On this week’s episode of our Meet the Experts series, we’re talking with Jeremy Losaw, director of engineering at Enventys Partners. Tune in to learn more about what to expect when working with a product development firm to build a product and launch it on Kickstarter or Indiegogo!

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What product engineering is and how it relates to crowdfunding
  • Why all good crowdfunding campaigns start with a great idea
  • How developing a product for a crowdfunding campaign may be a bit different than a more traditional approach to product development
  • How long it takes to develop a new product for a crowdfunding campaign
  • What post-crowdfunding campaign product development looks like
  • How to pick a product development firm
  • How crowdfunders can help their product development team build the best possible product

Links

Sponsors

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. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!

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 Enventys Partners, the top full-service turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over $100 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 you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:
Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and the Gadget Flow. 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. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. We’re back today with another episode of the Meet our Team series. Today, we’re going to be talking to Jeremy Losaw, director of engineering here at Enventys Partners. Jeremy, welcome to Art of the Kickstart. Glad to have you here today.

Jeremy Losaw:
Thanks Roy, glad to be here.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s talk today about product development and engineering for crowdfunding campaigns, specifically. To begin with, give us and our audience a little bit of background, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do here at Enventys Partners.

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, sure. Like you’ve mentioned, I’m the director of engineering here at Enventys Partners. What that means is, I get to guide our inventors through all the way from an idea sketch through production. So helping you build the prototypes, working through the CAD, doing all the hard, deep work it takes to get the products to market.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s start for our audience, by defining what product development and engineering are. Give our audience, I guess, a brief explanation of exactly what this is, and how it relates to crowdfunding.

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, so product engineering is really the process of making ideas real. It involves, especially in the early stages, a lot of prototyping. Typically, we’re not quite sure every single feature of what the product is going to have, and so we need to really get down to the weeds of running tests, figuring out materials, figuring out linkages, levers, the electronics we’re going to need to get the desired functionality out of the product. And then, as the process evolves, steadily refining and refining, until we have a product that we’re really comfortable shopping around to manufacturers, and get it mass produced.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, what does the engineering process at Enventys Partners look like?

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, so I think one thing that’s really interesting about our processes that it’s really collaborative. We work with, really closely on the engineering side, with the industrial designers and that’s really purposeful. In the early stages, it’s really important for the industrial designers to understand what tech needs to go into the product and so that’s where we really add a lot of value, in the early stages on the engineering side. Then, as the product evolves, we are constantly in tune with that team, in making sure that as we evolve the product technically, that it maintains the same design criteria that that team … the goals for the industrial design team had at the beginning.

Jeremy Losaw:
So it really starts out with a napkin sketch, and working through initial prototypes and then, again, creating a lot of extra prototypes until they get down to the weeds of CAD and mowing through it that way.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. So, if someone wants to design and build a product to launch on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where does that process begin?

Jeremy Losaw:
Really it starts with a great idea, right? I mean, it has to. Without that, without a market need, without a great idea, we can only hope so much. From there, again, it’s really trying to understand our market, and building those initial what we call functional concept models or functional prototypes. These prototypes are often too big, too ugly, too heavy, it might be something where you might have an Arduino strapped onto your wrist if you’re working on a wearable product, for example and that’s where these things really start.

Roy Morejon:
So, is building a product for a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign different than building a product to launch through more traditional channels or methods?

Jeremy Losaw:
It can be. Obviously, Kickstarter or Indiegogo have a specific demographic. So, sometimes knowing that upfront, that may drive some design decisions, for sure. However, it doesn’t have to be. I think with Kickstarter or Indiegogo, the focus is getting that initial prototype together and creating this sort of Goldilocks prototype. What I mean by that is doing just enough without overdoing it. To go to Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you don’t necessarily need fully moldable CAD files but what you do need is a beautiful prototype that functions in the way that the product is intended.

Jeremy Losaw:
So maybe if we are not doing Indiegogo or Kickstarter, maybe we take a little extra time in the early stages and be a little more diligent throughout, whereas in a crowdfunding campaign product, we might save some of that work until we know the product has a viable market, and that we for sure are going to go to mass manufacturing.

Roy Morejon:
Got it. So, how long should a crowdfunding project creator or any inventor honestly expect to spend building the product before they launch?

Jeremy Losaw:
That’s interesting. I mean, our typical engagement with people that are going to crowdfunding is about four to six months, depending on the complexity of the project but it’s one of these things where the longer you have with the prototypes, with the product, the longer you work on it, I think the better, to a certain degree, the better it’s going to be, right? So, I talked to a lot of inventors through my work here at Enventys Partners, and also as a writer for Inventors Digest Magazine. Often, some of the products that look like breakout stars that came out of nowhere have been in development for three, four, five years. So, yeah, it can be a long process but I think for us, when we have an inventor who already has some prototypes behind them, and an obvious need and some design criteria, we can help them within less than half a year to get to their campaign.

Roy Morejon:
So speaking about what happens after the campaign is over, what does it typically look like for product development once the campaign’s over, and hopefully, the creator starts to ship the rewards?

Jeremy Losaw:
Hopefully, we’ve all celebrated with a nice beverage for a job well done on a great campaign but yeah after that, it’s still a lot of hard work. There’s a lot of detail engineering that goes into the products after the crowdfunding campaign. Like I said, for us, we’ve maybe not paid attention to every single tiny detail that we would need before engaging a [inaudible 00:07:22] or a manufacturer and so that’s where we really start to get into this. So there’s hours and hours of CAD, more iterative prototypes, lots of 3D printed parts, maybe even looking into tooling, what we call soft tooling, which would be like making tools out of aluminum instead of steel that are lower cost but maybe to get an idea of how the products are really going to, and the pieces are going to act when they get into mass manufacturing. Yeah, it can be another … maybe up to six months after that campaign before we’re ready to really hand off the files and the prototypes to the manufacturer.

Roy Morejon:
Got it. So if a project creator is looking to work with a product development company, what should they consider when vetting different firms?

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, I think that there’s a couple of different things that I outlined here and it’s the people, the pedigree and the capabilities. I mean, you need to like the people you’re going to work with, entrepreneurship and product development is hard enough in and of itself but it’s awful if you don’t like the people who are helping you to bring the product to life. So definitely talking to the engineers, the designers and the product managers that are going to be intimately associated with your product is absolutely paramount and making sure that you like to work with them, that your visions are aligned and also that they have the capabilities that you need. If your project is heavily electrical and they don’t have electrical staff, that’s going to be a red flag. You need to match your product requirements with their capabilities and make sure they’ve done stuff in the past that is in the same category at least as what you’re trying to do.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what can project creators do to help the product development team produce the best possible product?

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me that helps us is for inventors to have a really concise and clear design brief and what that means is just all the criteria. So if it could be as broad as a general product description, but the more detailed it is, the better, down to the size of the batteries, how long it needs to last, what the life cycle is, what the target price point is, what you feel like the cost of goods needs to be, the more depth of detail you can provide there, the easier it’s going to be for us to help you execute on that vision. At the end of the day, we’re service providers and we’re your best friend, we’re the inventor’s best friend and so to help us maximize what we can do to help you, having a clear vision is really important.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So what else should crowdfunding creators or inventors, know about product development?

Jeremy Losaw:
Yeah, it’s a great question. Product development is not like going into a restaurant and asking for a hamburger, something that’s been done a bunch of times that you can just add your special toppings to and be done, it’s really the process of creation and it can be time consuming, frustrating, but also miraculous, interesting, serendipitous and all the great things that go with that but just to understand that the team sometimes … it’s new territory, it’s things that … There’s going to be some frustration baked into that when you’re trying to build something that’s never been done before.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. All right, Jeremy, you survived, you’ve made it to the launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. Good to go?

Jeremy Losaw:
I think we’re ready.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s do this. So if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Jeremy Losaw:
Gary Clegg, the inventor of the Snuggie.

Roy Morejon:
Snuggie, that’s a first.

Jeremy Losaw:
I’m kidding, actually it would be … I had to think about this one really hard. I think I would go with a man named Yoshio Tamiya, who was the founder of the Tamiya Model Corporation.

Roy Morejon:
Interesting, so what would be your first question?

Jeremy Losaw:
So Tamiya’s been around for such a long time, I think I would want to know how he adapted his business so successfully over the course of 50 years to keep relevant product coming through his pipeline.

Roy Morejon:
Interesting. So who did you look up to growing up as a kid?

Jeremy Losaw:
Oh boy, it’s kind of embarrassing but I was always into racing when I was young, so race car drivers were definitely first and foremost. The Michael Schumachers, the Dale Earnhardts of the world.

Roy Morejon:
There you go. So what’s your favorite invention of all time?

Jeremy Losaw:
The fanny pack?

Roy Morejon:
Solid choice. Any books that you’d recommend to our listeners?