In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we speak to Josh Yank of Yank Technologies, creator of the MotherBox wireless charger. Learn more about the process of creating a new tech product, his advice for launching on Indiegogo and much more.

The MotherBox – TRUE Wireless Charging

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to determine what features to include in a new tech product
  • How to handle a communication bottleneck within your team
  • How to decide if crowdfunding is the best way to launch your product
  • How to prepare for a crowdfunding campaign
  • How a crowdfunding project can help you make deals with other businesses
  • How press coverage can impact your campaign
  • What to expect when you launch a crowdfunding project

Links

Connect with MotherBox

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:

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 buyers’ 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 Josh Yank with The MotherBox. Josh, thank you so much for joining us.

Josh Yank:

Thank you very much for having me.

Roy Morejon:

Josh, you are a self-taught electrical and software engineer, and you’ve launched this product that is truly wireless charging. Please tell our audience all about The MotherBox.

Josh Yank:

Yeah. I also work with a very fantastic team, really capable of doing this. We developed the first product that really wirelessly charges your device. There’s no contact required. It’s truly wireless. You can just move your devices within the proximity of the product and it charges.

We view technology today as a really sexy Ferrari that’s really low on gas. It’s beautiful and amazing but really limited to its true potential, what it really could be. There’s a very big bottleneck between the demand in which we want to use our content and our ability to use it. That’s why we really started on this, and that’s why we’re really passionate about it. We just really look forward to showing people what we’ve been working on.

Roy Morejon:

What’s the back story here? How did it all get started?

Josh Yank:

Oh, man. We got started when I was getting my MBA upstate at Binghamton University. That’s the inception of the company. It really just started with that problem that we’re really passionate about, and over time it really developed into this product. It didn’t really start out as wireless charging. That was a little bit over three years ago. We’ve been developing this for a pretty long time.

We’re in a Columbia University startup lab in New York City now. Ever since we moved to the New York City area, about a year ago, things have been really picking up very nicely. We got a bunch of new team members. Yeah, we’re just really, really excited to show people.

Roy Morejon:

When you guys were creating MotherBox, or in its infancy, what did the overall process look like? How did you guys go about deciding what features to include with the designs and the functionality side of things?

Josh Yank:

It’s definitely not set in stone. We’re definitely still learning. In terms of size and feel for what kind of charging range and speed people might be interested in, because the technology is scalable, it’s really a balancing act. It’s not an if you could do it but simply a matter of how you want to. It’s kind of like the first 3-D inductive charging pad. We did a lot of surveys, a lot of focus groups to really figure what’s more appropriate.

We actually started out with a middle size between The MotherBox and the mini, but people thought it was way too big to carry around, but a lot of people also felt it could be a little bit bigger if you could give it a further charging range for something like the countertop of your desk or by the counter by your bed. We decided to actually run two product lines really because of that. That was actually really, really important feedback for us.

Roy Morejon:

What was the biggest challenge thus far that you guys have encountered while designing the product

Josh Yank:

Oh, man, I mean, there’s definitely been a lot of challenges. Really, when I started the company, really the biggest challenge was one I didn’t realize at the time. I guess you could really break it down into two things. The first thing was that I originally hired a team. I was a student getting my MBA, and I was working at the school. I hired a bunch of electrical engineers, and I assumed I could do the business stuff and they could do the engineering stuff, and it went horribly wrong.

There were months where I didn’t realize how unproductive we were being just because I couldn’t communicate tasks properly. That’s when I really decided to start buckling down in learning more about our systems just to be able to execute it and communicate things effectively to other team members. Over the course of several years and asking a lot of people the right questions, and talking to a lot of people, and reading a lot of books, I accumulated personally a great deal of knowledge in this space. It was really more about a communication bottleneck that was a really big issue for us. That was a really big challenge.

The second largest challenge was really being in a location where they didn’t actually teach the skills necessary to work on our systems, so probably not the best place to start a business for radio frequency engineering and design, where they don’t teach those skills anywhere nearby. What we realized was if you can’t be in a location where those resources are, you need to go where those resources are located. That’s when I started branching out beyond the upstate New York area, specifically the Binghamton area I was in, and started reaching out to people in places that did have these kinds of specializations.

Roy Morejon:

That’s impressive. Let’s jump into the crowdfunding side of things. The campaign’s currently active on Indiegogo, currently at around 140,000. Over 1,300 backers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their product. Let’s talk about how long you guys spent in terms of preparing for your crowdfunding campaign and what ultimately led you to decide that crowdfunding was the right way to launch your product.

Josh Yank:

Yeah, because honestly, we were going back and forth between B2B and focusing on directly a business model straight for businesses instead of doing a consumer product, for a pretty long time actually. We met with many of the largest smart phone manufacturers in the world to talk about integrating our technology into their systems. It sounds great. It was really cool. I went to California and met with a lot of cool people. But what I realized was unfortunately the ball’s really in their court in terms of time and decision-making. We were doing a lot of work that we weren’t getting paid for.

We had to really make a big decision whether or not we decide to continue going that route or put the ball in our court, so to speak, and control our own destiny. We decided to work on our own consumer product to be able to illustrate our technology and really as a major steppingstone to really show people what we’ve been working on. Really, preparing for that crowdfunding process was a very big learning curve, and really what we had to realize was, “Okay, what are we good at and what are we not?”

We’re a really strong electrical engineering team. That’s our core competency, but we don’t really know much about the crowdfunding environment. We don’t know much about, for instance, press, so we had to partner with a company, Command Partners, in which we could at least have that kind of expertise on our team. That was very important, to really realize what we’re not as great at.

It was just a lot of preparation from the video, because the video’s such a big driver in terms of marketing content. You want to make sure you really get that right. We hired a production company to make a very more polished video than our current company video at the time. It was really analyzing honestly what we’re really good at and what we’re not so great at and trying to help those areas that we’re not so great at by partnering with companies that are.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, no. It’s been a great process having you on board as a client of our agency. You mentioned that we’ve gotten you guys a ton of press, everything from Yahoo! to Digital Trends to Virgin Mashable. How do you think that’s affected your overall campaign and potential growth of your company post-crowdfunding?

Josh Yank:

Yeah. It’s helped a great deal. Without even taking the campaign into consideration, a very large consumer electronic manufacturer, for instance, saw some of the press that was coming out, and we actually got a development deal, or agreement, excuse me, in principle with one of these manufacturers because of that, because they saw these articles that were coming out. Completely unrelated to the campaign but very beneficial to our company and to our growth, and really, what we were striving to do from the beginning. That’s just one example.

There’s honestly multiple other examples. Specifically relative to the campaign itself, I thought it was extremely helpful to really propel us in exposure because people don’t know about us at all. At least maybe now a few people do. Really, we didn’t get a lot of organic traffic. We’re not really, I would say, the common kind of campaign launch. It’s usually, from what I hear, kind of like a parabola. You get your most initial traffic in your beginning and your end.

Our campaign hasn’t quite been like that because we didn’t really have really that organic network in set that maybe a lot of other companies have the benefit of having, because maybe they know more people or they can accumulate more resources to those areas. The press was extraordinarily helpful of getting out our message.

Roy Morejon:

That’s great. Tell us a little bit about your experience with your backers so far, given that you’ve got over a thousand of them. Have you gotten much feedback? How are you managing that and then potentially utilizing some of their feedback into stretch goals or new product features?

Josh Yank:

Yeah. I definitely hear a lot of cool and interesting ideas. I think it’s really important to not only listen to the feedback but also know what your ability is to execute it. To give you an example, there’s been many, many great ideas, for instance, if we could wirelessly charge not only smart phones and tablets but other kinds of products for initial roll-out. That’s something we definitely want to do. It’s a great idea by multiple backers who have been hearing this, but I think we still got to keep a little bit focus on minimizing our skews, in the sense that we don’t want to overreach for our first product too much.

Another fantastic idea was the ability to control, for instance, the LEDs on the product so people could customize and individualize the product experience for them. That was a great idea that’s something that we could execute right now. It’s not just ideas, I guess, that we’re getting in terms of what we could do in the future but also what we could do now as well. It’s been pretty cool talking to a bunch of people from all different countries. It’s pretty crazy. Yesterday I was talking to someone from Brazil, and then there’s Israel, and then there’s Australia. It’s pretty wild honestly.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, man. That’s the beauty of crowdfunding, right? It’s a global phenomenon that you’re getting questions asked on things you hadn’t even thought of before, right?

Josh Yank:

Yeah. That’s the greatest thing. You can only learn so much when you’re doing surveys and focus groups. When you’re talking to your core customers and you have the capability to survey them, for instance, the information is so much more valuable to making a better experience at that point. It’s no longer just really estimations or conjecture. This is exactly what your customers are telling you they want.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. In the spirit of advice, what would you give to someone else looking to crowdfund their tech product?

Josh Yank:

I guess the biggest piece of advice is don’t really assume that even if you have a great product or you have a great service that you could just put it up on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and that people would love it and they’re just going to buy it. A lot of people buy into that fallacy, and it’s very unfortunate because a lot of great products and services, for instance, they fail in the sense they don’t reach their goal, but not because they’re not great but because they didn’t prepare for it.

Us personally, you could make a pretty good argument we’ve been preparing this for nine months maybe, so a pretty long time. I would prepare early, prepare often, and I would really look over internally what’s your core competencies, and if there’s an area you’re not so great at, that’s okay. You could partner with a company or person that does have that capability to help you solidify your team.

Roy Morejon:

Fortune favors the prepared, right, Josh?

Josh Yank:

Yeah, I guess so.

Roy Morejon:

All right, well, this gets us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Josh Yank:

Sure.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Josh Yank:

I mean, it was just really more about doing something that is a problem that I’m really passionate about. It really wasn’t something that I wanted to just start a company and just do things. It was really problem-focused. It’s not that I really aspire to be an entrepreneur, it’s just I guess I aspire to solve a problem. That’s kind of how we view things.

Roy Morejon:

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

Josh Yank:

I’m a big Elon Musk fan, I got to say, so I would very, very much like to meet him some day.

Roy Morejon:

What would be your first question to Elon?

Josh Yank:

Could we go to Mars together?

Roy Morejon:

There you go. Hitch a ride, baby. Are there any business books or life books that you’d recommend to our audience?

Josh Yank:

I’ll be totally frank. I haven’t read in a pretty long time, free read, so I don’t have any great recommendations off the top of my head.

Roy Morejon:

What’s your favorite website?

Josh Yank:

Right now? Indiegogo.

Roy Morejon:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Josh Yank:

Oh, man. I try not to look that far ahead. I see ourselves honestly as a major player in the wireless charging space. That’s really what we’re striving to be.

Roy Morejon:

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

Josh Yank:

I think it’s very bright. I think a lot of barriers are falling for an everyday person to be more involved, whether it’s in new product crowdfunding or equity crowdfunding, from a regulatory perspective and people are simply just knowing more about it. I think the potential’s pretty huge in terms of growth. It’s pretty exciting to see people all over the world that are working on really, really cool things and they just need a further validation and further runway to help deliver it effectively to people. I think it’s pretty cool.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Josh, thank you so much for being on the show. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should go buy a MotherBox.

Josh Yank:

Yeah, sure. If you’re sick of your phone dying all the time and you just want to be able to live with the world and the future without cables, that the issue is your phone’s dying at those places and the moments that really hurt you most, like you’re on an important business call then your phone dies, or you’re using mobile GPS before you head to an important meeting, and again, your phone dies. The MotherBox is the first wireless charging product that is capable of providing that power at that moment and place that you really need it most.

We’d really appreciate any support, feedback, and help you could give us. You could visit www.yanktechnologies.com for further information on The MotherBox and the technology we’re developing. There’s also plenty of links on there and references to our Indiegogo page, which has a lot more information about The MotherBox and really what we’re striving to build.

Roy Morejon:

Josh, you’ve been awesome. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all the show notes, a full transcript, links to everything we talked about today, including the campaign, and of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Josh, thank you so much for being on the show.

Josh Yank:

Thanks for having me, 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 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 feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.