How to raise a million on Kickstarter?
Today we present an interview with the founder of Omate - Laurent Le Pen, who became famous in the role of creator of the Krutetsk smart watch Truesmart. They have everything from a camera to a SIM card. How did the guys from Omate manage to raise so much money to realize their ideas?
Laurent, we thank you for joining us at Career Hack . To get started, tell us a little about your Omate company.
Thank you so much. I’m happy to tell you what we are doing at Omate. So, I founded the company on July 1, 2013 - yes, we are still a young startup. Our facilities are located in Hong Kong and Shenzhen , known as China's Silicon Valley.
Omate is a leading hardware and software design company engaged in the development of wearable telecommunications products and services, thanks to which you can keep in constant contact with the electronic world around you.
The flagship product of the company is TrueSmart , the development of which was funded through Kickstarter. Our crowdfunding campaign was the fifth among the most popular sites in the design category in September 2013.
TrueSmart is the world's first waterproof “smartwatch 2.0” running Android OS. With their release, new standards were established in the field of wearable electronics, they became the most advanced and stylish wearable gadget of this year, at least.
More than a watch, more than just a Bluetooth accessory, Omate TrueSmart is a truly unique “smart” watch that can work independently of a smartphone. And, besides, this is the first smartwatch in the world of IP67 protection class running Android, for which
Omate developed the world's first software add-on designed specifically for wearable devices (Omate User Interface OUI 2.0), and all this splendor works on chip base MediaTek MT6572Truesmart also has a built-in 2G / 3G GSM modem, Bluetooth and WiFi modules, an antenna built into the strap, and all this in a waterproof stainless steel case.
Omate has managed to raise more than a million dollars on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. Tell us how it came out.
In fact, the Omate concept was introduced a year ago at the well-known exhibition of achievements of the mobile industry Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, when I was still vice president of Umeox Mobile , the leading manufacturer of Android smartphones in China.
My vision of the problem is that wearable devices, in the form that we are all used to, in most cases serve only as Bluetooth accessories. In my opinion, sooner or later they will completely go to the mercy of the telecommunications industry. I convinced my former boss Jack Shao, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of Umeox Mobile, to invest in my company, and together we continued to work on several concepts of the Outdoor Mate project.
When we felt that the project was ready, we founded the company, which was later called Omate - in honor of my initial idea.
After that, I contacted a friend in the USA who had been engaged in consumer electronics for many years in his startup and also planned to launch his own Kickstarter campaign, but as a music project. I asked if he was interested in starting the TrueSmart project with us. We quickly signed a contract and started work on the marketing company Omate.
We received confirmation from Kickstarter on August 20, 2013. That night I could not fall asleep, so I was excited about the upcoming presentation of the product that we had been working on for the past six months. We launched the TrueSmart campaign one day later, on August 21st at ten in the morning, New York, or ten in the evening, at Shenzhen time.
I invited our entire team to a bar restaurant in Shenzhen with my friends, and almost every thirty seconds we updated our Kickstarter page; the collected amount grew so quickly that already after twelve hours our project was successfully funded. Initially, we planned to raise 100 thousand dollars during the first thirty days, but in the end we managed in twelve hours.
In order not to slow down, we made a few statements about our future goals, which we had to invent almost on the go, since it was difficult to assume such a success of the campaign. We improvised - and finished on September 20, 2013, with a result of more than a million dollars, by joining the elite club of "millionaires" Kickstarter. It seemed to me that these were the most amazing and tiring thirty days in my life, because then I did not suspect that the next six months would be even more epic. It was just the beginning. There is life after Kickstarter, and it begins as soon as the last investor receives his parcel. We will forever be grateful to each of them, I will remember them until the end of my life.
About Omate wrote resources around the world. How did it happen that you were noticed? How did you have to advertise a campaign outside the Kickstarter platform?
To begin with, TrueSmart is truly an extraordinary project. Leading journalists in the field of whose interests are electronics and software products are well aware of this. Omate is a small telecommunications startup, but successfully competes with recognized giants, whose advertising budgets are estimated at nine zeros; we are like David going against the Goliaths in the growing wearable electronics industry.
This also applies to analysts who have access to information from sources in corporations like ARM. All of them are well aware of the numbers of pre-orders coming to us and how we instantly broke out into the leaders of the smart watch market.
How ambitious entrepreneurs get the most out of crowdfunding platforms?
Crowdfunding is a fantastic tool for entrepreneurs with a good idea, limited capital and a desire to conduct a global marketing campaign. But this is just a tool, because you have to work with the entire ecosystem of the platform at once to make it work. Kickstarter gives you the opportunity to work directly with the trendsetter community .
When it comes to Kickstarter, which is more important: a product or a strategy? What affects the decision of a potential investor?
Kickstarter is product-centric, so to speak. Most investors pay attention to the long-term strategy and vision of the company, but all of them mainly just want to be among the first people in the world who will get the product at a price much lower than what they will appoint when it appears on store shelves. Their main motivation is to be among the first users, beta testers, to be at the forefront of the history of industrial design and business.
Some investors give us incredible support, trying their best to help. To deserve to reward the best developers of our Kickstarter community, we arrange special hackathons. We call these guys VID (Very Important Developers or Very Important Developers).
In business, failure often becomes an essential step on the path to success. Please tell us about the most serious obstacles that you encountered on the way, and how they prepared you for future success.
Oh, on the way we ran into a bunch of problems. Do not forget, Omate TrueSmart is a very difficult product to manufacture, it is not just a Bluetooth or WiFi accessory. And in terms of mass production, it is even much more complicated than smartphones due to the peculiarities of the form factor and the assembly process.
We simultaneously worked with the design of watches, and with their telecommunications filling. It turned out to be quite difficult to combine these two areas in one product.
And perhaps the biggest problem was the sending of batches of devices. For the most part, this was due to unforeseen factors like a new design or making improvements to the device. Unlike Kickstarter, this process is openly covered on our website, this information is available to all our investors who are waiting for their parcels. At the same time, in the traditional production process, a product falls on the shelves of retail stores only after several circles of such improvements, the details of which remain, so to speak, behind the scenes, and remain a secret for the community. It is for the same reasons that we are seeing the presentation of many new devices at MWCin Barcelona, knowing that they will not get to the market before the summer. Product creation and production planning are still complex processes, because sometimes they take longer than you originally expected.
In addition, my team and I came from the mobile phone design industry, where most of us worked according to the B2B model (Business to Business). Over the past few months, we have had to learn a lot to become a true B2C company.
Who and what qualities did you look for in your employees when you created your Omate team?
To begin with, I still continue to actively staff the crew and look for new members for him who are ready to join us aboard Omate.
Our motto is: “Design is a way of thinking, not a department.” Therefore, first of all, I would like to know what candidates think about design and how they approach problem solving. We are also looking for people who share our experience, creativity and optimism. And most importantly - we are looking for carriers of the entrepreneurial spirit .
We need people who are ready to work quickly, learn from their own and others' mistakes, and over and over again repeat the path from concept to start production, without losing sight of the established timelines for the product to enter the market, which are increasingly being reduced in our developing industry.
We are eager to work with a huge community of developers supporting our project from the first days. We use this inexhaustible source of talent to select the best applications and developments, offering our customers an ever wider range of opportunities and developing the entire Omate ecosystem. This is a unique hiring experience for us. We recently made a few more deals with developers for Android and now include these applications as standard for TrueSmart.