In March we published a case study we had written on the Nebia shower. This week, we had a chance to catch up with the team and hear their story behind the project!

Philip Winter of Nebia spoke with us this week to give us insight into building a prototype, working with Y Combinator and raising more than $3 million on Kickstarter. Tune in for his top tips for building a great product and managing a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Nebia Shower – Better experience, 70% less water

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Why you need feedback from others as you’re building a product
  • How to get the best feedback about your prototype
  • What it is like to work with Y Combinator
  • How press hits make a difference
  • How to prepare for overfunding on a Kickstarter campaign
  • Why you should be prepared to learn as you go

Links

Connect with Nebia

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 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 interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert, in order to help take your start up 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’m honored to be joined by Philip Winter, with the Nebia Shower. Philip, thanks for joining us.

Philip Winter:

Great to be here, thanks so much Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Philip, you launched a campaign, and absolutely crush it. You raised over three million dollars last year. Tell us about the product.

Philip Winter:

We launched on Kickstarter in August of 2015. Our company is called Nebia, and we built a totally new shower system, based on a better experience, and a beautiful design. It saves seventy percent of water. What we do is atomize water into millions of tiny droplets. It creates like halfway between a steam shower, and a regular shower. It increases the surface area of water by ten times, so you get this really enveloping, and immersive experience when you walk into it. It’s just as effective as a regular shower.

Roy Morejon:

People say that the best ideas come from in the shower, so how did this product start? What’s the back story?

Philip Winter:

Logically, it came in the shower. No, no. One of my co-founders Carlos use to run a large chain of gyms, in Mexico City. They had about twenty thousand people a day showering. Mexico City is the third largest city in the world, it’s twenty million people, and it’s eight thousand feet above sea level. You can imagine what it takes to pump a lot of water up there, and it was one of his biggest concerns, and one of his highest costs. Together with his dad who was a retired engineer, and lifelong tinkerer, he’s eighty-four at the time. He’s now eighty-nine. They built the first few prototypes, got some good feedback. That’s how the early prototypes of Nebia were birthed. I met them around that time, and they showed me what they were working on. Invited me to their house for a shower, and I loved it, and it sort of took on a life of it’s own from there.

About a year and a half ago, we decided to move to San Francisco, base the company here, and really try to build a product, and a company that’s centered on a much better shower experience. Not necessarily the fact that it’s low flow, or uses less water, we’re just trying to make it better in every sense. We really try to hone in on the experience, because that’s sort of what most of people care about in the shower. We put a lot of thought into the engineering, and the design. It slides up and down about twenty-seven inches without any buttons and additional features like that. The big picture, long term goal is, can we change how everybody interacts with water in their daily lives? Starting with a shower. This belief that you don’t have to compromise necessarily, to be more sustainable.

Roy Morejon:

That’s impressive. Obviously you guys have done a ton of prep work, what did that look like leading up to the campaign?

Philip Winter:

The Kickstarter campaign was on our radar for about a year and a half before we launched. We were actually going to do it nine or ten months before and, but we met our first investors prior to having raised any investment. We said, “First we’ll raise some money, then we’ll start our Kickstarter campaign.” It ended up being the right strategy, because we had a lot of engineering work still to figure out, and build up some early buzz, and get more trials. By the time we had launched on Kickstarter, we had probably over three hundred people take a shower with Nebia. Which is not an insignificant amount of people to get naked in a shower. We had done pilots at Google, at Apple, multiple pilots at Google and Stanford, and [inaudible 00:04:13] also. We had a really good sense of what people think of the product, even though we were still in a prototype stage.

Then we got into Y Combinator, we started Y Combinator in June, and we had a game plan at that point, of four months to launch Kickstarter. Much to the Y Combinator partners pushing, we condensed that time line to one and a half months. We worked as hard as any of us have ever worked in our lives. Had to get a working prototype, had to get a prototype that looks like the final thing. Obviously a video to build up buzz, and relationships with the press, and all of that. It was a really intense period. We had an immense sense of purpose, and focus, but when we launched we were totally blown away by the reception. Within twenty four hours we reached eight hundred thousand dollars, almost a million dollars. There was coverage in the front page of the French Press, and all over the world. It really caught us by surprise.

Roy Morejon:

It’s quite impressive, in terms of your launch, and hitting funding goals significantly faster than any others that we had seen, with that. Let’s jump back a little bit, into the showers at Google and Apple, how did that happen?

Philip Winter:

Well, just sort of networking and hustling. Talking to people, getting introductions, we found our way to focus and work with those companies, and open up the doors. When we moved here we had our MVP prototype, and I knew three people. This was in August of 2014. Through that I would just basically take coffee meetings with whoever would talk to me about their shower. One in ten led anywhere, but that one made all the difference. Within six weeks we had our first pilot, and that’s when the flood gates really started to open. Once you had a little bit of momentum, you sort of leveraged that to get the next pilot, and get the next pilot. Google and Apple in particular were very receptive, because they have, at least from a facilities management standpoint, they have really clear initiatives for milestones they try to hit each year. Reducing energy and water consumption. I might say it was easy to pique their interest, once we talked to the right person.

Roy Morejon:

That’s impressive. I was just at Collision Conference, and everyone’s talking about warm leads. Obviously the way to get into significant companies, potentially can be through friends of friends, or networks of investments. That’s great you guys were able to get into those places. How critical do you think that feedback was, for the overall success of your campaign?

Philip Winter:

It was so important. More so than for our campaign, just to build a product that was worthwhile, and that we knew people were really excited about. Early on we were using half as much water as we’re using now, so we were using eighty-five percent less than a regular shower. There was a group of people who just loved it, and they would come out of the locker room, and we would be standing there with a table waiting to fill out a survey. They would come out with smile ear to ear, and just talk about how excited they are, and they already told their wife, and the wife comes back the next day. Then the next person comes and says they don’t like it at all. I go, “What are the reasons why?” You’re like, “Didn’t you just hear that person? They loved it, how can you not like it?”

Asking those probing questions, “What was it about it?” You learn it sometimes is as much about the prototype, or about the experience, about the presentation. Not everybody’s familiar with that a prototype looks like. Then how important it is to prime the user, in our case it was really important to tell them, “This is something that saves a lot of water, and here’s the way it does it.” Or startup and, “Here’s the technology that we’re using, and here’s the innovation.” That primes people to like it, and not just go into it with a closed mind. There was as much learning in those pilots, around what to do to improve the product, and there was a lot as there was in learning how to talk about it. I think that was very important for when we drafted the campaign, and when we started thinking about how the communication was going to work in the emails, and things like that.

Roy Morejon:

One of the factors that we always want our campaigners to do, is make sure that they are getting that pre-campaign feedback, well before they launch the campaign. To obviously engage the community that’s out there, but also see if there’s significant things that they might be overlooking, in terms of factors of the function itself, in the product that they’re creating. You mentioned that Y Combinator cracked the whip on you guys, what was your overall experience with them? Would you recommend it to other potential startups?

Philip Winter:

Yeah, I absolutely would. We were obviously familiar with Y Combinator, and had watched all of their how to start a startup classes, which were really good. I believed in this philosophy that they had around, just focus on early customers, a small group, and build a great product and grow it out from there. When we applied we were fortunate enough to get an interview, and in our interview, it’s a ten minute interview, they stood up and took a shower during the interview. That was really cool to see that they got their hands really involved. We were a little bit skeptical because we don’t have any software, or electronics at this point. That’s sort of more the bread and butter of what Y C is about. It ended up being one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, the impact that they had on instilling a sense of focus at a really early stage, and how you can achieve so much when you have a very clear sense of purpose, and focus. When you get into Y C, you have to come up with a goal for the end of the three months, and ours was to launch our campaign two weeks before it ended.

They were very clear what we were chasing after. It ended up being immensely helpful. One, from a company culture building perspective, in terms of understanding some of those softer sides. Just setting up a structure of, “Hey, very clear goal of what we’re doing, and we’ve got to go after it.” We also got a lot of feedback from Y C, fellow batch mates, and partners who would let us go to their houses and install them, and give us feedback on their experiences with Nebia, for a few days in their house.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Feedback, number one, number one. We kind of backtracked and looked a little bit at what you guys did, in terms of the campaign. We saw that you guys got some great traction on Reddit, did you see a lot of conversions come from that?

Philip Winter:

We did. I think that the sources that drove the most were Uncrate, and there was an article in New York Times, there was an article on Wired, there was an article on Entrepreneur dot com. It was crazy, because it spread very quickly. You mentioned Reddit, also on Hacker News, and just a lot of sharing on Facebook. It sort of came from all those channels.

Roy Morejon:

Uncrate is always one of those channels, that people wan to buy immediately from that channel, so it’s always a beautiful thing when you get in their newsletter. One of the challenges that we’ve seen with many campaigns,that have over funded, can be challenges that they had no idea that they were going to be facing. How are you guys overcoming some of those challenges that might have come from you guys over funding the campaign?

Philip Winter:

In our case, I wouldn’t say the challenges came from over funding, because that actually helped us. We had more or less scenarios planned for different sizes of unit volumes, so this is one of the ones that we had planned for. We pre-sold about ten thousand units on Kickstarter, so that’s what we’re in the process of building right now. I think the bigger challenge was not knowing clearly, all the steps that were ahead. I think this is the case for all Kickstarter companies, and that’s what makes Kickstarter what it is. That you’re sort of stepping into the unknown. Companies that have launched and shipped products before, usually don’t do Kickstarter campaigns. They have sort of their own channels. I think that there could be probably more clear communication around here, things switch back after you have a campaign. Some of those things you just got to learn along the way.

Roy Morejon:

Learn as you go, right? Those are some of the challenges that every campaign encounters, especially on the product side. Philip, now this gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you, you ready to go?

Philip Winter:

Ready to go.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Philip Winter:

I was working in Mexico at the time, at a non-profit called Endeavor, which does economic development work, by helping entrepreneurs scale their companies. I really didn’t have any interest in entrepreneurship per se, when I got into that line of work. I wanted to work in the developing world, and help promote growth in countries that really need it. I got sort of thrust into this entrepreneurship world, and spent a lot of time hanging out with founders. Learning about their companies, learning about what they’re doing, about what their day to day life is like, about the challenges they have, the things they learn. I got just totally immersed in it, and bit by a bug. Saying, “Hey, I want to do something on my own, and create it.” There’s this deep intrinsic satisfaction and value in you. Something doesn’t exist in the world, but you, along with a group of people imagine it in your mind, and sketch it out, and then start to create it in progressive forms. From prototype to final product. That just was super interesting to me. I was lucky enough to find this opportunity, and then jump on it.

Roy Morejon:

If you could offer a Nebia Shower to any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you offer it to?

Philip Winter:

Good question. I think I would offer it to Yvon Chouinard, who is the founder of Patagonia the outdoor apparel and clothing company. He’s one of my biggest role models, as an entrepreneur. Somebody who started a company in an area that he was really passionate about, which is outdoors. It was a really philosophically, and world view driven company, and it remains that way forty years later. He had a very clear sense of, he wants to make his company so that he can continue to do the things that he loves to do, and wants to attract people who love the outdoors, because they’re going to build better products that way. The business they build, the quality of their products, and I’m sure they stayed with their mission, even at this point when they’re a six or seven hundred million dollar company, that is really cool. I think the culture that they’ve built. We give a copy of “Let my People Go Surfing”, which is the title of his book, to all of our employees on their first day.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome, he’s been mentioned a few times on our podcast before. If there were any other business books, or life books that you’d recommend outside of his to our listeners, what would they be?

Philip Winter:

The first would be, “Let my People Go Surfing.” The second it would be, I’m reading, “Creativity Inc”, right now. I’m really enjoying that book. It sort of is a shift into more of a process oriented organization, and less of a hurry up and get whatever is most pressing done. That’s providing a lot of guidance into, “Here are the things you need to think about.” Identify, in order to keep a creative, and iterative culture, while still needing to build processes. Today that’s one of the biggest challenges, is scaling from a small, you’ve just got to get whatever is most urgent done, to very clear milestones and processes, without straying too far from the driving principle of what a startup us. Which is agile, and quick, and nimble.

Roy Morejon:

Creativity Inc. is one of my favorite books that I’ve written, or read. I wish I’d wrote it. Definitely a quality read for everyone out there. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Philip Winter:

Hopefully still running Nebia, and at a point where we have really started to make an impact. Maybe not everybody’s showering with Nebia, but everybody showering either with a technology similar to Nebia, and it is known as de facto. We really think it’s wild that you could shower with twenty or twenty five gallons everyday, where you could be using just six or seven gallons a day, and could be getting as good, or a better experience. When you really start to multiply that out, by the number of people who bathe everyday in this country, and in the rest of the world, the impact there is on a really, really large scale. Hopefully our example will inspire other folks to look at water and say, “This is the most precious resource we’ve got, and it’s becoming ever scarcer.” We’ve got to really do something here, to be more innovative with it.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, you guys are definitely doing it, for the good. Last question on the fire round, what does the future of crowdfunding look to you?

Philip Winter:

Oh man, I think it’s tough to say. I get the sense that more and more companies are launching through crowdfunding campaigns, just de factos, along with consideration. More and more of them are doing it on their self hosted platforms. I think in order to do that successfully, you have to really know what you’re doing, in terms of drawing traffic. In our case, a third of the traffic came from Kickstarter. I think a lot of the interest was in this fact that it was a public campaign, so success breeds success, right? The fact that we hit a million dollars, was another story for folks to tag onto, and feel like they were a part of this massive momentum. I think there’s going to be a difference between crowdfunding, and pre-orders, because they are fundamentally different things. When you pre-order you don’t really know that you’re a part of something. When you support a crowdfund campaign, you feel like you’re a part of this collective movement, and that has more power to it. On the other hand there’s tremendous advantages of doing it on your own website as well, so I think there’s going to be very clear bifurcation between the Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or open crowdfunding campaigns, and people who do it on their own website. We’ve already seen it with companies like Lily and some other ones.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, traffic generation is a key component. Obviously Kickstarter, the platform can certainly help leverage campaign once they’re up there, and then as you mentioned, success breeds success. Well said. Philip that brings us to the end of the interview, please tell our listeners about Nebia, where you are at, where people should go, and why they should go buy one.

Philip Winter:

You guys should all check out Nebia dot com, N-E-B-I-A dot com. You can watch our video there, learn a little more about the product. We’re based in San Francisco, if any of guys are interested please email us, support at Nebia dot com, or Tweet at us, or message us on Facebook. We love when people come by the office, and take a shower, so we’d love to have you do that and get feedback. Then share it with folks. You can expect to see it at the end of this year, shipping to our backers, and then to the folks after that.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome, Philip it’s been a pleasure. As a backer of the Nebia Shower myself, I’m truly looking forward to it. Folks, you heard it here, Philip is giving out free showers in San Francisco, so go hit him up, and check out his spot. Philip I appreciate you joining us on the podcast, everyone thank you for tuning in. Make sure to check out Art of the Kickstart dot com, for all the show notes, and links to everything that we talked about, as well as a full transcript. Philip, thanks for joining us.

Philip Winter:

Thank you Roy, take care.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art of the Kickstart, a show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit Art of the Kickstart dot com, and share it with your friends. If you need a more hands on, crowdfunding marketing strategy, please visit our website at Command partners dot com, and request a quote. Thanks for tuning in, catch you next time.

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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.