For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Cathy Cao about Vinci 2.0, a project that has raised over half a million dollars on Kickstarter so far. Tune in to hear more about how to make the most of your pre-launch marketing efforts, how to get great press coverage and much more.

Vinci 2.0 – The World’s First Standalone Smart Wireless Headphones

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to use your pre-launch period to build momentum and ensure you fully fund on launch day
  • Why email marketing is so important the day you launch your Kickstarter project
  • How to use samples to get press coverage
  • How to create a compelling Kickstarter video
  • How to test your campaign messaging before launching a crowdfunding project
  • How much time to spend preparing for a Kickstarter project
  • How to use backer feedback during your Kickstarter campaign

Links

Connect With Vinci 2.0

Sponsors

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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 honored to be joined with Cathy Cao, with Vinci 2.0. Cathy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Cathy Cao:

Thank you for having me, Roy, pleasure to be here.

Roy Morejon:

You guys just launched your second Kickstarter campaign for the Vinci 2.0, the world’s first standalone, smart, wireless headphones. Tell our audience where all of this started.

Cathy Cao:

Yes, so to start, let me give you a little bit of background about the company. We actually started in September of 2014, and our goal was really to create a much better, much easier, more convenient listening experience for users, who currently have trouble, for example, when they’re running out in the park. When they’re connecting with their phones and their headsets, they’re using wires and Bluetooth. They’re losing Bluetooth connectivity. It becomes quite a hassle, as well, when you’re running, and you have to look down at your phone for some music streaming services and for certain apps, and then finally pressing the song you want.

It’s a lot of things to deal with, especially when you’re on the go, and so what we wanted to create was this completely standalone device that you can just, for example, put on your head and Vinci can detect that it’s on your head, to automatically play music for you, when you take it off, automatically pause. When you put it on, you can just say, “Hi Vinci. Play” … a certain song. “Play Justin Bieber. Play Lady Gaga. Play a rock song. Play something to make me happier.” Vinci will understand exactly what you want to hear. This is tailored, based on your previous listening history, but also based on a bunch of body status features.

For example, we have a heart rate sensor in there. We have an accelerometer, pedometer, so Vinci can track your heart rate, your number of steps, and what you want to hear at the moment. It’s a device that understands how the user wants to listen to music, but also how the user … or what kind of music, rather, the user wants to listen to. We created this device to really improve the music listening experience, essentially.

With the 1.0, which we launched last year, as well, on Kickstarter, that one did nearly a million in 37 days. That one was over the ear. We focused a lot, as well, on the sound quality, on a lot of the different other features, for UI, for example. There’s also a touch control feature, so essentially you can just swipe forwards and backwards to change tracks and swipe up and down to adjust the volume, so very easy to use, very interactive, and very simple UI.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, this product is awesome, Cathy. I mean, you guys raised … We’re at about a half a million, so far in the campaign. We’re trending to raise almost about a million again on this one. What’s interesting is you guys hit the campaign goal. I think we raised $100,000 in four hours, and you hit the campaign goal within six minutes. Obviously, you had a preexisting community to be able to tap into, and you guys also held a launch party in New York City and got some video testimonials from users. Let’s talk about the launch of the campaign and why you guys have been so wildly successful.

Cathy Cao:

Sure. I think what’s really important for a lot of campaign owners is to realize the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes pre-campaign. A lot of that comes in, as you mentioned, Roy, with our previous campaign, our supporters from there, but as well, what is important to know to do is definitely to have some kind of a teaser launch page before launch, and try to get as much momentum as possible there, prelaunch, to be able to have this big bang, this big boom, on launch date.

Another … I mean, there’s a lot of other streams that we use prelaunch, and those come from PR, from digital ads, from some other company supporters, from perhaps some distributors who are interested in the product, so a lot of sourcing, a lot of trying to get momentum by finding support, I guess, from friends, from family, but also from these professional networks, as well.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Give the audience an idea of how big of an email list or community you guys built before this campaign versus the first version 1.0.

Cathy Cao:

Yeah, so for 1.0 actually we … I believe it was around 5000 emails that we acquired. For this one, this one we did an overwhelmingly amount of 100,000. It was definitely a great bump from last year. I think, because of last year’s campaign, we definitely had a better stab at how to approach, how to approach the campaign, and what we really needed to get it kickstarted. For this one, we brought in a lot of the tactics that we used for last campaign and tried to just scale it up for this one.

Roy Morejon:

In all of the pre-campaign marketing efforts that you guys did, and given that you hit your campaign goal in six minutes and then 100K within the first four hours, what do you think was the most responsible factor for all of your pre-campaign marketing efforts?

Cathy Cao:

I definitely, definitely think it was the … Well, the numbers show that it was the emails. The email conversions that [were/we’re, inaudible 00:06:37] about [to get, inaudible 00:06:38] … Email conversion rate is definitely one of the highest rates, when you compare it to PR, when you compare it to digital advertising. I think, before launch, it’s definitely important to know what is maybe an average rate for your certain industry and what you’re looking to get there, so that you can have a good estimate of about how much you’re able to acquire that day from email, and then, of course, for the other parts, as well, but I would say one of the biggest drivers was that email conversion.

Roy Morejon:

You mentioned getting some great press coverage. I know you guys have been covered now in Forbes, Digital Trends, and EnGadget. What are some of the tips for other creators that are listening, in terms of getting and securing great coverage for the campaign?

Cathy Cao:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), I think one important, one definitely very important thing is to make sure that you have a good working prototype. A lot of media are just very interested in … If they’re interested in your product, they’ll want you to reach out. Definitely make sure you can be able to ship them a review unit. They love to review the products. A lot of them are willing to even return it back to you. It’s just a matter of them being able to feel the product in their hands. Especially with Kickstarter projects and crowdfunded projects, they want to know that this is a product that’s out there, that is going to be ready for market, that will be delivered to backers, and they’re not just writing an article about something that’s just a myth. To them, it’s very important to be able to actually test out some of these features that you’re explaining in your campaign.

For the reach-out process, I think one very important thing is just knowing which media or which writers to reach out to. Make sure they’re actually interested in the topic of what you’re doing. Make sure they usually write about things within your category. If they’re interested in AI, for example, don’t send them a product about food and something completely unrelated. They’re not going to write about it, even if they’re just top media that you want to reach. Just make sure you reach the right people.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Let’s talk a little bit about your campaign video. What was the process like there, and how did you decide what to include in the campaign video itself?

Cathy Cao:

Yeah, so we definitely ran through a couple of different versions of scripts, and it was not easy coming to what we finally wanted, but I think our approach process there was very simple, was what do we want to tell our audience, and what are the outstanding features of Vinci, as compared to other headphones out there, as compared to other smart headphones out there? What do we really want to convey to the audience, in terms of the special features and what is different. I think the Kickstarter community loves to see innovative products. Of course, they’re the early adopters, and they want to see the main differences of the innovativeness that they can be a part of, that they can help kickstart.

When we wrote the script, we wanted to focus on, number one, what is the main selling point of this product. For us, it was the completely standalone capability, for this new campaign, and for the old campaign. Before this one, it was the ability to stream music on the go with the SIM card and being able to take calls and messages and positioning it really as that completely standalone device, almost like that Apple Smartwatch, but in a pair of headphones, because you would need a pair of headphones anyway, so why not combine it into one.

We wanted to take this route and make the user understand that this is something that could potentially replace your phone, especially when you’re engaging in high level activities. You can’t always look down at your phone all the time, especially when you’re running outside or you’re in the gym, so wanted to really convey the usefulness of that there, and trying to think of some of the scenes that is most suitable. For a lot of this, also, we looked into our audience from our last campaigns and tried to see, which audiences did our product convey the message to most clearly? Which audience were more interested in the product and which scenarios and environments and scenes and activities were they interested in?

We ended up coming down to a couple, to jogging outside, to cycling outside, and to dancing, which you might have seen in the video, as well. A couple more … commuting. Some scenes we ended up actually taking and cutting out, because we just felt that the video was dragging and getting a little bit too longs, as well. We ended up cutting the video, from three minutes and 40 seconds to one minute and 58 seconds, I believe it is now. I think it definitely helps the user, when you have just maybe three top points, instead of five, six, or seven or eight, which we had in the beginning, but I think it definitely helps the storyline when you have maybe a few very strong features that you want to focus on, rather than having 10 features in there, and then try to make the user follow you throughout the whole three minutes and 30 seconds.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, absolutely. I noticed, on this campaign, about a third of your backers are new backers. They’ve never backed a Kickstarter campaign before, which is always interesting to us. Did you find that the marketing or the messaging, in terms of your target market or audience has changed while the campaign has been active?

Cathy Cao:

I think, I wouldn’t say there was too much of a huge change. I would say that last year, we maybe focused our ads a lot more on Kickstarter, and on crowdfunding, and then people who are early adopters. I think, for this product, being also that Apple just launched their Smartwatch, as well, we took a little bit more of a tweak, and, I want to say, tried to target some mass consumers, as well, like purchasers of that Apple Smartwatch, or some very similar products within the category of this standalone device.

I would say, yeah, probably a little bit we changed, but I think some of the main interests and activities were the same, for example fitness focused, sound. Yeah, I think those were the main two. Those were the main two, jogging, cyclers, but, yeah-

Roy Morejon:

Did you guys test different videos before the campaign launched, to see what converted better, in terms of the email acquisition, pre-campaign?

Cathy Cao:

Did we test different videos? Campaign videos? No, but we tested some creative small little snippets that we did in-house, just very short, like some of the videos that you would see on Facebook that you pass by, and it’s one minute long, and it’s something with bold text letters, and it’s just something maybe creative or funny or just gets one feature and one point across. We did some of the testing with that, tested with models or with people in the movie, so actors in the short video clip or just product only. We definitely did some for the ads there, but, in terms of the main campaign video, that we actually did not test, and we had that mainly because we were a little bit delayed on producing them,-

Roy Morejon:

Fair enough.

Cathy Cao:

But we would’ve loved to have tested that, yes, pre. That would have helped.

Roy Morejon:

Given that you’re now a crowdfunding vet, what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned through the whole process now of launching two separate campaigns on Kickstarter?

Cathy Cao:

Biggest thing … Ooh, that’s hard. There’s so many things that I’ve learned. Ooh, let me think. The biggest thing, I would say, is leave at least two months of time for preparation. Otherwise, you’re just going to drive yourself crazy. This takes a long time to prepare, definitely not just maybe what you might think as a first-time … Well, I know, when I came to it, I was like, maybe one month is enough to put everything together and really just launch, and it’s just crowdfunding, and if people are interested, they come in and they fund your product, but there’s really quite a lot that goes on beforehand, in terms of the preparation.

The first three days are the most important part of the campaign really, because a lot of people come, and they see if your product is doing well and how much percentage you may have overfunded, and decide on there if your campaign is really going to be worth their time or if they see that you’re able to deliver, because you’ve passed your goals. Make sure the first day, even, if you’re able to, surpass your goal and really be able to calculate your conversions and see how much you’re able to surpass your goal by would be very important.

Roy Morejon:

What’s been the biggest surprise of this Kickstarter campaign?

Cathy Cao:

Of this one, the biggest surprise, biggest surprise … That’s a good question. I would say, oh, I would say we did have one little surprise. One interesting surprise was actually … We launched the previous version, the 1.0. We had a lot of people ask, “Why the screen?” or, “Why do I want a screen on the side, for the visualizer and the personal expression? What’s the usefulness there?” I mean, there is a functionality component to it, too, which is you can log in directly to your music services and put the password of your WiFi and your music services on there.

With the 2.0 … We launched one of the versions, the light version, without the screen, and then we had people come in and the backers come in and ask, “Why is there no screen on here? We really want the screen. That’s one of the reasons why I backed the other version instead, and I just really would wish there’s a screen on there.” That was something that came really surprising to us, because we thought that people were complaining about why is the screen there, and what’s the purpose of the personal expression component? That ended up being something that people really wanted, and so we included it back in there. Yeah, that was pretty funny.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. You can’t please them all, right?

Cathy Cao:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

Where are you guys headed next, when this project ends? What’s 3.0 look like?

Cathy Cao:

Yeah, well that’s still a little early. I would say there’s definitely plans to do a 3.0, and we have some ideas in place, still too early to release, because we have some wild ideas thrown together. Probably, I would say within maybe a couple or a few months, we’ll have a better idea.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Well, allow me also to congratulate you on being a 2018 CES Innovation Award Honoree. That’s quite a badge of honor to get, so congratulations on that, Cathy.

Cathy Cao:

Thank you, Roy. Yes, we will be there. Our product will be showcased in the Innovation Awards Center … I think it’s Center, but we’ll also be a booth number 51680, if anyone wants to drop by in the Sands Expo of the Convention Center, yeah.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Well, we’re looking forward to getting the demo of that, when our team heads out there. Cathy, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire questions at you. You good to go?

Cathy Cao:

Good to go, ready.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Cathy Cao:

I think quite a lot of things, but I think one thing actually is following my father. He was in the textile distribution and manufacturing business, and he was an entrepreneur his whole life. I think just seeing him just self-learn a lot of these aspects from how to do a distribution in America, coming from this small, tiny village in China, and how to set up all this process, without knowing everything, was just amazing to me, and so I’ve always wanted to be a self-learner. I’ve just felt very motivated when I have something that I’m very passionate about.

Roy Morejon:

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

Cathy Cao:

Probably Elon Musk. I think he’s just very diverse and has done things in all different kinds of industries, and being able to create great impact in all of them. It’s just pretty amazing. I want to hear a lot about how his mind works, yeah.

Roy Morejon:

Are there any business books or books, in general, that you would recommend to our listeners?

Cathy Cao:

For entrepreneurs and startups, I would say, The Lean Startup. That’s definitely been … I forget the author’s name. Yes, Eric Ries, The Lean Startup. I think that’s a great, great book, in terms of learning how to test, how to start, how to test, how to iterate on your idea, how to create a minimal viable product. I think that has been very helpful, in terms of a read, in terms of starting a company and really seeing how to improve across all different functions.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Yeah, I had the wonderful chance to interview Steve Blank a few months ago, now, at Web Summit, and he’s one of his teachers, so really interesting to hear the perspective from the teacher, the educator’s side on that. Last question, Cathy, in the launch round: What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Cathy Cao:

I … ooh, good question. I think, for me, because I’ve been a lot in the hardware space, I think … but there’s also a lot of gaming companies out there. I really think it’s endless possibilities, definitely crazy amounts of ideas coming out every single day. I think crowdfunding is wonderful, and I don’t think … I think it’s just going to grow from here. I think there’s a lot of companies still getting into this space, whether it’s companies that are actually the manufacturers or companies that are supporting startups, in terms of the fulfillment process, or companies as, Roy, yourself, like with the marketing agencies, PR agencies. I think there’s a lot of support here, and that’s why I think it’s going to grow.

Roy Morejon:

I agree, Cathy. Well, this has been awesome. This is your chance to give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they need to go buy some Vinci 2.0’s on Kickstarter.

Cathy Cao:

All right, yep, so Vinci 2.0 is, again, a completely standalone headphone product. It has the ability for you to stream music directly on the headphones, take calls, answer messages. There’s a personal trainer inside. It has very simple, easy gesture control, voice control, and bone conduction mic, as well. This gesture control and bone conduction mic is something that’s actually not been seen before in traditional headphones. With all these features, it really actually only comes down to a price that’s starting at $89, so definitely a very good time to get your hands on one now, if you haven’t yet. We are available on Kickstarter right now, and our campaign will go until January 14th. Yep, that’s pretty much all I’ve got.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Cathy, thank you so much for being on the show. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the show notes, the full transcript, links to the campaign and everything else we talked about today. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors: The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Of course, if you loved this episode, please leave us a review on iTunes. Cathy, thank you so much for being on Art of the Kickstart today.

Cathy Cao:

Thank you, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into 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 loved 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.