Kinkajou founder Patrick Lehoux discuss how crowdfunding helped him not only launch his product, but confirm its market.
Build a better mousestrap, and the world will beat a path to your door, goes the saying. And if you build a better bottle cutter, the world will beat a path to crowdfund it.
That was the experience of Canadian entrepreneur Patrick Lehoux, who raised $80,946 on Kickstarter from 1,087 backers to launch his bottle cutter, Kinkajou. Uses for bottle cutters include drinking glasses, flower cases, and more.
Following a successful (and busy) run on Kickstarter, Lehoux has pre-orders from 40 countries and distribution requests from 12 countries and is preparing to begin shipping mid-December. He spoke with ITBusiness.ca editor Brian Jackson about Kinkajou’s crowdfunding success.
Brian Jackson: Briefly tell us your story – what is your project and why did you turn to crowdfunding?
Patrick Lehoux: My Kickstarter adventure started more as a “it would be cool to do something on Kickstarter” kind of idea. The problem was that I didn’t have the idea yet. I had just gotten out of my previous engagement and had some free time. I spent the next few days thinking about various products for Kickstarter.
I eventually came up with four ideas, but the Kinkajou was the quickest to develop because all the others involved some sort of computer hardware/software platform. Named after the small South American mammal with big teeth, the Kinkajou is a bottle cutter with a new twist. The cutters currently available on the market are big and bulky and not very interesting to look at. My design was meant to be simple to operate, easy to store and more aesthetically pleasing.
The main reason for turning to crowd funding was to prove that the idea was commercially viable. Sometimes when you spend a lot of time with an idea, you can easily convince yourself it’s a great idea. Kickstarter is ground zero for early adopters. If the idea does not work on Kickstarter, there’s a pretty good chance it’s not going to work.
BJ: How successful was the model of crowdfunding vs. your expectations of it?
PL: When I first started down the crowdfunding road it was to get some money to help me launch a new business. I quickly realized that the money was secondary. The real power of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter is their ability to bring public awareness to your idea or product. If managed properly, this awareness can be used as launch pad for something much larger than Kickstarter.
One thing I did not expect was the overall work required. I think there is a direct relationship between the amount of work you put into your Kickstarter and what you get out of it. I must have worked an average of 12 to 16 hours a day for the 30 days my project ran. Most of that time was spent communicating with backers and reaching out to blogs, newspapers and other websites. Because there are so many projects running on Kickstarter, it is hard to catch people’s attention. Since my project wrapped up, I’ve talked to many would-be Kickstarter project creators to provide guidance and advice. The first thing I always tell them is “You know this is a lot of work right? So if you’re going to do this, make sure you are really passionate about this idea, otherwise it’s not worth it”.
BJ: Comment on equity-based crowdfunding; is this something you’d want to participate in? Do you think it would be better than the crowdfunding style you took part in, or not? Why?
PL: Equity-based crowd funding is very exciting. It will bring a whole new level of participation from the backer community. I do, however, feel that only certain types of projects would do well in an equity-based crowd funding systems: projects that require a lot of capital to get going and high risk ventures. I think many people would be willing to risk some cash to have a stake in the next big Internet/social media company. This could become the next big form of gambling. I believe smaller ideas and product companies would get bogged down by having answer to shareholders and are better off using the current no-equality crowd funding platforms.