This week on Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Eddie Lee of Podo Labs about his latest Kickstarter project, Jack. Listen in to hear what he’s learned from running multiple Kickstarter campaigns, including the benefits of launching on Kickstarter and how to make your Kickstarter project successful.

Make Any Headphones Wireless – Jack by Podo Labs

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What to do when you’re new to marketing and retail
  • Benefits of working with a hardware accelerator
  • How to decide if a new product idea is a good fit for your company
  • How to take advantage of Kickstarter’s features to help your campaign fund
  • How to manage expectations on Kickstarter

Links

Connect with Jack

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 preorders, 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 buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more visit thegadgetflow.com. Let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am honored to be joined by Edmond Lee with Podo Labs. Edmond, thank you so much for joining us.

Eddie Lee:

Thanks for having me here Roy.

Roy Morejon:

You guys are serial Kickstarters, you guys kicked butt with your first campaign, doubled it on your second campaign. Now you guys are active and back at it again with your third campaign, which is probably going to be your most successful to date. Please tell our audience all about Podo Labs and where it all got started.

Eddie Lee:

Yeah. Podo Labs was founded by three guys out of the University of California, Berkeley. Our first product was a camera. The three of us, we’re really good friends, we’d be hanging out and we can never be in the same picture together, the three of us, somebody will be left out. If we did get a picture together on Jay’s DSLR, we have to wait till we go home, connect to a computer, it’s a pain in the butt.

We invented the first product, it’s called Podo, to solve that problem. It’s a little camera that you don’t have to hold yourself, it just sticks to any surface so you can step back and finally be in your own photos for once. From there we went on Kickstarter, we were straight out of college, didn’t really know much about the hardware world.

Since then we’ve been growing, Podo’s in Urban Outfitters, we have a new version out coming this year, the Podo Gen Two. Now like you said we’re on our third Kickstarter and we’re branching out into audio now.

Roy Morejon:

It’s interesting, I’m a backer of both campaigns that you guys launched. Killer product, executed well, price point’s perfect. How do you guys gauge, in terms of the first time you guys ran a Kickstarter campaign, what was your thought process in terms of, this is the means through which we’re going to launch our company with?

Eddie Lee:

The thought process was definitely, we need to get this product out there, we don’t know anything about retail, or we’re not experienced marketers, so Kickstarter was really a great platform where you can meet a bunch of enthusiastic people, such as yourself, who give the little guys a chance. We got a ton of great feedback, the Kickstarter campaign was much larger than we ever thought it would be, and like you alluded to it’s definitely the way we started this whole journey.

Roy Morejon:

3,600 backers on the first one, and then 8,800 backers on the second one. What led to your initial success? That’s significant in terms of the amount of capital you guys raised, what was the process that you guys went into? How long did it begin before you ended up launching that first one?

Eddie Lee:

We started in the Summer of May 2013. We launched that Kickstarter, I think it was February 2015. In that time we were based in the Bay Area and we had joined a hardware accelerator called Highway1. What they do is they take a group of young hardware products, get them from the prototyping stage to giving them advice about designing for manufacturing and manufacturing at scale. They opened a lot of doors for us as far as networking, connections, helped us get some press, which was big.

I think of course in order to have a successful Kickstarter you have to have a good product, and at a good price, so we really focused on the … The whole company was born out of our desire to have this product. We put everything we had into it, we made everything the way we thought it should be. I think that resonated with people.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it certainly did. You guys made a beautiful product and delivered on it, pretty much within the time range you guys said you would. That’s always key. Being part of an incubator like that certainly helps out. I know we speak to a lot of HAX Accelerator as well, and they really seem to get a leg up on the competition in terms of not only the product but the networking, and also in terms of delivering a quality product that they promise their backers on.

Eddie Lee:

Absolutely. They bring us to China on a two week trip, we go to [Shenzhen 00:05:41]. Man, it’s a totally crazy world out there. The city itself is interesting, it’s only been maybe modernized in the last 30 years, purely to fuel this made in China boom. It’s not like everything there is made of cheap quality or made cheaply, it’s really the center of all their infrastructures. That’s where you really go to see quite amazing methods of manufacturing. That really gave us a leg up on actually delivering our product.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Given that your first two products kind of dealt with the selfie stick and shoot camera model, what made you guys decide to jump over to the audio Bluetooth side of things?

Eddie Lee:

Sure. We definitely didn’t abandon Podo. We’re fully dedicated to that, we’re shipping the gen two. On the side however, I’ll move to SF and we commute, I take the bus and again, we figured, we’ve got these wires dangling off our faces, tethering our heads to our phones. We can do something about it. We’re really good at Bluetooth, we stream live video over Bluetooth for our cameras, so streaming audio is much simpler. We decided to go for this product and keep making cool stuff that we like to use for ourselves.

Roy Morejon:

Did you guys see a product market fit for this when your originally said, “Okay, let’s do something in the audio space,” or it was just you wanted to diversify your product line a little bit further?

Eddie Lee:

It was more the first thing. It was, the iPhone 7 was getting a lot of flack for eliminating the headphone jack. Our CTO, Sam, was like, “Hey, you know, it’d be pretty easy for us to make something for those users.” It’s not just for iPhone 7 users or people missing the headphone jack, we realized that a lot of people want Bluetooth headphones, but they don’t necessarily want to splurge yet, they don’t trust the battery life, or the sound quality, or the brand.

We figured that, this thing is great because you can use your favorite headphones that you already have and just upgrade them to Bluetooth. We also threw in a cool feature, which is the sharing feature. No other adapter does this, you can use these two jacks to sync your headphones with a friend and wirelessly split audio from one source.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive tech, right? Yeah, talking about that technology, how did you guys go about deciding what features to include in it?

Eddie Lee:

We start from the basics, Bluetooth is well established as a protocol for delivering wireless audio. We threw everything and the kitchen sink that we could on top of that. There’s the sharing feature, there’s also a lot of things that you’d think other audio adapters would do but they don’t.

Very small things like being compatible with any brand of headphone microphones, like ones made for Android or Apple, the volume buttons don’t work universally, they have their own standards. An adapter can handle that, which we do. Being able to play and charge at the same time. Not beeping really loudly in your hear for all sorts of notifications. I think a lot of the adapters out there just use this one standard made in China, a long time ago. No one’s really took it and optimized it for a broader market.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. What’s been the biggest challenge that you guys have encountered so far in designing this version of your first product in the audio space?

Eddie Lee:

This time it’s not so much the electronic layout that’s as much of a challenge for us, or the firmware. Actually most of the challenge is in the mechanical design. We wanted to make something really small, which we’re good at after doing the camera. We wanted to fit in a battery that is at least twice as big as the other ones out there, in our competitors. That’s a challenge, but also we wanted to be able to clip it onto your clothes and look good doing so, so we have to figure out a way to manipulate stainless steel in a very small package and also color it and make it look good.

Roy Morejon:

Certainly it does look good. In terms of talking about the preparation or the marketing aspect of this campaign and your first campaign, what have you guys done differently over the years?

Eddie Lee:

The first campaign, even Kickstarter was a lot younger, so they didn’t have some of the tools that they do now, such as Google Analytics integration, ways to create custom URLs to help your tracking. Now we have all those tools, which helps us run some Facebook ads, but of course press is always important and press is a little reluctant to cover Kickstarter project. As you said many of them don’t end up delivering, but our track record helps us there a little bit.

As far as marketing, having our backers come back and support us is a huge thing too because we have thousands of backers every campaign who are proven to be fans of our brand and fans of crowdfunding young gadgets in general. I think it’s definitely getting easier every time, like you said our campaign has been hitting new records every time.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s great. In terms of talking about the backers so far, what’s your experience been with them? I’m assuming you get a ton of feedback from them, but how have you guys been managing all that feedback and promoting the campaign and getting them excited about this product, the next product, et cetera?

Eddie Lee:

During the campaign there’s definitely a lot of sleepless nights. In a sense, when you’re on Kickstarter you’re taking on the role of a underdog team, but in another sense you’re also coming at them as the face of a company. You’re making a lot of promises. Some people have maybe tempered expectations, but some people who are maybe less familiar with crowdfunding do treat it more as a store.

It’s hard to be like a big company when you’re three or six people, and trying to answer [inaudible 00:12:25] of emails and comments. Overall it’s been really positive and it’s really good fuel to keep going when you hear feedback from people like, “I used this on a vacation with my fiance and it was great,” or you get people encouraging you. It really helps us keep going.

Roy Morejon:

What’s been the weirdest feedback you guys have received so far over the years?

Eddie Lee:

Weirdest feedback … Actually I wouldn’t call it weird but it was unexpected feedback that was really great. The Podo Camera of course we thought it would be a great way to replace selfies, but one user told us that he was really grateful for us, for being able to put this camera on the wall and control it with his phone because he was born with a disability where his arms actually were not long enough to take selfies. It’s something we never expected, we never thought of that use case but we’re really glad we can help somebody. It was really cool to interact with that person.

Roy Morejon:

That’s awesome. Was there anything that you guys learned from the other two campaigns that you were able to implement into this one and see greater success with that?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, every time is a learning experience. I think you definitely have to manage expectations, you can’t promise the world, or promise too fast delivery times. You always want to do everything perfect but as a team with limited resources it doesn’t always work that way. It helps a little bit to maybe under-promise and try to over-deliver, and on features as well.

As far as promoting the campaign, I think it becomes more, not routine but in the way that you setup the page, the way you communicate your message because it’s not just a monetary transaction, people care about helping an idea and helping a story. That’s a very important thing to communicate every time.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, absolutely, it’s always something that we try and instill in all of our campaigns in terms of taking the customer, the backer on that journey with you. What advice, if you were to give one piece of advice to someone else looking to kickstart their technology, what would you tell them?

Eddie Lee:

I would tell them to reach out to as many people as possible. I think a good thing about this community is that not only the backers are here to help people, but so are the creators. They know what it’s like and what you’re going through. Myself, my email is readily available, it’s just eddie@podolabs.com, E-D-D-I-E. I think people are willing to help if you go out and ask. Besides that, the other concrete thing is to have a working prototype. I think you definitely need that.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, critical. Where are you guys headed next? What’s next after the project ends?

Eddie Lee:

After the project ends we are actually in the midst of shipping Podo Two. We should finish up very soon. We want to grow the whole family, the Podo Camera and the jack adapter. I don’t know, maybe we’ll keep making new things where we find we want these things in our lives, but we also want to continue growing. We’re sort of building a base around Bluetooth here. We have audio, we have video, it’d be really cool for us to start creating a suite of products that all work together. That’s our thoughts.

Roy Morejon:

Do you guys think you’ll launch every product on Kickstarter for the rest of your Podo career?

Eddie Lee:

I do think so. If someday we get to the point where we’re somehow too large for people to think that we need Kickstarting, I don’t want to rub people the wrong way. From my perspective, I love getting that feedback and interacting with the people directly, in the comment section and in the messages. It’s really nice to, when you’re stuck in your office or with your team, looking at your product from one angle, it’s really nice to see your product and what you’re doing from the other angle, from the consumer. I think we’ll always be there.

Roy Morejon:

That’s awesome. You guys have built a solid community there, that obviously continue to keep reinvesting into you guys. Congrats on that success. Edmond, this gets us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You’re good to go?

Eddie Lee:

I’m good to go.

Roy Morejon:

All right, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Eddie Lee:

Should I elaborate or [inaudible 00:17:13]

Roy Morejon:

No, that works. If you could take a selfie with any entrepreneur throughout history with Podo, who would it be?

Eddie Lee:

Leonardo da Vinci.

Roy Morejon:

What would have been your first question for him?

Eddie Lee:

Where do you get your inspiration?

Roy Morejon:

Who did you look to growing up?

Eddie Lee:

Probably my dad.

Roy Morejon:

What book is on your nightstand?

Eddie Lee:

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.

Roy Morejon:

What would you say your biggest weakness is?

Eddie Lee:

Chips.

Roy Morejon:

[crosstalk 00:17:47] Where do you see yourself in five years?

Eddie Lee:

Hopefully with this team, making cool stuff.

Roy Morejon:

What’s the big thing you want to accomplish in life?

Eddie Lee:

I want to surround myself with people that I like being around.

Roy Morejon:

Last question, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Eddie Lee:

I think it’s going to be more commercialized and it will be a challenge to keep its original core, but I think it will.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Edmond, you’ve been awesome. Please give our audience your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should go buy Podo product.

Eddie Lee:

All right, my name is Eddie and it was my pleasure to talk to you about Podo Labs. We’re currently crowdfunding Jack, which is a Bluetooth adapter that makes any headphones wireless. You can find it at podolabs.com/jack, or if you just search jack headphone on Kickstarter you will find us as well. Yeah, that’s about it.

Roy Morejon:

Eddie, Edmond, thank you so much for joining us on Art of the Kickstart. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all the show notes, the full transcript, links to everything we talked about today. Of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Eddie, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure.

Eddie Lee:

Thank you Roy.

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.