This week on Art of the Kickstart, Eddie Lee of Podo Labs is back to tell us all about his latest Kickstarter project. Tune in to hear what he’s learned after running four successful crowdfunding campaigns, and what tips he has to offer to others hoping to fund their own consumer electronics product.

BELLE – A Powerful Bluetooth Speaker and Wireless Hub

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What to expect to be different when you’re running your second, third or fourth campaign
  • How to manage a crowdfunding campaign without losing focus on your existing customers
  • How to use Facebook for consumer research
  • How to get press coverage from the best online media outlets
  • How to adequately prepare for a Kickstarter campaign
  • How to make sure you truly understand your value proposition

Links

Connect with Podo Labs

Sponsors

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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:

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.

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.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am joined again with Eddie Lee. Eddie, thank you so much for joining us again.

Eddie Lee:

Roy, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me again.

Roy Morejon:

Hey, it’s my pleasure. All right. You guys just kicked off your fourth campaign for Podo Labs, Belle. Please tell our audience all about the product and how this idea came to fruition.

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, so Belle is a Bluetooth speaker, and of course, there’s a thousand out there. What makes this special is that it’s a really premium Bluetooth speaker with two unique features. One, it can connect more Bluetooth speakers to it of any brands, and two, it can also function as a dedicated subwoofer with the lowest bass response of any portable speaker.

How it came about was … we were looking for speakers for the office or for ourselves that had really good volume and base, which are … typically, web Bluetooth battery-powered speakers are not good at. And we found that there was nothing really suitable, so what we did was we made something ourselves. This speaker solves the volume problem by being able to connect up to six speakers to combine them all, and then, the bass is … by doing so, we can focus on bass and make design decisions that other speakers have not done so far.

Roy Morejon:

I know you guys have put a ton of engineering into this, and like I said, this is your fourth campaign. You started the first one, I think, back in April of 2015, ran the sequel version in November of 2016, and then this is your second campaign for this year. And we had the pleasure of working on Jack earlier this year, where we had 16 thousand backers, I think? And I think it’s almost close to hitting a million dollars now. What’s led to this evolution of new product or going down this line in terms of integrating Bluetooth in multiple different ways?

Eddie Lee:

Sure. The first product was definitely something that we wanted to make mostly for ourselves. I mean, it was a camera that let everyone be in the picture, so three friends out of Berkeley … we really landed on this thing. We have this problem in our everyday lives. Same thing with Jack. Same thing with Belle, as well, so we tend to make things that we really want in our lives and we find are missing from bigger companies.

Doing two this year was definitely a challenge. It’s a fun challenge, and it helps that they’re both audio products. And the multi-Bluetooth connectivity features that we developed for Jack are actually what is powering the same sort of features in Belle.

Roy Morejon:

That’s super intriguing. I mean, what’s going to be next? I mean, I don’t want you to give away the farm in terms of what product’s coming out next, because I know you guys really have to put your nose to the grindstone to get this thing delivered for summer for next year. But I mean, what are the capabilities now that you guys are thinking of in terms of what you’ve built thus far and what new tech you’re going to bring to market?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, so it’s … well, it’s definitely going to be a consumer electronics product. That’s what we’re experienced at manufacturing and developing now. Definitely a product revolving around Bluetooth, because we’ve developed a Bluetooth connection stack that was coded pretty much from scratch for our camera. We’ve been using this really proprietary stack we’ve developed for years now for Bluetooth, and it’s funny you use that metaphor … the nose to the grindstone, because our next product that we have in mind … it’s not a camera. It’s not for music. It might be for another one of our senses, so stay tuned, and we’ll show you next year.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. We will definitely have you on next year when that bad boy comes out. Again, this is your fourth campaign, so how has this process been different? I mean, again, you guys have totally streamlined your whole process now. You’ve got all these internal capabilities and technology that you guys have built. What have been some of the challenges now or challenges that you guys are anticipating in terms of bringing this product to market?

Eddie Lee:

What’s different this time … I mean, being our fourth time, like you said, a lot of things are streamlined. One thing that definitely stands out to me is that the backers … the returning backers are really incredible. Like, our day one push was almost 20% supported by former backers just right away. With that comes the challenge where, as you have more customers and you have customers in the past, we don’t want to compromise any service that we provide to our Jack backers, to our Podo backers. We’re still updating our Podo apps. We’re still providing manufacturing updates to the Jack, and are shipping next month.

Definitely, the challenge is, as you grow … that’s a lot more responsibility, and we definitely take that to heart, and we don’t want to compromise on any of the products by delivering them all.Roy Morejon:
Yeah, fair enough. Have there been any challenges so far in terms of designing Belle?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, so it’s … Well, it’s the most … The one good thing is, it’s the biggest product that we’ve ever made. Everything else is all … is such a struggle to shrink, and this one is actually … the struggle is to not make it too big, because we want to … Like, when it’s bigger, you get better sound and better bass response. We have to balance. Like, “All right. How much is too big this time?” You just want to make it do everything amazing.

Design challenges … I mean, both on the electronics side and the firmware Bluetooth side, like I said, it’s technology we have. It’s not so much the challenge. This time, we’re making something that’s really a statement in your house, like a big thing, so putting a lot of attention into materials and finish and things like that.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s a beautiful product. I mean, let’s talk to the audience about what you guys have done to prepare for this campaign. I know there’s always things that you improve on time after time. Obviously, increasing the amount of backers, the communication with them, and then reengaging that audience to bring in all of the day one funding, for the most part. What have you guys done to prepare for this campaign differently?

Eddie Lee:

We do have the unique position having prior successful campaigns. One thing that we did to particularly engage them was create, basically, a Facebook research group, and we called it the Belle VIP Support Group. And you can do this even without prior backers, if you’re just doing some early Facebook outreach. Especially recruit your friends, your networks, run some ads, see if they want to join this group. And engaging this group allowed us to … We even had people vote on the name, and we asked them what features they want to say. We tried to say, like, “Hey, would you want this trade off or that trade off?”

And one, that gives you extremely valuable design input from your ideal customers. But two, these people feel like, even as much as Kickstarter is the ground stage, behind the scenes, look. They’re, like, the VIPs, so they’re very engaged and active on supporting us on day one.

Roy Morejon:

Were you guys incorporating or emailing all of those people that have backed your campaigns before, and then inviting them to this private group on Facebook?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, absolutely. That was the core of that group, and then a little before the campaign, we also ran some Facebook ads to … and it was an email signup landing page, where if they put in their email, they would be notified of the very early bird discount. And we had a discount that’s only running for 48 hours, so we ran an ad saying, “Act fast. Put in your email, and you can join this sale.” And then, after they put in their email, they would receive an invitation to join the group.

Roy Morejon:

No, that’s really interesting. And obviously, for people that are looking to launch campaigns out there, it’s a great way to engage people where they hang out all day and obviously get their feedback and feel like they’ve been a part of the process before the product ever comes to life.

Eddie Lee:

Exactly, and for people not familiar with Kickstarter, this is really the key. It’s about the community. It’s about making them … you’re not just offering a transaction of dollar for products. You have to stress that this is a relationship, which brings value to them. That way, the more value you give to a person, the better your value proposition is. The better you can make the sale.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, absolutely. Going down the line of relationships, you guys had some great coverage already on the campaign launching from Digital Trends and a few others that we’ve worked with in the past. What’s led to the success there? Is it just a matter of … “You guys covered my stuff before. Here’s our next great product.” Any tips you want to give to the audience?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah. Well, the first tip is that it’s going to be a lot of hard work, and don’t be too discouraged, because it is hard to get coverage for Kickstarter products more and more, where press are wary of projects that might not deliver. They’re wary of things that … Your credibility is very important, and then, that also reflects on the credibility of the outlet to support you. One, you need to build a very targeted email list.

You want to look at outlets, and especially specific reporters, who have covered Kickstarter campaigns in the past, because then you know they’re more likely to be willing to cover one again. The way you can find these people is by looking up your competitors or similar products in the space on Kickstarter, doing reverse searches on Google for who wrote about them. Who used their header image in an article? And you can see an image … you can use a Google image search to spit up all the articles that used their header image. And you can hunt these people down and say something like, “I’ve seen you cover this product. I think your readers would also be interested in something similar or better, which is mine.”

And then, you want to … you can maybe use an email drip software like Mailshake to automatically follow up with these reporters if they don’t answer, or if they click on your link, you can send them a different type of email. It’s really a game. It’s a shopping approach. Build a really big but targeted list, and then just figure out how to keep following up.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. I had never heard of Mailshake before. It’s a cool little solution for cold emailing folks.

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, it’s free. That’s why I like it.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah.

Eddie Lee:

I mean, I don’t get paid to say this, but I like it because it’s free and it works for me, so …

Roy Morejon:

I know our startups and entrepreneurs will love that. How is this project … and I know we’re only a couple days into it. In terms of management of the project, how’s it been different from the first three?

Eddie Lee:

For one thing, the backer number is smaller, even though the amount we raised is higher, which is kind of nice, because there’s a little less comments to manage. You can give more personal attention to people. The difference is, it all kind of slows down. Like, the first time we launched, I just remember being up 48 hours, never ceasing … like, so much adrenaline, and “Oh my God, I’ve got to spend every minute, waking minute, pushing this campaign. And what can I do?”

But then, this time, you kind of realize a lot of the work … 90% of the success is determined before the campaign ever launches. I mean, if you didn’t do your homework and it’s not going well, there’s a lot of … there’s not much you can do during the campaign. If you did your homework and it is going well, there’s also not much you can really do during the campaign. So it’s good to … I was definitely learning to just kind of relax a little bit, see our hard work pay off, but of course, stay on top of community building, doing cross promotions and spreading the word where you can.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Fortune favors the prepared, right?

Eddie Lee:

Absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

You obviously love Kickstarter. This is your fourth campaign on it. What do you guys love about Kickstarter?

Eddie Lee:

Well, the first time, it was a working experience. It was kind of a tossup, and for various reasons, we chose Kickstarter. And then, after that, it was really, like … “If it works, you don’t have to fix it.” Returning backers are very important to us, so being on the same platform definitely helps. But we’re happy on Kickstarter. Your mileage may vary. I know Indiegogo also has some special tools that they’ve been rolling out, but definitely for Kickstarter, it’s been very … We’re very happy with it. No complaints.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, you guys made the projects we love, and obviously, those guys are showing the love back, right

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, that’s nice. We have the relationship now … it’s kind of reciprocated. It’s important to find out who the rep is in your region and build the relationship so you can get that kind of a tag on day one, and hopefully things like the newsletter and social media support.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What advice would you give, now that you’re a seasoned crowdfunding product launcher, to someone else looking to kickstart their tech product?

Eddie Lee:

One, you have to really, really understand your value proposition. Know what are you making, and why the hell should anyone care? Like, just because it’s really cool, just because it’s new doesn’t mean that if you put it out there, people will figure out why it matters to them and go find you and back it. It is a transaction. You have to think in their shoes. What are they getting out of this? Why the hell should they care about your project? Understand that. Work on your messaging around that to really communicate, distill down your messaging, communicate that value quickly and clearly.

And second unrelated advice is just to go ask for help. A lot of former … there’s a creator community. People love trading tips. There’s a lot of great creators that I’ve become friends with that … we’ve never worked together, but we just trade tips. And with that, you also want to be wary of people trying to take advantage of you. It’s a balance, working your way through this community. It’s kind of a wild, wild West at times out here.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, we’ve seen that all too often with a lot of the snake oil salesmen out there, and it’s unfortunate. But certainly, reputation can lead down the right past. And obviously, it’s a pleasure working with you again on another campaign.

Eddie Lee:

Yeah, for sure.

Roy Morejon:

All right. Eddie, I know you’re familiar with this, but we’re going to get back into the launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire some questions back at you. You good to go?

Eddie Lee:

I’m good to go.

Roy Morejon:

All right. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Eddie Lee:

My dad.

Roy Morejon:

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

Eddie Lee:

Oh, probably Elon Musk right now.

Roy Morejon:

All right. What would be your first question for Mr. Musk?

Eddie Lee:

What is your next adventure?

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, that would be interesting to know, right?

Eddie Lee:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

What book would you recommend to our audience?

Eddie Lee:

Ooh, while we’re on the topic, the biography on Elon Musk is pretty good.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it is a solid read. And where do you see yourself in five years?

Eddie Lee:

Hopefully presiding over a big and healthy Podo Labs with a lot of products and a lot of happy employees.

Roy Morejon:

What’s going to be the first song you bump on your Belle?

Eddie Lee:

Oh, Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” has been a good bass testing song for us.

Roy Morejon:

Nice. All right. Last question, Eddie. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Eddie Lee:

I think trust is going to become a very big issue. I think as far as technology, a lot of people have great ideas. But it doesn’t mean manufacturing will become easier, so I think trust will censor out a few people who know what they’re doing. And hopefully, it will spread that knowledge.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Solid advice there, Eddie. Well, this has been awesome. Again, please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they need to go buy a Belle by Podo Labs?

Eddie Lee:

Thanks, Roy. My name is Eddie Lee. I’m the president of Podo Labs, and we recently launched Belle, which is the last Bluetooth speaker you’ll ever need. It can connect up to six speakers that you already own, that your friends bring, so you can create a party anywhere. It’ll be on Kickstarter for the next 28 days or so until September 29th, so you want to go out there and get it quickly. And we really look forward to delivering an awesome product to you soon.

Roy Morejon:

Eddie, thanks so much for joining us. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all of the show notes, full transcript, links to everything we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Eddie, thanks for being on the show today.

Eddie Lee:

Thanks so much, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com and tell us all about it. There, you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. And of course, if you love this episode a lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business.

If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on enventyspartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next week.