. We didn’t realize this until, with our older products, maybe a year or two in. As a result, we had to do our own tests where we immersed our own lights in salt water to see what would happen and put them in the freezer to make sure that they would still work. There are a lot of edge cases like that, where it’s, in our experience, we didn’t find out until we heard back from the customer.

Roy Morejon:

That’s always critical. Obviously getting that feedback where you guys wouldn’t have known these things, where you’re sitting in sunny California thinking life’s great and everybody on the East Coast is swamped in snow and dealing with all the salt and sleet that they’ve got to deal with on their daily commute. It’s great that you’re obviously engaging your crowd and your community, getting feedback and doing some testing to continue to make your product better. Awesome work there.

Let’s jump into the crowdfunding campaign a little bit that our agency, Command Partners, helped you guys out with in doing some of the marketing for it. How long did you guys spend preparing for the crowdfunding campaign initially and what was some of the work that you guys put in?

Phillip Yip:

I think we’ve probably spent … I’m trying to reimagine the timeline here, because it was a little while ago now. I think we’ve probably spent about, I don’t know, six months. Maybe a little more. In the beginning it was more product-focused. We were thinking, “What should these new products look like? What have people been asking for and what’s technically feasible for us to do?” That was a bulk of the work in the beginning. I think that we actually got started on the actual crowdfunding campaign itself probably later than we should have. If we do another one in the future, I’d like to be able to plan that stuff out a little more ahead of time.

We were roughly working on some prototypes throughout. Our campaign launched in beginning of November 2016. We were rolling with prototypes during the summer. We were doing some testing during the summer. I think the initial concept was more around March, or so. Maybe a little later.

Roy Morejon:

Got it. You guys certainly put a significant amount of time in. We know a lot of people vary in terms of the pre-marketing and the pre-campaign effort that goes into it and ensuring the overall success of the campaign, and obviously working together and making sure that we almost hit that quarter of a million dollar mark with the campaign. You guys are one of the few Kickstarter campaigns that did a live stream. Tell our audience about how that went and what you guys talked about there.

Phillip Yip:

The live streams were thrilling. At first, my own personal experience with video is just Skyping, for example, or doing a Google Hangout or FaceTime with usually it’s family members and friends. I’m not used to being in front of a video talking to I guess the Internet at large. We knew that Kickstarter has a lot of stuff on using it as a great tool to interact with your backers, so we definitely wanted to try it out. I think we got a rocky start, but we really enjoyed being able to just interact in that way. It’s added a really nice dimension. This past project was our third Kickstarter, but it was the first one where we were able to really interact with people on such a level. I think it was thrilling. Chloe did a lot of the live streams with me. I think I can speak for her and say that she also really enjoyed talking to people. I hope that our backers got a lot out of it also.

Roy Morejon:

I think they definitely did. With our recent conversations we had with the Kickstarter team at the CES show a couple weeks ago, they’re really seeing a huge amount of engagement and appreciation from the backer community to really see the people behind the scenes putting these products together. Obviously you guys being one of the first campaigns out there, what tips would you give to our audience for someone else that’s going to be doing a live stream?

Phillip Yip:

I’d say test out your stuff ahead of time. Kickstarter gives you ample opportunity to. We took advantage of it most of the time. But there were some cases where it was like, “Oh no. We have no audio. Oh, we’ve got to restart this,” and so on. Also, it helps to prepare in advance. What we did is we looked at, “Well, what are some of the comments that we’ve been getting from people?” Kickstarter also has a nice feature where people can submit questions for Q&A directly to your live stream so that you can view them on the air. We would take a look at that a couple hours before and see if there were any questions that we could answer there. We had demos to show off too. It gave us a good opportunity to show things that I think translate better on video rather than in a static image, especially for our bike lights, because they require the wheel to be spinning in order to be seen.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. There’s no lying on live video. Right, Phillip?

Phillip Yip:

Yeah. That’s right.

Roy Morejon:

Given that this was your third campaign, what’s been the biggest surprise that you guys have encountered so far crowdfunding?

Phillip Yip:

The biggest surprise across all of the campaigns?

Roy Morejon:

Sure. Or the most recent one. Whichever one you’ve got a point for.

Phillip Yip:

I guess one thing that really stands out is that this last campaign was really different than the one right before it. Our second Kickstarter campaign was for our Monkey Light Pro, which is basically a video screen for your bicycle wheel. It’s really different, in terms of getting the word out for something like that compared … I should also say that the price for backers, or the reward levels for starting at $495, and it’s something that we currently sell at $995 right now. This campaign was really different in that we had rewards in the $30 level or $29 level. The number of backers is huge, which is awesome. It’s awesome to engage that much of a community.

But it’s also really different in that we didn’t have some crazy thing that everybody would be talking about, because it’s like, “Oh my god. I can show a running dog in my wheel.” It’s like, “Well, no. This is a really practical device that helps keep you safe and we can sell it for a low price.” The excitement factor is really different. That was pretty different. We had to approach the campaign in a different way.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What advice would you give to someone else looking to kickstart their bike product?

Phillip Yip:

One piece of advice I’d give to Kickstarter creators in general is that you need to somehow have your own audience, or you need to be putting the work into doing that somehow, whether it’s through … Luckily we were able to benefit from having already two campaigns out there and having our brand exist for a while, so people were aware of us. I think that I see some Kickstarter creators who expect that, “Hey. If I just put this thing out there in the Kickstarter world, Kickstarter will take care of the rest of that.” Kickstarter is a great platform for reaching a lot of people, but I think oftentimes it’s not sufficient for getting enough of the coverage out there and getting people to see your product. You have to be able to do a lot of that work yourself or engage with some sort of marketing partner in order to get the word out.

Roy Morejon:

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

Phillip Yip:

I hope so.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Phillip Yip:

I used to work at a really big company that actually I think last I saw they employed like 400 or 500,000 people. I was ready for a change of pace. Nothing against how they work, but I wanted to do something different.

Roy Morejon:

If you could bike with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Phillip Yip:

Oh, man. I don’t know if I can answer that. I hate to say this, but I really like riding alone. I don’t know if I hate to say that. It’s just great for clearing your mind and soaking in the environment around you.

Roy Morejon:

How about if you could have a coffee or a juice with any entrepreneur? Who would it be?

Phillip Yip:

Right now, I don’t know if it would be an entrepreneur. It would be Steve Kerr, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, because I really admire his style. I think it goes beyond basketball. I think he takes a moral stand on principles that he cares about. I think he also knows how to run an organization well.

Roy Morejon:

Coach Kerr. That’s a new one for us. What would be your first question for Coach?

Phillip Yip:

I don’t know if it would be a question as much as a statement, but I would just tell him that I used to play his character when I would play basketball video games back in the mid ’90s, even though he was clearly, no offense to him, not the best player on the team. But I just liked shooting three-pointers all the time.

Roy Morejon:

Fair enough. Making it rain. What book is on your nightstand or on your Kindle?

Phillip Yip:

It is something about how to teach toddlers to be good kids. I forget what the title is right now. I have a two-year-old daughter, and it’s a learning process.

Roy Morejon:

Indeed. I’ve got two young girls myself. I don’t know if there’s enough books in the world to understand what’s going on in their heads. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Phillip Yip:

I see myself celebrating the five-year anniversary of you asking me this question.

Roy Morejon:

Fair enough.

Phillip Yip:

Sorry. I don’t know. That’s the first answer I thought of.

Roy Morejon:

I like it. Last question in the launch round, Phillip. What does the future of crowdfunding look like

Phillip Yip:

I see there being a lot more creators out there and a lot more big creators out there. I also wonder about what happens with regulation and what happens when there are a lot of high-profile failures also. What I see right now is that crowdfunding has also extended into actually raising funds for giving backers ownership into some of these companies that are created. I don’t know if I see any specifics, other than it’s interesting to see the trend so far. I’m wondering what will happen when more of these failures occur.

Roy Morejon:

Sure enough. Phillip, this is the end of the interview. You’ve survived. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should go buy some Monkey Lights.

Phillip Yip:

At our company we stand for safety and we want to make your bike ride fun. We think that our lights offer the best solution for lighting your ride up at night so that other people can see you and to give your ride a little bit of color.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Phillip, you’ve been great. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all of the show notes, a full transcript, links to the Monkey Lights sites and everything we talked about. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Phillip, thank you so much for being on the show.

Phillip Yip:

Thanks a lot, Roy. Appreciate it. Thank you, everybody.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into 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’ve 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.