In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Ricardo Bottome, the founder and inventor of TreePod. Bottome, a three-time creator on Kickstarter, has just launched his most recent campaign with his new product that is truly reinventing the hammock experience. TreePod’s patented design combines the luxury of a cabana with the portability of a hammock with more space and 5 large windows. Learn how Bottome’s previous Kickstarter experience and drive to better his product have helped him re-develop TreePod for his newest campaign.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How Bottome went from struggling to raise funds for his campaign to garnering new interest for his just-launched campaign
  • The challenges the TreePod team faced when redesigning their product
  • The process that led to TreePod’s new innovation-launch
  • How Bottome’s team went about finding the right channel for their product
  • An introduction to new innovations Bottome’s team is pursuing

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript

Roy Morejon:
Welcome entrepreneurs and startups to Art of the Kickstart, the podcast that every entrepreneur needs to listen to before you launch. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, president and founder of Inventus Partners, the world’s only turnkey product launch company that has helped over 2000 innovations successfully raise over $400 million in capital since 2010.

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Roy Morejon:
Now let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:
Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am getting the wonderful opportunity of speaking with Ricardo Bottome, the founder and inventor of TreePod. If you don’t remember, because I’ve got so many great listeners out there, Ricardo was on our show almost four years to the date with his original launch of the TreePod. And now he’s back. He’s going to be a three-time creator on Kickstarter with his new product that is truly reinventing the hammock experience.

Roy Morejon:
So Ricardo, it is a pleasure to have you back on my show today.

Ricardo Bottome:
Roy, thank you for having me back. I’m excited to be here again.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So you’re back again. Your company’s been through a lot of changes since you’ve been in the Slackline Industries business back in 2009, and finally you’re launching new products. You’ve got this new product that’s coming out on October 6th.

Roy Morejon:
So tell our audience a little bit about what you’ve been doing behind the scenes and the new product that’s about to launch on Kickstarter.

Ricardo Bottome:
So yes, let me go a little bit back. I’ve been outdoor industry for about 30 years. I’ve designed and manufactured a bunch of different products from footwear to apparel, packs, and 12 years ago, we launched Slacklines, trying to bring the sport into the mainstream. That brought me to the US and it was successful for a while.

Ricardo Bottome:
During that process, we had the idea… My brother, he was reading an article, we were in the beach and he said, “You know what you could do? You could do a hanging tent.” And I took that idea and turned it into a hanging tree house.

Ricardo Bottome:
And when I was a kid, I was 12 years old, I climbed into an old tree house. It was all rotten and I fell down, and a nail slashed all the front of my torso. And I thought a tree house that you can take down and store when your kids are all grown up will be a cool thing to have, and it will not be a danger.

Ricardo Bottome:
So we launched our first one in 2017 and it was okay, successful. We struggled to raise the funds and the campaign. And what we heard from all our backers was that they wanted something for adults. So we went back to the drawing board for a while and eventually came with an appealing design for adults and launched that…

Ricardo Bottome:
I got my dates wrong. It was 2015, the original, and then 2018, we launched the lounger and cabana for adults. And that one was nine times bigger on the Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Yeah. I still use mine today. It’s in the backyard, my kids and I hang out in it. We absolutely love that. So I’m super stoked to see this new innovation that you guys have brought to market.

Roy Morejon:
So it’s been a while since you’ve launched a new innovation, but obviously you’ve been taking all of the feedback from the crowd and the community that you’ve built from the previous two campaigns. What’s led you now to this new innovation launch?

Ricardo Bottome:
So we continue hearing from our customers, and they’ve been telling us they want a bigger model, and they want a more open model. All our models until today have a single entry door window. So we’ve come up with a canopy. It’s seven and a half feet wide, which makes it 52% bigger floor area. A person who’s six feet tall can now be comfortable without bending his or her neck. And we have five windows all around, so you can come into the TreePod through any side, you can look out, the breeze can go by and we still keep the shade and the flat bottom that makes it so comfortable.

Roy Morejon:
Well, it looks like a truly impressive product. I’m super excited about the launch on October 6th for this idea. So I’ve got to go back in history a little bit further. What led you to the product name, TreePod?

Ricardo Bottome:
Well, it was that initial idea of a hanging tree house. And the idea was you can set it up easily, 15 minutes, enjoy it. And when it’s not the season you could store it down, or when the kids grew up, you just took it down and it doesn’t stay up in the tree rotting and turning into something unsafe. And that led to a lot of people asking for an adult version. And that was the lounger and cabana that we launched in 2018.

Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk a little bit through the past year and a half with COVID. How has that changed or affect your business?

Ricardo Bottome:
We had two pivots going at the same time. We were discovering that our products sold a lot better in furniture and patio stores rather than our traditional outdoor channel. So we pivoted towards customers like Wayfair, Touch of Modern and a drop ship model. And we stopped trying to sell brick and mortar as traditional. And that happened a few months before COVID. So when COVID happened, it increased online sales for the product.

Ricardo Bottome:
Our product doesn’t show well in a shelf. It’s a big box and people don’t understand what’s inside the box because they’ve never seen it before. So brick and mortar stores was very slow going and the product does well online where people can see a small video clip of what it does. And we had started that pivot months before COVID and COVID accelerated it.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I can definitely see that. It takes up a lot of space, especially when you’ve got the tripod set up to be able to hang it and put it out there, that certainly it would showcase well online. So what led you to pivot into those opportunities of the Wayfairs and Touch of Moderns because we see a lot of crowdfunding products go there, but not necessarily get the marketing push that they always need?

Ricardo Bottome:
Well, so we were pivoting as a company from the outdoor channel in which we had been for almost 30 years to the patio furniture, and backyard relaxation market. And we were basically starting from scratch and going very slow at it, which made us more open to trying new things.

Ricardo Bottome:
I’ve been doing brick and mortar wholesale for 30 years. So this, “Let’s put it on a website and do drop ship,” felt weird and risky for me.

Ricardo Bottome:
So we said, “Let’s give it a chance,” and serendipity, it worked. It turned out to be the right channel for the product.

Ricardo Bottome:
So yeah, I’m not going to kid you that it was all planned, and thought, and we knew exactly what was going to happen. It was a little bit of, “Let’s try something new and see if it works,” and it worked.

Roy Morejon:
Oh, that’s great. You take that entrepreneurial leap of faith, test something, try it, and if it works double down on it, right?

Ricardo Bottome:
Exactly. Yeah.

Roy Morejon:
So let’s talk about the design of the new product. I noticed that you guys potentially have some new materials, or certainly, some new design on it. Super excited about, obviously, the UV treated canvas on it. But what were some of the other elements from the design side that you guys have included in the new TreePod?

Ricardo Bottome:
Yeah, so we started exploring into how big can we make it and we made up to 10 foot rings. And one of the things that happened is the forces on the rings increase at the square of the size of the ring. So a 10 foot ring was impossible to make at a lightweight, portable weight. You think of a backyard trampoline. Those things weigh a hundred or 200 pounds.

Ricardo Bottome:
So we downsized to eight, then it was still tight. We downsized to seven and a half, and keeping a six foot ring on the top, and reinforcing the vertical pieces of fabric. And we got the sweet spot, the large size, not too heavy, and all the benefits we were looking for.

Roy Morejon:
Any other challenges encountered when designing the new version?

Ricardo Bottome:
Actually, once we hit on the right size, it went pretty straightforward. We did discover that when we had less fabric surrounding you, the product stretches a lot more. So we had to reduce the initial distance between top ring and bottom ring. And then once there’s weight in it, it goes to the size we want it to be.

Ricardo Bottome:
On the lounger and cabana, 85% of the circumference has fabric. So you go inside and the top ring and the bottom ring, separate an inch and a half to two inches. On this one that you only have five pieces of fabric holding the top and the bottom ring together.

Ricardo Bottome:
We had eight or nine inches of lag. So we have to adapt the design so that it was the right size and the right look when loaded. So we shortened that ring a little bit.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Now I know one of the issues with a large product like this is always going to be the shipping issues. So how have you guys gone about trying to plan for shipping this product out in the future and making sure that the backers can get it on time?

Ricardo Bottome:
Well, so we’ve gotten really good at shipping in the U S and what we learned in the last campaign is there’s no easy way to ship a 30 pound box internationally. And let’s say the box gets damaged on the way, and a piece falls away, then sending a repair part halfway around the world is impossible. So we are now limiting ourselves just to the US.

Roy Morejon:
And I think, obviously that’s a piece of the crowdfunding universe out there. That’s not going to be able to support it, but also I think because you guys have learned, and this is your third campaign, now that you’re launching you understand what it takes to bring it to market and get it to the backer successfully. And certainly, I’m sure there’s some savvy backers out there that can find ways to get it out to them and get it forward freighted out to them. But I think it’s key that you guys want to deliver a premier product to folks on time as advertised and in the best quality that possible.

Ricardo Bottome:
Yes. Then the other thing we’ve done this campaign that we had in the past is we already have production going at the factory, and we already booked the production space in advance so that we’re not waiting for the campaign to end to then place an order, and find the production time in the factory, and then bring it. So we have booked a time slot in the factory to produce the canopy and whatever’s left of production capacity we will fill with our other products. So we have guaranteed production time and they’re expected to ship before the Chinese New Year. And with all the delays, containers are having shipping right now. That still gives us more than 60 days to hit our shipping window.

Roy Morejon:
Oh, that’s great. And obviously, since you guys are three time creators on Kickstarter, launching campaigns, you’ve gone through these growing pains and understand all those issues. So what are some of the things that you guys have learned over the last five or six years now of running campaigns that you can impart to the other creators out there listening?

Ricardo Bottome:
Well, the biggest one is not to change things mid-campaign. So it’s easy to be caught up in the campaign and then decide, “Oh, we’re going to make the product bigger,” or, “We’re going to change the color,” or, “We’re going to offer shipping to,” like we did in our second campaign, “To Australia, New Zealand, because there are so many inquiries.” And all those changes, midway led to huge issues, further down the line, shipments arriving late, colorways not working as intended. So this time we are putting a lot more effort in the planning and knowing what we’re going to do and not changing halfway.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Well, I know you’ve been working with us here at Inventus Partners for a while now, running the first campaign with us back in 2017. So, what were some of those considerations that you looked at back then, and then again, to choose us again to launch your newest innovation with?

Ricardo Bottome:
Well, so we did our first campaign on our own, and we stumbled and realized we hadn’t planned properly. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing. Then we worked with you our second campaign, and we had an awesome result, very good support, from the minor detailed to the major campaign planning issues. We were very happy with the results.

Ricardo Bottome:
And for this third round, I looked again. I Googled, “What are the best Kickstarter campaign agencies?”

Ricardo Bottome:
I read the websites, talk to two or three of them and realized nobody’s offering a full service with everything we want to do other than you guys. So it was a no brainer.

Roy Morejon:
Well, I love hearing that. So where are you guys headed next? I’m really interested to see what new innovations you guys have after this one coming out.

Ricardo Bottome:
So I have two ideas that I want to work with and go for our fourth and fifth campaign. From the first campaign, people have been asking for a TreePod they can sleep in. And our TreePods are similar to a hammock. You use your hammock mostly when the weather is okay, and mostly for a nap. You don’t sleep in it. It’s not waterproof. All of our TreePods have followed the hammock pattern. And a lot of people want one that they can sleep in that it’s fully waterproof. So that is still on the back burner. And that’s the product I’m going to start working on the minute we finished fulfilling on this campaign.

Roy Morejon:
Well, that sounds exciting.

Roy Morejon:
Well, Ricardo, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. I know you’ve done this before, so I switched up some of the questions. You’re ready to go?

Ricardo Bottome:
I’m ready.

Roy Morejon:
So what inspires you to continue to be an entrepreneur?

Ricardo Bottome:
Oh, I love creating products and solving problems, and making something people will enjoy, and it will improve their quality of life, or relaxation and enjoyment, in general.

Roy Morejon:
What’s your favorite place to relax?

Ricardo Bottome:
The beach, certainly.

Roy Morejon:
Nice. Are there any people, websites, newsletters, podcasts, or any thing that you would recommend to our startup founders and entrepreneurs out there that they pay attention to?

Ricardo Bottome:
So, yes, I’m looking at my list of podcasts. I have yours. I have One Goal, People I Mostly Admire. There’s one that I listen to a lot called Resilient Retail, again, about entrepreneurs, building companies that last.

Ricardo Bottome:
I like the High Performance podcast as well. I run a lot, at least five times a week and it’s my most creative time. And it’s also when I listen to podcasts. So I always have half a dozen of them that I’m following up.

Roy Morejon:
Very nice. So what advice would you give to a new inventor or entrepreneur that’s looking to launch their innovation?

Ricardo Bottome:
So I think many times to all the projects I’ve done, and I think a garden, you plant a lot of things, many don’t work, but the one that works, you continue watering and nourishing, and eventually you’ve got this big tree. And people come into your house, they see the big tree and there’s no evidence of all the failures.

Ricardo Bottome:
So what I bring from that is don’t be afraid of the failures,, continue trying. Eventually the product will gel and work. And I think it was Thomas Alva Edison that said that he needed 10,000 ideas before inventing the right light bulb. It takes time and you have to keep at it. And eventually people will not remember the 9,000 prototypes before the product that did work.

Roy Morejon:
That’s right. They weren’t failures. They were just ways that it didn’t work.

Ricardo Bottome:
Exactly. Stepping stones.

Roy Morejon:
That’s it. So what do you think are the top three skills that every entrepreneur needs to be successful?

Ricardo Bottome:
Oh, wow.

Ricardo Bottome:
I think there’s many different things that can make you successful in a different time, in a different product. We look at the success stories and we’re not looking at the other 900 people that were inventing things that didn’t succeed. And it doesn’t mean they didn’t have the right idea or product. It could mean that something didn’t gel. I like to say Tesla was started by somebody and then Elon Musk came along and gave it the money it needed. That inventor, we don’t remember who it is. That’s the guy who started the company, but he didn’t have the network of people and the money.

Ricardo Bottome:
So I think there’s hundreds of ways to be successful. And the one thing is finding something you like, and you think you’re going to improve and do it better than anybody else. Okay.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So give me an idea on what’s one invention that’s made your life easier during the pandemic.

Ricardo Bottome:
Wow. Definitely the vaccine.

Roy Morejon:
Yeah. There you go.

Ricardo Bottome:
The vaccine was developed in under two months. The rest of the time period was testing. Developing a vaccine for a new disease in two months is the greatest advance of medicine I think we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely.

Roy Morejon:
Ricardo, last question in the rapid fire, and since you’ve run multiple campaigns, very interested to hear your continued take on what does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Ricardo Bottome:
So I think it’s going to continue. I think there’s many ideas out there. I think people back projects, and have mostly good experiences,

Ricardo Bottome:
and come back to back more. I back a dozen projects a year because I see new products and I like to see them grow. And I like to be that first person helping the product succeed. So I see this as being bigger and bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Ricardo, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity, again, to talk to our audience, give them your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check out TreePod.

Ricardo Bottome:
Thank you, Roy. So our third generation of TreePod is the biggest and most open version of the TreePod. You have to think of it as a super hammock or a hammock on steroids. You have a flat base to lay on, you have a shade, you can set it up anywhere you have a hanging point. It’s really brings relaxation to a higher level.

Ricardo Bottome:
You can find us on Kickstarter, we’re going live October 6th and we would love to have your support.

Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript links to the campaign and everything else we talked about today.

Roy Morejon:
And of course, got to thank our crowdfunding podcast sponsors over at The Gadget Flow and ProductHype. And if you loved this episode, as much as I do make sure to leave us a review on iTunes.

Roy Morejon:
Ricardo, thank you so much for joining us on Art of the Kickstart.

Ricardo Bottome:
Thank you, Roy, for having me here.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning into another amazing episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:
If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, show us some love by giving us a great rating on your favorite listening station. And of course, make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the previous episodes.

Roy Morejon:
And if you need some help, that’s what we’re here for. Make sure to send me an email to info@artofthekickstart.com.

Roy Morejon:
Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you on the next episode.