For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with the two founders of Slide, Thijs Olthof and Kaj Beetstra, about how they created a new smart home product and quickly hit their funding goal. Tune in to learn more about how to develop and launch a new product on Kickstarter!

Slide: Make Your Existing Curtains Smart!

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to build use cases around a new product to help further design and development
  • How to get user feedback when running a project on Kickstarter
  • How to build trust and credibility with your backers during a Kickstarter project
  • Why transparency is key to a successful crowdfunding campaign
  • How to leverage personal networks to quickly fund a project

Links

Connect with Slide

Sponsors

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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 4 million backers have used BackerKit, including many of the projects featured on Art of the Kickstart. Ready to try Backer Kit? 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. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am joined by the two founders of Slide, Thijs Olthof and Kaj Beetstra. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us.

Kaj Beetstra:

Thank you for having us.

Roy Morejon:

Slide, this product is really cool, and I think it’s really, really interesting. It’s the world’s first retrofit smart curtain system. Tell our backers and our community all about your product and where it all started.

Kaj Beetstra:

It started a couple of years ago with an idea of mine to actually automate your existing interior, not just adding new interior, but automating movement from your existing interior. The initial idea was actually to have a universal thing that could control anything. It just was difficult to make, so I started to focus on … I chose the curtains because it’s a lovely movement inside a house. I started thinking how could I automate this movement. I thought it would be an easy job, but two years later, I’m at the point where I am now, and we launched our project on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive. When you guys were creating Slide, talk to our audience about that process of creating the product itself and then deciding what features went into it.

Thijs Olthof:

Kaj actually worked on Slide long before I came on board and before week out we founded the startup behind Slide. When I met Kaj at the beginning of this year he had a great idea, but we were still searching for the market fit, seeing like, “Okay, there’s a way to automate curtains, but is that enough in itself? Do people just want to be able to press a button and then have their curtains close? What kind of value can you add that curtains currently don’t have yet?” We developed a range of use cases that assumed that curtains can be very useful if you pre-set certain movements at certain times. One example that’s very obvious is to wake up with natural sunlight. What it basically means is that Slide reads the alarm clock on your mobile phone and then, a few minutes before your alarm’s supposed to go off, your curtains will open in your bedroom, so you’ll have a nice, gentle wake-up, hopefully before the alarm kicks in. Hopefully you have a good start to the day. That’s one example of a use case that we developed.

Another one is using geo-fencing, reading your GPS data on your phone and seeing where you are. With Slide you’re able to say that your curtains will close when you leave the house, which in the winter will help save heating because curtains isolate. In the summer, if it’s warm, it’ll actually help and keep the heat outside and keep your house nice and cool. This is the process that we went to for the past year, saying, “Okay, we have a product that on a hardware end works, but from a user experience perspective, what can we do to really add more value than just automating the movement of a curtain opening and closing? What kind of use cases can we build around that movement?”

Roy Morejon:

Talking about use cases, the beauty of crowdfunding is getting all of that user feedback, whether they’re pre-purchasing the product on the active Kickstarter campaign or in the years that you guys took to develop it. How did you guys go about potentially collecting some of that user feedback before the campaign launched, and how you’re actively engaging the community currently in terms of feedback and adding additional features?

Thijs Olthof:

We both had very different groups of friends with different interests, so that was nice to see what these different groups were looking for when we were doing our little inner-circle feedback loops and focus groups. Definitely, once the campaign launched, we’ve been getting a lot of comments, a lot of traffic – over 100 comments already, which is quite a lot for a Kickstarter campaign two weeks in – because people have a lot of questions about adding new functionality and how things work. People really want to know the details of how the mechanism works and how the different software features work.

We just actually put out a nice survey yesterday, because we announced a new stretch goal which is to add data ports for Slide, and we’ve been asking people in the survey what kind of add-ons they would like to see to enrich Slide. One of the options would be a wireless remote. Another one could be a light sensor or thermal sensor. We’re really surprised to get – some of the answers in the surveys we didn’t expect. Some of them we did, but it’s nice to validate your ideas as you go in a very dynamic way.

Kaj Beetstra:

Actually, our first stretch goal was also – it had the same kind of idea behind it, because people asked us to incorporate an open API so that the community itself can develop different kind of apps to Slide or make it communicate to different platforms, etc. It’s very nice to communicate hence and forth with our backers to see what they really want, what they need, and what we’ll be able to offer.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. In this process, what’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve both encountered when you’re designing the product?

Thijs Olthof:

I think that compatibility and explaining compatibility is a big one when you work with retrofit products. People obviously – sometimes it’s hard for them to imagine, “Okay, I understand the product, I’ve seen the video, but how will it work on my curtains?” I think that communicating that, which takes a lot of time, because what we ask people is to send photos of their setups and then we literally try and illustrate, “Well, this goes here and this goes there,” so that they can relate from their own context, from their own home setup and understand, “Oh, now I see where Slide goes in my home, on my curtain system.” I think this has been a big challenge, more time-consuming than we thought it would be, but you can also – and that’s the nice thing. Once you do that, you get a lot of positive feedback saying, “Oh, well, this was very useful. Now I’m so much more relieved. I have more certainty that you guys will be actually able to deliver on the retrofit promise.”

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Always that’s the concern with crowdfunding campaigns, is the consumer never gets to touch it, feel it, try it on their curtains and see what exactly it looks like in their home and the use case of it. It’s great that you guys are taking that extra step to alleviate any of those concerns from the backers, the thousand-plus backers that have come into the campaign. It’s great that you guys are actively engaging them and giving them the feedback to alleviate those concerns. So it –

Kaj Beetstra:

Yeah, so –

Roy Morejon:

Go ahead.

Kaj Beetstra:

Another thing that we’ve been working on hard is also compatibility software-wise, because a lot of our backers ask us to do a [inaudible 00:08:55] function with HomeKit.

Thijs Olthof:

Apple HomeKit.

Kaj Beetstra:

Apple HomeKit. Exactly. So we did a big research partner because we thought it would be something we could implement, but it turned out to be a lot of work, a lot of extra costs in software, but also in hardware. We’d need a separate MFI chip which we didn’t know of. It was actually really a shame, because we had to disappoint some of our backers that we will not incorporate HomeKit in our first edition of Slide.

Thijs Olthof:

We’ve both backed a lot of smart-home products, and we’ve also had that disappointment ourselves – that you hope a certain integration will work, and that it doesn’t – so we didn’t promise HomeKit to begin with. It’s been interesting how many people have been almost begging us to make a commitment, even although we can’t promise or we’re not sure that we can deliver on that. When we had to make that announcement yesterday, “Okay, so we’ve done the research and we’re very sorry, but HomeKit is such an uncertainty that we could start – we could make a promise, but we won’t know for the next six months whether or not Apple will approve that process,” you can see a lot of people being disappointed but also appreciating the honesty at this stage. That is not an announcement you make three months into your fulfillment. I think it was the right choice, but it was a tough choice to make.

Roy Morejon:

Certainly. We always tell our clients, “Err on the side of transparency,” because with these crowdfunding campaigns you want to make sure that you’re delivering the product that the consumer thought that they were buying at the end of the day. It’s great to hear that you guys are actively taking that into account. I always like to ask, why did you choose crowdfunding to launch the product?

Kaj Beetstra:

As Thijs said, we both really like the platform Kickstarter as well, because it’s community-driven and a lot of people that are enthusiasts. These people are also our … “fan” is a big word, but we share the same interests in this thing, so we can learn vice-versa from each other. Moreover, it’s also a validation of our idea, if you want to see, “Do people really like this idea and will they want it at home?” We were overwhelmed by the success of the first few weeks, which was awesome to see how many people believe in the same idea that we had. Moreover, these people, like I told, we are Kickstarter fans ourselves. If you really like a product of Kickstarter you become a kind of ambassador as well, I think. At least this is the way I have felt backing up some projects.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Your campaign fully funded within the first two days, basically. Talk about some of the marketing efforts that you guys put forth into this project before you launched it.

Thijs Olthof:

We were with a Dutch marketing partner that helped us create the material and the language as well around Slide – getting the visuals, animating some of these use case, which is extremely useful, the video, which we put a lot of effort and time in, because it’s so important, especially the first 45 seconds – you have to rise and shine and get people’s attention to keep watching and keep following your page. It’s extremely important to have a very solid start, I think, on that.

But other than that, we didn’t – it’s not as common anymore in many successful campaigns – we didn’t do a big email pre-campaign. We did email friends and family, but we didn’t do any larger outreach other than – in the Netherlands there’s a lot of startup and entrepreneurship communities that we reached out to, so we got a lot of support from them and a lot of exposure in the Dutch media because of that. I think the interesting thing for us is that, in those first two days, reaching that target was almost entirely due to the Dutch audience that was responsible for more than 80% of our sales, and it still is one of the biggest backer bases in our community. That was really cool to see.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. You might not have built out the email database, but you built out your own personal networks and connections within your community, and they’ve obviously backed and helped the campaign be overly successful. You still built the crowd before the campaign started, just in a different kind of manner.

Thijs Olthof:

Yeah, and –

Roy Morejon:

Go ahead.

Thijs Olthof:

I just wanted to add, I think that you shouldn’t underestimate how important it is to have a local base. “Local” can be a city or a country or a community, but for us it was the Netherlands. The Netherlands helped us Kickstart this campaign, being a small country. I think it’s really important, know who your local users are, your local backers are, and your local ambassadors, and then expand from there on. You have to start with a base and define it before you launch a campaign.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s been the biggest surprise that you guys have encountered so far in the campaign?

Kaj Beetstra:

Being funded in two days. That was really awesome, really amazing. We had a couple of ideas how it would go, but we never thought it would be this big in two days. It’s nice.

Thijs Olthof:

Plus when Kaj and me were – when we met for the first time, we were both into smart home, and so we had the affinity, but we also both had this hunch like, “Well, this may be a niche product. This may be for a select audience. Maybe it’s just not going to have a big user base.” And then seeing that big success, you were like, “Wow. Okay, apparently a lot of people really like the idea of smart curtains.”

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. I definitely think the crowd has spoken, and they certainly appreciate the product. Gentlemen, this gets us into our launch round, where I rapid-fire a few questions at you. Either one or both of you guys can answer. You good to go and get started?

Kaj Beetstra:

Yeah.

Thijs Olthof:

Sure.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. What inspired you both to be entrepreneurs?

Kaj Beetstra:

Before I started with Slide, I had a small company myself. I had a delivery company for doing food, and I delivered it to hubs in the city where people could pick it up. For example, child care – kindergarten, so if people come and pick up their kid, they can also pick up their groceries. But this doesn’t really sit – my heart’s actually more in gadgets, technology. Smart home is something that I really love, so I really like the change of mindset for me to do and develop Slide.

Thijs Olthof:

Do you want me to answer the question as well?

Roy Morejon:

Sure.

Thijs Olthof:

I worked as an independent business developer before this, and seeing so many small organizations start up and grow – and some of them fail, frankly – that really inspired me to want to do the same with my own organization. I just didn’t know what that was going to be, but now we have that with this startup, which is very exciting. Just being able to build something out of nothing and then, step by step, seeing progress, I think that’s really cool.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. If you guys could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Kaj Beetstra:

The first thing that’s come to mind is Elon Musk, but he’s kind of a popular star, of course. I always had also a big appreciation for Bill Gates, as he started this huge firm from just the basics and he’s doing also so much for charity. I think he gives half away for charity. He’s a big inspiration.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. Go ahead.

Thijs Olthof:

I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk. I like the DailyVee blogs that he does, and what I like about Gary Vee’s mentality is that it’s about working hard, and he kind of brings down the entrepreneurship fairy tale from, “Oh, it’s one big roller-coaster ride of excitement,” to, “It’s just a lot of hard work,” which I think we see in this campaign very much. Being an entrepreneur is working them out, not just for the first year, but continuously. That’s something you have to be willing to do, but he’s very inspiring in emphasizing how important hard work is if you want to be a successful entrepreneur.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. It’s all about the hustle with Gary Vee. Other than Slide, what is your favorite smart-home project in your home?

Kaj Beetstra:

I first started with an open-source project on my Raspberry Pi, which I really like because you can do a lot of things with a Raspberry Pi and [inaudible 00:18:14]. I bought the most cheapest thing I could trigger – it was a socket – and I tried to make it work. In a few hours, I got it to work, which was a first accomplishment. I like the idea of working on such things to make things work together. I really like that. [inaudible 00:18:38] is a very good example of it, because it’s an open-source platform which you can install on your Raspberry or in a computer or whatever. That’s really nice.

Thijs Olthof:

For me, I have a German smart thermostat – Tado it’s called – and it works with an idea that we also kept in the back of our minds for Slide, which is that you’ll install the smart thermostat, then you preset what temperatures you’d like to see at what point of the day, and then, using geo-fencing, it turns off heating when you leave the house. You don’t need to trigger it. It just works. That principle of it’s best if you don’t need to engage with the gadget, but it does the work for you once you set it up, that’s really something I think is very cool. It’s the future of smart home, moreso than being constantly controlling every little smart device in your home.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. I’ve just got a few Nest devices for my home. I’m excited to install them over the winter break. What business book, or what book in general, would each of you recommend to our listeners?

Kaj Beetstra:

I really got inspired by [inaudible 00:19:45]. It’s a bit cheesy because I think everybody’s read it, but I think it’s really nice to see where your company can get if you provide them a [inaudible 00:19:54] decision. Be flexible, but go forward. It’s nice.

Thijs Olthof:

For me, it’s Zero to One with Peter Thiel – the man behind PayPal, obviously – who very much gives you a good understanding of how to build a startup – how to go about funding, but also how to go about strategy and define what’s your core business and how do you move from that core business and expand. I think it’s a very pragmatic book as well.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Those are actually two of my favorites that I recommend to a lot of startups and founders. Last question in the launch fire round: what does the future of crowdfunding look like to you both?

Kaj Beetstra:

I think, actually, to me what’s nice about crowdfunding is it’s not specified to a certain thing. You can have crowdfunding for theater, for art, for a community, for a demonstration, for technology. Crowdfunding has a lot of opportunities in the future where our world is much more consumer-driven, so we have also more power, so to say. The crowd is actually taking control over what’s going to happen next in the world, so I think it has a lot of potential, and it will be bigger and bigger. That’s my thought.

Thijs Olthof:

To add to that, obviously being a creator and being a backer, I’m very curious to see – because on the one hand there’s a lot of pressure, especially with Kickstarter campaigns, about fulfillment and, “Will you be able to deliver?” I think that’s a valid discussion to have. At the same time, I also would like to see more crowdfunding happening, also with bigger companies and bigger activities, bigger events – as Kaj was saying, as a means to validate consumer preferences, especially where a startup is a very agile way to determine what’s next for the product and for your company. I’d like to see more successful campaigns, especially, I think, because I see a lot of good ideas that don’t get funded because they didn’t have the right video or – something is off but the core idea is good. In execution I think is [inaudible 00:22:13].

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Thijs, Kaj, you guys have been great. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should go buy a Slide.

Thijs Olthof:

We’re Thijs and Kaj, and we’re the co-founders of Innovation in Motion, the startup behind Slide. Slide’s the world’s first retrofit smart curtain system, and it’s not just about automating the movement of opening or closing your curtains, but it’s about adding new functionality to curtains that you didn’t have before, including waking up to natural sunlight, adding protection from burglars by closing your curtains when you’re not at home, saving energy by closing your curtains when you’re not at home, and seeing integration with the smart home. We’ve developed Slide to be retrofit, which means that it works on existing curtains, horizontal curtains. We’re very excited. We’re funded on Kickstarter now, more than two weeks to go, and if you’re interested then definitely check us out at Kickstarter – Slide Smart Curtain – or at www.goslide.io. Thanks.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome, guys. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, the full transcript, links to everything we talked about today, and of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Thijs and Kaj, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kaj Beetstra:

Thank you.

Thijs Olthof:

Thanks. Cheers.

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 artkick.wpengine.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes in our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It. If you’ve 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 feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.