This week on Art of the Kickstart we spoke with Andrew Jiang, the creator of The Superbook, a smart laptop shell that lets you turn your Android smartphone into a full laptop. Tune in to hear more about learning from a failed crowdfunding campaign and going on to earn more than a million dollars on Kickstarter.

The Superbook: Turn your smartphone into a laptop for $99

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Why preparing for a Kickstarter campaign before you launch is so important
  • How to learn from failed Kickstarter campaign
  • How to usefeedback from backers of a previously-failed campaign to make an even better product
  • How to communicate with your email list before launching on Kickstarter
  • How to fund on your first day on Kickstarter

Links

Connect with The Superbook

Sponsors

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Transcript

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Roy:

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’m joined by Andrew Jiang with the Superbook. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us.

Andrew:

Roy, thanks for having us.

Roy:

You guys are absolutely crushing it with this Superbook. Please give our audience the overall gist of what you guys are doing.

Andrew:

Yeah, yeah. The Superbook is a shell, it’s a laptop shell that transforms your Android smartphone into a complete laptop. We essentially use the power of your smartphone and then our hardware device to give you, essentially, a replacement for your laptop. Anything that you can do on a regular laptop you can do on the Superbook. It all costs $99.

Roy:

This is ridiculous technology but before we dive into this let’s take a trip back a couple of years ago when you guys first tried to launch the Andromeda dock. It only worked with a few different smartphones and basically had to hook it up with your own keyboard, monitor and mouse. You guys weren’t successful on that first go around. What were some of the things you learned when you first launched that campaign?

Andrew:

When we first launched that campaign in late 2014 it was really a, “Well, this is a cool technology. Let’s put it out there and see how the Kickstart community responds.” We got some reaction. I’ll be honest, I know we fell short by about $35,000 of our $100,000 goal. We didn’t do any preparation. This time, having learned the experience from the last failure, we did a lot of work. We started it 3-4 months before the campaign, put a lot of effort into it and it paid off.

Roy:

I’ll say, you guys are over 1.4 million right now. Trending at around 3 million. You guys are kicking butt right now. What were some of the learning mistakes? I guess things that you guys had learned from the original campaign. You mentioned that you started a few months out in terms of getting this going. How were you able to create this awesome Superbook for under $100?

Andrew:

That was probably most the work for the last year and a half/2 years. We spent a lot of time perfecting the software. Honestly, if you think about the hardware, think of it as just a screen, a keyboard, a track pad and a battery put together. When you look at the cost of laptops, they’re going down quite a lot. What we simply did was strip out all the unnecessary parts and use what probably is one of the most powerful computers that you use on a regular basis which is your smartphone. Most people don’t know this but smartphones have gotten so powerful that the most recent iPhone 6s is more powerful processor wise than the 2015 Mac Book. We’re at a point where the smartphone can pretty much do anything. What’s missing is the physical form factor as well as a software. That’s what we wanted to provide.

Roy:

What made you decide Android over Apple then?

Andrew:

For us, it was much more of a “what’s more feasible” decision. Apple, unfortunately, iPhones are a lot harder to work with. It’s a closed ecosystem. Android, as you know, is a lot more open, a lot easier to work with, being opened source, it’s history. It was much easier to make work for what we wanted to do. When you really think about it, the world of smartphones is 82% Android. Most people I tell this to are pretty surprised but outside of the US it’s something close to 90% of smartphone owners use a Android device.

Roy:

Yeah, I feel like a minority in my office. Everybody here has Apples. I’m one of the few people with the Android devices.

Andrew:

Same here, same here. It’s definitely an Apple world here. One of the things we pride ourselves in is being able to provide an affordable solution for work and productivity and learning for everywhere. For the developing world, for countries that are very much mobile first. One of the partnerships we have for our campaign, which we personally love, is working with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to be able to provide our Superbooks to kids in South Africa in schools because they all have mobile phones but what they don’t have is the larger interface to learn on.

Roy:

Absolutely. You guys are doing quite a lot of good right now with partnering with the Nelson Mandela Long Walk For Freedom Education Project. Putting these educational apps and tools on these Superbooks, obviously, trying to enable users the ability to learn and be productive on a whole new level, so great work on that. Let’s jump back again, for our audience, we don’t get the opportunity many times to interview people who have failed the first time and come back and absolutely kicked butt on their relaunch.

When your project ended the first time and it was unsuccessful, what happened next? Did you guys start immediately working on the next iteration, reviewing what didn’t work? Talk to our community about that a little bit because I think it’s an interesting question and dynamic that many of our campaigners aren’t aware of.

Andrew:

I call it fortunate now but, at the time, we were pretty bummed. In the post-mortem, once you get to the point where you can look back you look at why it failed. Part of it was a product issue. Our dock, as you call it, would only be able to work with certain types of phones. It required you to bring a lot, plus we were quickly moving towards a world where no one wants to bring their own monitor and keyboard or mouse and especially as we started getting feedback from users. One of the things we consistently heard was, “Well, if I have to get all these things together this doesn’t seem worth it.”

That’s when we started to start working on the hardware side of how do we fit this all together and luckily, for us, the technology for putting together laptops is pretty well known. The main challenge that we had was we were working with a technology that was starting to get outdated. For those of you that are familiar with it, it’s called MHL. That was the technology that was supporting the last dock. We quickly moved to a newer technology called Display Link that could work with most modern Android devices. That’s what’s really exciting is now the Superbook not only doesn’t require you to bring anything, really, with it. It’s plug and play. It also works with all modern Android devices because of the underlining USB technology. We don’t have to specify certain phones. We can say, “If you have a phone that you’ve purchased in the last couple years, chances are, you can use it with the Superbook.”

Roy:

What was the conversation then or process that it took you from the dock to the Superbook?

Andrew:

I’ll be honest, I think when we originally built the dock it was just the easiest way to go to market. We looked at how much time it would take to put together the laptop and we knew we always wanted to get to the Superbook or some iteration of the Superbook but the technology was really hard. After we failed, we had support from our investors, our friends, basically had the time to really focus on delivering good product. The nice thing is the other fortunate thing that we got from the first Kickstarter failure was a really great community. We had thousands of people reach out and say, “Hey, what you guys are doing is great. Here’s some feedback to hopefully make it better.” They stayed along with us throughout the entire year and a half that we were building up the Superbook and gave us really great feedback. I would say being able to build that community not only helped us build the next product but, on our launch day, we had a ton of people from our old mailing list come back on the moment that our campaign launched to get the Superbook.

Roy:

I’m really glad you brought that up, Andrew. Talking about the community, how did you involve them from the first campaign into designing the Superbook and then how did you constantly keep up with your communication to that community over the last 18 plus months?

Andrew:

A lot of it, we had a forum set up for people to chat with us. People regularly sent emails to support email. I think 4 months out was when we really started to reengage and we actually had, up until that point, not really have a full demo but once we started having pictures of what it looked like, small demo of some component parts working together, people started getting really excited. I would say in terms of community building, we actually had posted a test post on the Android [inaudible 00:09:42], back a few months ago. Without really expecting anything and that took off. We were on the front page of, at least, the Android [inaudible 00:09:50] for quite awhile. It drove a lot of people, actually, to join our community. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been slowly emailing people. Giving them bits of information about the product itself and also getting a lot in return from [inaudible 00:10:06] feedback.

Roy:

Awesome. Being on the front page of Reddit is obviously a nice traffic driver and especially when you’ve got something as cool as this. In terms of the community, how did you guys decide what features were most important to add to the Superbook then? Was it based on community feedback

Andrew:

There was a bit. Honestly, we took a look at what our users were putting together on their own and a lot of our users are actually outside of the US. A lot are in fairly low GPD per capita countries where what they need is very different from I would say people that are in, at least in Silicon Valley, but probably in the more developed countries. They don’t need really high end specs. A lot of what we tried to do was create a really affordable product so that the users that we were really close to could easily pick one up and fill their needs but also even for the super techy high end users that want a lot of specs. This is almost an introduction to what device convergence feels like and what we want to be able to do is allow everyone to get one. Try it out. Know that there’s such a convenience to having everything in one computer and then we can come out with higher spec versions later down the line.

Roy:

We noticed that you guys reduced your funding goal on this campaign from the first one. Was there any reason for that other than you potentially had some more insights into the community and wanted to raise a little bit more money potentially?

Andrew:

Yeah, we had a lot of advice on how to run a crowdfunding campaign. Last time it was a let’s put it out there and see what happens. This time we were fortunate enough to get help from the Pebble Guys and a few others that ran really successful Kickstarter campaigns. I think we spent a lot more time on the video and outreach to people so that we were prepared on the first day. One of the things that everybody will tell you is it’s not your starting goal that really makes the story. Especially, I would give this advice to everyone that’s starting a Kickstarter campaign, is that the public goal should be a lot less than your internal goal. I’ll be perfectly honest, we were not expecting to do so well but the goal was to at least try to hit our public goal within our first day.

Roy:

That’s definitely the key but, obviously, you guys blew that out of the water I think over funding it 3 or 400%, maybe.

Andrew:

In the first hour, we were blown away. I actually remember launching it and sitting next to my co-founder, Gordon, and I was saying we were trying to execute on our plan because we had all these things where we had a list. After the campaign launch, we email these people, we write to these people, we publish. We were doing an AMA on Reddit. We’re launched on all these different things and all that went out the window because immediately people started backing and writing questions and messages and all of a sudden we’re inundated and it was crazy.

Roy:

That’s a beautiful thing about million dollar campaigns, Andrew. The feedback is ridiculous at times where you’re getting hundreds of requests that are coming in. It can obviously take a [inaudible 00:13:38] support ticket system needed at some points.

Andrew:

Yeah, yeah. I’ve used Zendesk before. A friend of mine who had gone through an accelerator with started a company called Front and we use it for collaborative emailing and basically everything comes in there. The Facebook requests, the Twitter requests, the emails to our support tickets, even all the Kickstarter comments and messages. Basically a bunch of our friends also help us on each campaign day but 4 or 5 people constantly answering requests. It was pretty, pretty crazy but, I’ll be honest, there’s no other feeling like it.

Roy:

I’m sure man and congrats on the success. Given that, what advice, and I know you’ve already given some nuggets to some of our campaigners, what advice would you give to someone who’s coming off a failed Kickstarter campaign?

Andrew:

Yeah. I think anyone that’s coming off a failed Kickstarter campaign that still has the runway, the path to work on their product, has been given a gift. They’ve gotten a lot of feedback from their community, who actually probably grown a community of people who have wanted to back them. Those people, I think, will be your biggest advocates moving forward. I think, certainly for us, engage with those people after the campaign. We don’t stop messaging people through Kickstarter’s platform even if your campaign doesn’t succeed. It’s really, really critical and it helps you figure out who your audience is.

One of the things that we did this time was after a good understanding of exactly who our most supportive backers were, both from our original campaign and all the interest we got after, we were able to find that community out in the open internet. Whether it was on Reddit or through Facebook looking for Android communities. Opening up our own internal community, it actually made it a lot more possible for us to have the people that were looking to support us on day 1. [inaudible 00:15:43] Kickstarters will tell you that that day 1 engagement is incredibly, incredibly important for everything.

Roy:

Absolutely. It’s critical, as you mentioned. What’s next? Where are you guys headed once this campaign concludes?

Andrew:

I have a flight in 24 hours. I’m headed to China. We know what we need to do at this point. We’re going to get to work, starting to manufacture the product. We have a decent sense of how many units we’re going to need for the Kickstarter campaign and we’re planning to work. There’s a ton of work to do on both the hardware and software side but the exciting thing is now we get to fulfill our community’s demand.

Roy:

Do you think you’re going to have an issue with that given that you’re probably going to have over 10,000 orders?

Andrew:

A lot of people have asked us that. Actually, what’s funny is for most laptop manufactures … Now granted, we’re really excited we’re going to be able to ship out at least 10,000 units of the Superbook but for most laptop manufacturers, 10,000 units is [inaudible 00:16:51]. It’s what it takes to at least start playing. If we were coming in with a lot less than that, we wouldn’t be able to get a [inaudible 00:16:58] manufacturer to produce the product. For most [inaudible 00:17:01] large size manufactures, they’re producing hundreds of thousands of units of similar laptop devices. It won’t be a problem because those companies have a lot of experience. They produce hundreds of thousands shipments per year. The nice thing about us and what we do, I think, most of the hardware process has already been figured out. We’re fairly confident we can deliver on time.

Roy:

Awesome. Andrew, this gets us into our launch round were I rapid fire questions at you. Are you good to go?

Andrew:

Let’s do it.

Roy:

All right. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Andrew:

Parents. I think my parents were both very entrepreneurial in themselves. You got the thing when you’re younger and they say, “You can do whatever you want.” Of course, you believe it.

Roy:

Fair enough. If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to meet with?

Andrew:

Oh man, I am so hoping this happens. I want to meet with Bill Gates.

Roy:

What’s your first question for Mr. Gates?

Andrew:

First question is definitely what he thinks about future. Any visionary, you want to hear what they think 10/20 years out so you can follow them along.

Roy:

What book is on your night stand or what book are you taking on your flight to China?

Andrew:

I will say, I’m not taking any books on my flight to China. I am taking a giant pillow so I can get a very well-deserved, well hopefully a well-deserved, nap. The one that I’m reading right now is actually a pretty old book called The Power of Habit. Really, really interesting book by, I think it’s, Charles Duhigg.

Roy:

What would you say your biggest weakness is?

Andrew:

At this point, I think my biggest weakness is not being able to not respond whenever someone writes something on the internet about us. I’ve been waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning checking our messages. If there’s something on there or there’s a question or something about the Superbook, I’m right on it and it annoys the crap out of my girlfriend.

Roy:

The internet’s a big place, right?

Andrew:

Absolutely. That was also very fun learning. The internet is full of really, really wonderful, gracious people and it’s also the home to a lot of more interesting characters.

Roy:

Well said, sir. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Andrew:

Doing this and hopefully launching a much larger line of Superbooks. Here’s the thing, we expect that the smartphone processors to continuously get more powerful and we expect fewer and fewer people to have a need to buy a laptop. In fact, most of your listeners, if you think about it, the amount of time you spend on your laptop is probably shrinking over time and you start doing more on your smartphone, we hope. By the time we’re fully launched, a lot more people will no longer buy their laptop and instead use their smartphones to do everything.

Roy:

Awesome. Last question, what do you think the future of crowdfunding looks like?

Andrew:

I think the future of crowdfunding is a lot more professionals. I don’t mean it’s not professional now. What I mean is I remember crowdfunding a few years ago and it was very different. The landscape was not filled with as many vendors or providers and we’ve gotten pitched by hundreds of people that are either consultants or their technology services or their distributors and it’s gotten to the point where if you want to launch a successful crowdfunding campaign you need to do a lot of work. I can definitely see it being much more of a real thing, a real professional service versus a “hey I made something cool and threw it up on the internet.”

Roy:

Absolutely. We’ve made our living the last 5 years providing professional services for these campaigns. Andrew, you guys are absolutely kicking butt. You’ve done a great job on the podcast. Please give our listeners all about your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should go buy a Superbook.

Andrew:

Absolutely. Our Kickstarter for the Superbook is live. We turn your Android smartphone into a complete laptop solution. You can find us on Kickstarter, search for the Superbook, or our website at getsuperbook.com.

Roy:

Andrew, you’ve been great. Everyone, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, a full transcript and at least everything that we talked about today and an extra coupon code for the Gadget Flow. Andrew, thank you so much for joining us.

Andrew:

Thanks Roy.

Roy:

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 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’ve loved this episode, leave a us a review at artkick.wpengine.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show. It helps us to 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.