Eu-wen Ding is the founder of Lumos Helmet, the next generation bicycle helmet with integrated brake and turn signal lights for safer cycling.
On this episode of Shopify Masters, find out how he used Facebook ads to promote a Kickstarter campaign that raised $800,000.
- What "rapid prototyping" is and how to use it to design your products.
- How to make sure you’re ONLY focused on solving your customer’s main problem.
- When do you know when your prototype is ready to bring to the market.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
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Felix: Today I’m joined by Eu-Win Ding from LumosHelmet.co, that’s L-U-M-O-S-H-E-L-M-E-T dot C-O. Lumos is the next generation bicycle helmet with integrated brake and turn signal lights for safer cycling. It was started in 2014 and based out of Boston Massachusetts. Welcome Eu-Win.
Eu-Win: Hey Felix, thanks for having me.
Felix: I’m excited to have you on. Tell us a little bit more about this helmet, how does it work?
Eu-Win: Yeah, so you hit the nail on the head, that’s exactly what it is, it’s a, some are calling it a next generation bike helmet. We designed it ourselves. It’s a helmet that looks like a regular bike helmet by day when you just look at it but when you turn it on at night you find your lights integrated into the helmet with you. You’ve got bright white lights in the front of the helmet, bright red lights in the back of the helmet. It comes with a remote that goes on handlebars of your bike and when you press those buttons it activates left and right turn signals. When you slow down it activates a brake light.
Felix: Yeah, very cool. How did you come up with this idea for a helmet like this?
Eu-Win: I really fell into it in a strange [happenstance 00:02:14] way to be honest. I’m not sure if I can explain it really well but me and my co-founder, we were both cyclists in Boston just as commuters and we really enjoyed it but Boston isn’t necessarily the most friendly place in the world for cyclists. We felt pretty vulnerable on the road a little bit. We always felt frustrated as well with just idea of helmets like we absolutely believed that it’s necessary pieces of gear but it’s frustrating that other than protecting you in a crash it doesn’t really do very much for you otherwise.
For us, we constantly just found ourselves just losing our lights, forgetting our lights, not charging our lights, we’d dump it into our bag and we’ll forget where it is or it will crack. We were spending so much money on lights and just losing them so quickly, it was just a really, really frustrating experience. That’s where the idea came from, that we could, why couldn’t a helmet do more for us and to combine the two. I forget my lights all the time but I rarely forget my helmet and so. If I had my lights on my helmet I’ll be more enthusiastic about wearing a helmet in the first place. I always have a light with me.
It just seemed like a very natural idea and so we were really just scratching out our own niche out say. We spent a couple of weekends just hacking together a prototype, really just for ourselves. There was no agenda to turn this into anything necessarily. We were just looking to make a helmet for ourselves and so we tore apart an old helmet and started gluing LEDs onto it, put our [dreeno 00:04:01] PCBs on the outside and started riding around with it and then we started getting comments all the time. People kept stopping us and asking hey, cool helmet, what is that, where do you get one? We got so many questions that we started thinking maybe this, there’s an opportunity here and that’s where it all started.
Felix: Yeah, one thing you mentioned I think in the pre-interview questions was about how you use a lot of rapid prototyping. Tell us a little bit more about this, what is rapid prototyping? How did you use it to come up with or design your initial product?
Eu-Win: Yeah, our approach maybe was a little bit haphazard but I think there was a bit of a method to the madness. We’re engineers by background and I think our MO is to build more and think less or just keep tinkering. We didn’t necessarily do a lot of customer development or market research before. We had the idea and we literally just spent one weekend building the first prototype. We started working on, I recall this quite clearly, we started working on this on a Friday night and by our Sunday afternoon we had our first working prototype.
It was crude and it was really ugly but it worked and it worked very well but it got the idea across and was enough for us to show ourselves and to show other people what the idea was. From there you could at least see that there something there. The way I knew was I remember we took this really ugly looking prototype to a bike shop and we showed him the features like hey, can you take thirty seconds of your time, I want to show you this prototype that we’re building, it’s like look, it’s a helmet, it’s got lights, so we turned the lights on and you could see his eyes, I could see his eyes light up. Then we showed him the turn signal feature and the brake light feature and he started more, you could see the excitement in his eyes about how surprising and intuitive and useful features like these could be. When I saw that excitement I was thinking to myself that I could sell that so that’s how I started.
Felix: Yeah, the idea behind rapid prototyping is just to get something out there just quickly as possible so that you can actually start getting feedback just like how you did with, by going to these bike shops. Did you place a deadline on the prototyping because this is I think an issue that a lot of entrepreneurs get into that are creating their own products, which is that they spend so much time trying to get it perfect before anybody’s eyeballs gets on it. Did you ever have that fear of waiting until it got perfect?
Eu-Win: I see and I realize I didn’t actually fully answer your first question about how the rapid prototyping works so to give just a very simple details, it was taking a friend of ours donated her helmet that she wasn’t using, we tore it apart, we used a Dremel, we used RGB LED strips you can get from Sparkfun and our Arduinos to build the first prototype and to get the turn signal and brake light features working as our first prototype. Right now today we use accelerometers and RF chips but back then the quickest way to do it was to connect it to the phone and have a program and an app on the phone which you can, I forget which one we used now, but many of these available online that you can get from Sparkfun and just use the phone to control the lights as if it was working so I would pretend that the helmet slowing down and then the brake light would turn on by someone else controlling the helmet through the phone. That’s enough to get the effects, it’s just to show, just to prove a concept.
You’re asking about deadlines, so for deadlines we didn’t put any deadlines to it because this was very much a project that was on the side, like I said we didn’t necessarily have an agenda to make this into something. It was really just two guys building something that we thought was cool to solve a problem that we were facing and we weren’t sure if other people were facing the same problem or if they would like a solution that we developed for ourselves. It really was just a side gig and it was a side gig for probably a year where we kept building more prototypes so it definitely flowed like I think there were months that we worked really, many, many hours on it but there were months too that it just fell to the side for a little bit before we picked it up again. It went to a full year of just side exploration.
Felix: Did you have any, either of you have any experience in entrepreneurship before? Now you say engineering backgrounds, did you have experience creating other products, trying to sell other products previously?
Eu-Win: I did. I worked at another startup before this. I was an early employee at that one. That was a medical device startup making low cost technologies for use in the developing world. That was my first foray into building hardware and if you know anything about medical devices, I learned a lot, it was insanely hard but I built my first product there and launched it into the market and there were a lot of challenges. I think we made a lot of mistakes and I learned a lot from that experience. We did a lot of things right as well but there were a lot of things I learned on things I would do and not do next time. Rapid prototyping being one of them and so yeah, it was not exactly my first time.
Felix: Just maybe to make it a little bit clearer about rapid prototyping, what is the opposite of it? What is the opposite of rapid prototyping? Is it just … you can explain.
Eu-Win: I don’t want to get too much into jargon but if people aren’t familiar with it I guess one way is to think of it as this is like a waterfall way of doing product development where you go through, where you set a lot of requirements up front and then you go through gates of approval before you can move the project through. Then there’s this like agile developments where the idea is you should just make the really, the dirt simplest thing you can to meet the most basic requirement first and then slowly add on and build onto it so that in theory, generally any point in the middle of the project you always have something that is sort of like a product that’s launchable in theory. That fits better for software and less for hardware.
The principal of it is keep it as simple as possible and [inaudible 00:10:55]. Early on in the project when you set certain requirements they have very profound cascading effects and so you really want to keep it as simple as possible. For example for our products, it seems very simple and very straight forward and that is absolutely by design that we received a lot of questions when we’re talking to potential investors and stuff like that.
They kept pushing us, hey, it’s a cool idea and clearly it got a lot of attraction but this whole … then there are things, space, wearables, you guys already seem to be taking advantage of all of these trends. To which our reply was well, our approach to doing this that we see those opportunities and we do intend to go into that space in the future but the way we approach things is we want to keep the product as simple as possible, A, because marketing wise you should really just be solving the customer’s main problem and nothing more and nothing less because otherwise it’s just you’re going to dilute your message and what’s your product really about and all of these things.
I think focus is really key and simple is best. Second of all, making any product that’s new is so, it’s really, really hard and you want to get out of your own way. As engineers I’ve experienced this for myself, we really love to stuff so many things in and sort of over-engineer the products and shooting ourselves in the foot. It took a lot of effort to actually force ourselves to focus on just these few features for this product so that we can establish a base and build on that in the future.
Felix: I like what you said about just solving the customer’s main problem. How do you make sure that you’re not diluting your focus in maybe expanding the scope too much and trying to tackle too many problems? Are there checkpoints along the way? Are there questions you constantly ask yourself to make sure that you’re only focused on one problem and that problem is the main problem?
Eu-Win: I don’t know how other people do it but the way we did it, so one of my main learning lessons from my first job was, in product development, is you need, you have all your requirements and it’s really, really important that you rank order and prioritize all of them. You can’t say I want these ten features and all of them are must haves. If you cannot rank order one, two, three, four, five to ten, all of them then I think you are not being disciplined enough about what’s really important to you because you’re going to enter a situations where it’s just, you’re in a rock and a hard place. You have to cut something because your creativity and ingenuity is only going to take you so far.
In product development it’s all about trade-offs really. You have to accept compromises unfortunately unless you’re a huge company with millions of dollars and resources to throw at every single problem. For a new startup with very scarce resources we can only afford to focus on the main problem and do that well which ironically I think is a strength but if you try and do too much then you’re going to over burn yourself and the whole thing is going to collapse under your weight.
I just prioritize everything and we do the best we can to get all of it but it’s going to come to a place where something things cannot be done and so your priorities will tell you clearly what things you can cut and what things to cut first and what things to cut last.
Felix: I like that. You mentioned that you had experienced launching products because of your work experience at a startup. What are your thoughts on working at a startup before starting a business yourself? Do you feel like you could have launched your current business without working at a startup previously?
Eu-Win: I’m sure it’s different for everyone and their personalities and their skills. For me personally I don’t think I could have started this without my experience before. I could have but I would have made so many mistakes that would have killed us and I mean I could still be making many mistakes now that could kill me in the future, I have no idea. I think I’ve avoided some mistakes, a big one being for example working with really goes factories, really good established product lines that know what they’re doing, are reputable, trustworthy, basic things like that make a huge difference. For me, I’d say no, I’m really glad that I worked at a startup first and learned a lot of things there.
Felix: Yeah, I think working at a startup especially in a product developments role is like being a CEO in training. You just get so much experience launching a product but the risk is not so much on you, it’s on the company that you work for so you get a really nice training ground. If you can get a job at a startup especially if you are thinking about launching your first business I think you’ll learn a lot. You can at least be able to see how quickly businesses can grow and what can potentially kill a business too.
Eu-Win: Yeah, for sure and I’m in a strange place where I’ve actually, I’ve only worked maybe three months in a big corporate typical corporate organization and I think you learn a lot of things there as well but my impression was a lot of the things that you learn is hard to navigate a bureaucracy and how to work in the context of a large organization where there’s politics and there are many other things that you have to deal with. I actually have not built the skills to do any of those things. I’m a small company person. I’m a startup person. I start things from zero to get to the one to ten situation that I think a big company person is you got a totally different skillset and [inaudible 00:17:08] very different things.
Felix: Totally, I agree. I think that you can learn a lot of things that are going to be applicable to your current business, your future business by working a job. I think a lot of times there’s this startup culture that stays quit your job immediately and just launch your own business but you can’t do that, don’t feel like you’re just wasting your time. There are definitely ways or definitely skills that you can develop by working for somebody else and …
Felix: You are learning these things while getting paid for it too, which is the best way to learn. You mentioned that one of the key things you learned in your previous job that you made sure to get right in your own startup is to make sure you work with quality manufacturers. Tell us a little bit more about that, what was your experience in the past that influences your decisions today in regards to manufacturers?
Eu-Win: Right, well I guess the key principal to me is, I’m, like I said, as an engineering background and a bit of a product guy I think a lot about how to build products. I think in general if you’re building something new you really want to be as close to the process of building at, actually building it so for example if your product is a software product, that’s a little bit easier probably the founder is already a developer and you’re actually coding the thing yourself, that’s really, really ideal.
For a hardware product it’s a little bit harder unless your own a factory yourself which most people probably don’t. You really need to be on site, on premise for as long as possible just because factories have so many things going on, you’re probably almost definitely not the biggest project that they’re working on and even though the world is so small, like what’s happening right now from many miles away from each other but there’s nothing that beats face-to-face. A lot of business still has to be done face-to-face. You just have to be there, the psychology of knowing that you’re here makes me do the work a little bit better and stuff like that.
I think the learning lesson for me is that of course you have to choose the right partners. The only way to know whether they are right or not is to try working with them for awhile. You have to be on site so we spend, I spend a lot of time going back and forth when we started in Boston. Once we had a good idea of what the product should be the next step was okay, how do know how we can, whether we can build this or not and that’s an engineering design and a product design but then it needs to be made by a manufacturer especially for helmets which are safety products you have to meet quality requirements. You have to pass safety tests and we’re not going to start a factory ourselves so the main challenge at that point was finding the right manufacturer. I was flying between Hong Kong and China and Boston quite a bit looking for the right manufacturer for some time. I think that was a six month project identifying that.
Felix: You’re in Hong Kong right now, right?
Eu-Win: Mm-hmm (affirmative) - Yes, I am.
Felix: Awesome so when you’re on site what do you do there? What if someone wants to follow in your footsteps and make sure they are picking the right manufacturers and when they’ve chosen one they want to be on site to make sure the thing is done right. How do you spend your days? What are you doing to make sure that the product is being created the way that you want?
Eu-Win: Right, so our story I think we got a little bit lucky, maybe very lucky, the push that we did was … I think in general everything is, that all human relationships and what I mean by that is if you approach a factory for the first time, you don’t know them and they don’t know you, it’s really hard to build trust and all these stereotypes that people have about Chinese factories and stuff like that which I think are unfounded in my experience or at least exaggerated. If you don’t know each other from Adam is really hard to get started. It really easy to get miscommunications or misunderstandings.
How we got lucky was I was just networking around in Boston, there are a couple of [engineering 00:21:37] firms and supplies that connect people, sorry not marketplaces but bridge builders and connectors to find suppliers and so I was asking around looking for people who can connect me to a helmet manufacturer. Somehow I got connected with this guy who has spends the last thirty, forty years of his life building helmets and he used to be really experienced materials expert. He was an advisor to the CPSC as they helped, as they developed their safety standards for helmets so really key player in the industry, really busy guy.
I had to meet him at the airport when I first met him. He happened to be flying through Boston, the only time he could fit me in was at the airport. I had took my ugly prototype with me and I went to the Boston Logan and we sat down and had coffee. I showed him the prototype with all the wires and everything sort of sticking out like he got the idea and he was enthralled by the concept and he thought it was really, really cool. He connected me to a helmet manufacturer, a really, really good one that he had known for twenty years. He had brought them business for twenty years and so when I flew to Hong Kong to visit them there was not red carpet but it was very, very warm.
It was just that on the strength of his recommendation they trust this guy, that stamp of approval meant a lot. The fact that I knew that he was trustworthy and that he thought that they were a good factory a lot of uncertainty was just taken off the table immediately with that connection. I didn’t have to visit ten different factories and do my own analysis about who has a better skill or whatever. This was the easiest way to do it.
Felix: First of all I’m surprised they let you into the airport with a product the way you described it, all these wires coming out of it. Yeah, you’re saying that there was some luck involved but not really, right, because you spent the time to put yourself out there to find these opportunities to network.
Felix: Maybe we can talk about that, maybe some tips you have on that, like you mentioned that you were able to network with bridge builders and people that can help you find suppliers. Were there specific events that you were going to? How did you place yourself in the right situations to eventually meet the person that was going, that helped you out so much?
Eu-Win: Yeah, so I’ll definitely give shout-outs to the Boston community. It’s really not a bad place at all to startup, there’s so many good people there and I think one of the coolest things about the startup environment or ecosystem on our culture right now is that people are so generous with their time and that is, at least it seems to me, I hope I’m not being naïve about it but people do have a genuine desire to help people and just out of pure altruism.
Let’s see, there’s Bolts in Boston which is one of the hardware accelerator for certain types of hardware startups and they did a monthly hardware meetup which I would attend quite a few times. There’s another company called Dragon Innovation in Boston, or no, where are they, I forget, Summerville, I think and they help hardware startups find the right suppliers, do DFM off that design. The whole process to get the products ready to go and they provided so much help and advice I would strongly recommend those guys. They’re good people.
Felix: Are these accelerators like incubators? Are they putting on the events or did you actually have to be a part of their program to receive this kind of help?
Eu-Win: They do both. The nice things about accelerators is they know, well one of the things they do is they did a natural hub, a natural ecosystem, they bring all these young people and people interested in starting a company together with the startups and it’s just helpful for them, right, they help foster the ecosystem. Maybe some of these people will turn into companies. Maybe they’ll go to them to be part of that program in the future but otherwise, even if not it’s a fun, it’s a really fun environment to just be amongst people and sharing ideas and talking about things that they’re doing. It’s a really good community.
Felix: Yeah so I want to back a little bit to the prototyping that you did. You mentioned that this process was over a year of working on prototypes, creating improvements to the prototype and building a better and better version so when do you know when it’s in its … I guess it’s never in its final form but when do you know when it’s in its final form to at least bring to the market?
Eu-Win: I think it’s all stages, right, to make the first most functional but ugly … The way I think about is I think the most important thing for me is to just get started and so how I hack myself into or force myself into doing it is I challenge myself, what’s the ugliest way I could do this so that makes it as easy as possible. I don’t feel I have to make something that’s super beautiful to get started because that would just hinder me from getting started which is counterproductive so make the ugliest thing I can and as quickly as possible. That first prototype was done in a weekend just to get the idea across.
Then I think our second version of the prototype was a little bit prettier, that probably took one week to build and that got, it was a high fidelity prototype, it was less ugly, still functional, got better feedback. Then off of that I think we got, I think we had one more version that was similar in beauty and then after that we got samples from the factory and this could be okay. This is off a basic design that we know is doable and is getting closer to actually being realizable. I think the first stage was showing the prototype to, I showed the prototype to probably over a hundred people to get the feedback in person.
That’s useful feedback especially just observe what people do or how people look when they’re seeing a product for the first time, that’s valuable information but not necessarily wise to extrapolate because you’re the one showing it to them, it’s all kinds of biases. The next thing we did was we threw up a landing page with decent photographs of the product and the idea and I think it’s a fairly well known tactic but we just, it’s sort of a hack, it’s just a landing page showing the product, the lights, the brake, turn signals and then at the bottom is the price and then a buy now button. You click the buy now button, it just takes you to a hey, thanks for your interest, we’re not available right now but you can email us or something like that.
Then we just track the clicks off the buy not button. Back then I thought that the buy now button, the buy now button is a good proxy for interest in sales but I know realize that many steps to go from buy now to actual taking money from the credit card. The best, I think the best gold standard would be to actually take money from people and then refund it immediately if you want to do a true, true, true test about hey, will people really pay money for this? It was a good enough test to start and a few people were a little annoyed by it. I remember getting an email from someone who had said hey, it’s super not cool what you did. I totally had my credit card out and ready to input my details to buy your helmet and I felt really, really disappointed when I got this like thank you page thing. That’s all right, no harm no foul, right, I didn’t take anyone’s money and the fact that this guy would take the time to email me that email showed that wow, this guy really wanted the product.
Felix: Yeah, makes sense. Were you driving traffic to this initial landing page? How did you, how were you able to bring visitors to it to determine if it actually or to validate it?
Eu-Win: It was a Facebook ads. The small runs like, I can’t remember, it was like probably a hundred dollars or something to get some traffic in and then just measure … we use Optimizely and so Optimizely allows you to take the same landing page and then you can change the simplest things like for example the price. We had three different prices showing and so any visitor that comes would be randomized in to one of the three and then we’ll see the conversions across the three and that gives you a price elasticity curve. A very, very basic not super scientific one but none the less it gives you some information.
Felix: Wow, definitely sounds like a much more scientific approach than I had initially imagined. I think I really like this idea that you had or this … what you said earlier about you’re asking yourself what is the ugliest way I can do this because it removes a lot of the pressure from getting it perfect. Like you were saying you want to get started.
Speaking of taking it that next step and actually people to pay you for the product to actual validate it, I want to talk about the Kickstarter campaign. You had a goal of hundred twenty five thousand dollars, ended up raising over eight hundred thousand dollars from over six thousand backers so blew the goal out of the water. Were you ever and the first thing I want to talk about is the goal because this is a pretty high goal that you set. A lot of other entrepreneurs that I’ve spoken to on this podcast that have launched on Kickstarter they will often say that they artificially or they purposefully set their goal low just so that they could beat the goal and that for optics or visibility reasons it makes the campaign much more attractive once the goal has been met.
Felix: Did you ever have this fear that maybe you wouldn’t be able to meet the goal? Maybe we’ll start there, when you first started the Kickstarter campaign, was there immediate reception to it or what was it like?
Eu-Win: Let’s see, strong feelings about this one, this a tough one. I think I can speak transparently about this now that we’re a year away from the campaign and we’re actually about to ship helmets so we’re completing the project more or less successfully I think. Depending on the type of company I don’t know for hardware products like ours a hundred twenty five grand is not a lot. It’s really, really not. The break even, the amount of money that we needed was actually a lot more than that and we knew that so that sends … Before we went to Kickstarter we had a debate internally about what the goal should be as you eluded many people artificially bring it down and stuff like that.
We actually knew that we needed about three hundred and fifty grand to make it work. I was actually for a while, I was pushing that hey, if we need three fifty we should put three fifty but a lot past Kickstarter successors said if you do that you’re just not going to be successful. You’re shooting yourself in the foot and it will never get there. You have to put something lower and some people were pushing for fifty and so we compromised at one twenty five. I was really concerned about many scenarios so in the scenario that we make more than three fifty then we’re okay, we got the money that we need and we have confidence based on projections that we can make the product and do it well, no problems.
If we undershoot and get less than one twenty five that’s also not a huge deal because the money is not taken out of people’s accounts, no harm no foul, maybe some back to be disappointed but we live for another day. It’s not a big deal. The challenge was what did we raise between one twenty five and three fifty, let’s say we raised two fifty, two fifty is a lot of money but it’s not enough for, we already know that it’s not enough for us to make the product.
If we take that money then we’re forced to, that money has to come from somewhere, we’re forced to go and find money and it’s like if you need money it’s hard to find it. If you don’t need money, it’s easier to find it so you really want to be in a situation where off of strength, where you don’t necessarily need anyone and then it helps more forthcoming ironically. The emergency situation then so we didn’t know if, how much we’re going to raise. We had hopes for high numbers but at the same time two fifty sounded entirely plausible too. We really didn’t know and so the emergency plan that we had and we saw so many other products out there that had raised decent amounts of money and still could not succeed in their products, it’s happened so often now. We really, really didn’t want to be one of those products.
Our secret emergency plan, which I’m revealing publicly now is if we raised between one twenty five which is say higher than our goal but below three fifty which is our break even necessary number, then we were going to shut the campaign down and return all the money. That was the plan. Thankfully, I think we raised over three hundred and fifty I think by day ten or something like that. It ended up being fine but we had thought through to the process of being very careful about hey, how much money do we need to be successful and what do we do if we don’t reach that money. We had a plan. It was not an ideal plan, shutting the campaign down and returning money is not something that sounds super super nice but it sounds a lot better than taking people’s money and being setup to fail from the get go.
Felix: Makes sense so if that was the goal to, not the goal but the backup plan to return people’s money if you fell in somewhere between the goal and the actual amount of money you needed, what would happen next? You would just start from ground zero again in terms of funding, like not having any capital? What would be the next step after that? I think this is important to talk about because there are probably other Kickstarter campaign creators that are in the same situation where they need more money but they don’t want to set the goal so high because like you’re saying it’s, if you’re setting it too high then you’re not going to end up getting any money. What was the plan if you were going to refund everybody?
Eu-Win: There’s two plans. One, the first plan was if we had enough money left in the bank for ourselves then we would see what went wrong in that project, almost definitely had learned a lot so distill those learnings we’d have one more shot and do the campaign again maybe one or two months down the line. Maybe have a bigger mailing list or better photography or a better video or whatever it was that, we don’t know what could have done better. Then do it one more time and hopefully that will work and if it didn’t work again then the implication to me, well first of all we’ll be out of money anyway. Second of all I think that would imply that it’s a good idea but the market is just not really feeling it and so we should stop the project, maybe we should shut the project down.
I think one of the hardest things, we focus so much on the big successes in entrepreneurship and the truth is of course that it’s so so hard. It really is very, very challenging. As a founder myself, this is our baby, right, this is my baby and I can’t, it’s hard to let go of. If you’re in a place where you can’t let it go but at the same time the market, if the market doesn’t really want what you’re building. You’re really in this tough situation where you’re just slogging against the wind.
It’s hard to say sometimes there’s so many stories of epic comebacks when things are looking the darkest and then you come back and it’s awesome. Many thousands of stories that we don’t see where it just is a slow death and it’s painful and it’s excruciating. I thought Kickstarter was a really great way for me to distinguish is there a lot of potential market here that I can target or maybe it’s actually smaller than I was thinking and maybe I was too optimistic and which case it is a great idea but the opportunity’s probably not big enough to justify the sacrifice I know it’s going to take to make this product. It’s better to know that earlier than late.
Felix: Yeah, I like that. I think that it’s important not to be too bought into your product, bought into your idea and be blinded by your own passion for it and do stick to the numbers especially the ones that are coming from the customers.
Felix: You mentioned, I think you said you hit, the broke the break even that you needed, three hundred and fifty thousand dollars in ten days. Did you run a thirty day campaign?
Eu-Win: A thirty day campaign, yes.
Felix: How did you, what was the promotion planning? How were you able to raise that amount of money because this is probably three fifty, three hundred fifty thousand dollars is, would be amazing for pretty much any Kickstarter campaign, you obviously went over double that so how did you promote this Kickstarter campaign?
Eu-Win: We had a lot of things, we tried a lot of things. Let’s see there was first of all there was, we had a large mailing list of people interested in the product before we launched so that helped us get our, meet our goal in the first day and then the story is oh, these guys have momentum, they hit their goal in the first day and their goal was actually really high and so this a real project now.
We also had a PR plan so we had coverage from Engadgets and I think TechCrunch wrote an article as well. I flew up to London to meet with magazines like Cycling Weekly and stuff like that to show them the prototype and so we got coverage there. I think the cool thing too is that the product is, the idea is so intuitive and surprising and useful so it is quite share-able. We got quite a lot of shares on Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that. The biggest channel was digital marketing. We used a lot of Facebook ads and those were phenomenally effective actually so we had to budget for all these different things but Facebook ended up being the best attraction channel by far and so we totally just reallocated our budget to Facebook. We put ads on bike forums and like Bike Radar and stuff like that, that worked fine. Twitter ads were pretty terrible, we shut those down quickly. Facebook was just by far the best to us.
Felix: Okay, that’s great I definitely want to talk about this then so first I want to talk about the mailing list. You said there’s a large mailing list, was it from running the Facebook ads to that landing page? How were creating a mailing list even before you had a product?
Eu-Win: Yeah, so we tried so many things so for a few months I was out there in the Boston area going to bike events and physically just getting by foot. I got like nine hundred emails by hand going person to person, showing them the product and getting that feedback reaction so that really useful. I would say it was worth doing so that I had a very very clear understanding of my customer. When you went on to Facebook if you design your ad right and your landing page right and your targeting right, we got like ten thousand emails in two weeks that didn’t cost us that much. It costs us like a thousand dollars to get that which is not cheap but …
Felix: For that, yeah, for that many emails I think that’s definitely worth it. Can you explain again, so how did you, how did this work? What was the funnel, like you showed them an ad, what did the ad say and when they clicked on it where did it go?
Eu-Win: At this point I can’t remember what the ad says anymore but I think the ad probably said a next generation bike helmet with lights, brake and turn signals or something like that. Mostly it’s the picture, the picture shows the helmet with the lights and then that gets the click. The click goes to the website and the website explains the product with our video, with our video, maybe it was just pictures, I can’t remember.
The call to action was request to invite for launch. By leaving the email they’re asking for an invite it’s an invitation sort of thing and then when they leave the email we send them an automatic email that says okay … we email them and it says hey, thanks for joining, by joining you’re our VIP and that means you get access to this really special deal. To get access to this really special deal I need you to do two things.
The first is fill in this thirty second survey and the second thing is to stay alert for our next email which will tell you when exactly we launch. You have to listen to that because to get your special deal you have to fill in this survey and it’s first come first serve. If you miss out then sorry, right. All this is true by the way we were not misleading anymore because Kickstarter doesn’t allow you to create special promo codes for specific people and so the only thing you can do is to create special pledges that’s available to anyone and then it’s first come first serve they get snapped off. Which is a helpful constraint for us because that’s a great excuse for me to tell people that you got to come the minute the door opens because if you don’t then it’s gone.
What that resulted in was we were launching at I think 11:35am or something like that and we could see on Google Analytics that there were people, there were like hundreds of people refreshing the page, trying to get a link to go to our Kickstarter campaign and they’re all clambering to get in. That’s how you get momentum, right, the momentum has to come from a build up that exists before and then start to build up upon itself.
Felix: No, I love that you spent so much time before the actual launch of the Kickstarter campaign to build an audience that you could just direct to the Kickstarter campaign. Do you remember how much was funded within like in the first twenty four hours?
Eu-Win: It was a hundred and thirty two I believe.
Felix: Wow, so you broke your goal within twenty four hours?
Eu-Win: Yes, yes we did.
Felix: That’s amazing. Cool, so now that the Kickstarter campaign is over I’m guessing you’re now in full production mode. What is the marketing plan that exists today? Is it just to drive, where are you driving the traffic from Kickstarter to?
Eu-Win: Yeah, now it’s different I think Facebook as a attraction channel only works really well in the early stages and then it start plateauing. I think we’re really starting to see that so we need new attraction channels. Our new attraction channel is going to be the product itself. We’ve had people, we’ve had a group of beta testers using our product since January and they’ve been using almost every day the last seven, eight months. I think ultimately, it’s the fundamentals, right, for our customers are we solving their problem? Are we adding value to their lives? Do they like the product? Do they use the products? We’ve had with our beta testers have got some really good answers with that data. They tell me that they do feel safer, the convenience of having lights is really great. People on the streets ask them about the helmet all the time, cars, it’s all anecdotal and maybe it’s imaginary but cars do seem to be giving them more space and giving them right of way more often, which is pretty cool.
Ultimately we’re building a safety product, right, we’re building lights into your helmet so that you’re more visible so that you’re less likely to be hit by a car that maybe wouldn’t have seen you otherwise. People have exhibited a real genuine interest to promote that because they want their friends to be safe too, not just for themselves. If we do our job right I really do hope that, if we treat our customers well and build a good product I’m hoping that our customers will reward us by telling their friends about it and spreading it as an idea.
We’re hoping to build this brand into a bigger thing beyond just helmets. The next level is we want to be a part of the movements for better cycling safety. If Lumos can be a brand that represents that I think that will be something really really cool and really interesting and a brand that people can believe in and want to be a part of.
Felix: Awesome and because you are creating this product that is, I personally have never seen it before anything like this, did you have to get a patent for it? What are your thoughts on that?
Eu-Win: Yes, you do. It’s quite a painful process unfortunately you have to bite the bullet and you have get to do it, it’s not necessary very cheap either. That’s just part of risks of this journey. I remember distinctly that I had to buy a textbook and just read about all the intricacies of what is involved. I don’t want to do that again though so thankfully at this stage we’ve filed everything we need to file in all our major markets and all of that stuff. I wouldn’t lie, it’s very, very painful. You could have a whole lot of [inaudible 00:48:45] cost of a lawyer about that.
Felix: Yeah, yeah, I’ve definitely heard not necessarily horror stories but it’s a long process for a lot of entrepreneurs that are going down this route. It looks like you guys are planning on shipping the first products this fall. What do you think the next year of your life is going to look like? What do you have planned? What other goals do you have for the company?
Eu-Win: Wow, I have an idea. I’m in Hong Kong now because we’re finishing the product and like I said you have to be at the factory as often as possible so that’s why we’re here but soon the product will be done and then my next priority is definitely just marketing, going for example Interbike, which is the biggest bike show in the US is in Las Vegas in late September so I’m going to be there.
More broadly aside from trade I’m going to be visiting all our major cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, Portland where we have a lot of backers. I’m hoping to make events where we have meet ups with our backers and just learn from the experience how they like the products and what they think we could do better and also try and build a community of people within our users. If, in a year from now my major test is we’re building a product for commuters and so if … I would love to stand on the street in a busy bike street in New York City, in Boston, in San Francisco and at rush hour and count the number of people wearing Lumos helmets. I would love it to be a certain number of people, I’m not sure what the number should be quite yet but I’d love to see it on the streets just being a thing. That’s the attraction goal, yeah.
Felix: Yeah, I’m sure it’s going to be a beautiful sight of you to see your product out in the wild for the first time on some stranger’s head. I think it’s going to be …
Felix: Yeah, very cool.
Eu-Win: One of the nice things about this product because it’s just so visible and it’s so, you can just see it and that’s nice.
Felix: Awesome, thanks so much Eu-Win, so again LumosHelmet.co, L-U-M-O-S-H-E-L-M-E-T dot C-O. Anywhere else you recommend our listeners check out if they want to follow along with what you guys are up to?
Eu-Win: We also on Facebook. We have a Facebook page so you could like our page and get our updates that would be awesome. We also have a mailing list on our website so if you’re not ready to buy a helmet yet just leave a email and we will keep you updated on everything that we’re doing.
Felix: Very cool. Thank you so much.
Eu-Win: Thanks so much, Felix, really appreciate it. This has been great.
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