Apr 13, 2011
This past weekend, I had the great opportunity to interview Scott Wilson at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) Northeast Conference 2011. Scott is the founder of MINIMAL, the global design studio behind game-changer products such as the Microsoft Kinect, and the entrepreneur behind TikTok+LunaTik. TikTok and LunaTik are two innovative products that allow you to turn your iPod Nano into a multi-functional watch. The premium product LunaTik ($79.95) is designed for those who want to use the Nano mainly as a wrist watch, whereas the more affordable TikTok ($39.95) provides a snap-in option.
Scott decided to develop TikTok+LunaTik in Fall 2010, when he realized that the leading brands were not fully taking advantage of the opportunity to transform the Nano into everyday use. As he had worked with watch companies in the past, he was able to bring the right expertise into these products’ design and material choices. He first offered the product designs to Incase, a company that provides carrying solutions for Apple products. Incase initially agreed to manufacture and commercialize the products, but later decided that it was not the right path for the company. Inspired by the non-believers, Scott went to Kickstarter, a crowd-funding platform for creative projects. And we all know how the story ends: $941,718 from 13,512 backers.
Through his experience, Scott learned that it was the design and story-telling, as well as the social power of Kickstarter, blogs, and other networks that made this process a viral success. As a first step for you to create your own successful entrepreneurial story, I will share the key insights from both Scott’s keynote speech at the conference and my interview with him. You can watch the interview here.
Design: Balance the simple and the disruptive. Create a product that museums want to display and the mass market wants to buy.
Kickstarter: Scott was transparent with his audience from the first day. He shared his story through a short video on Kickstarter. He also submitted an article to Fast Company’s Co.Design. Once the article was published, the number of backers started to increase exponentially. And soon enough, it hit Gizmodo. Despite reaching his funding goal, Scott continued to update his backers on new developments. His communication style allowed him to humanize the brand, and users to feel that they were part of creating something. Out of the 4114 comments, there were, of course, several negative ones. However, to Scott, passionate customers were better than indifferent ones.
Scott had a great experience with Kickstarter because of its social scalability. Nonetheless, he noted that no one platform would meet all your needs. For instance, Kickstarter’s back-end functions needed improvement. Address verification and correction alone cost Scott $70,000 to fix.
Manufacturing and Distribution: Underpromise; overdeliver, because there is always something that goes wrong. For TikTok+LunaTik, Scott signed up with experienced fulfillment partners. However, DHL issued several thousands of bad tracking numbers. Big backers’ shipments from China got rejected by the US customs. Looking back, Scott would have promised product delivery for January instead of December. And don’t forget! Retailers have the power. You have to show them that you are a proven brand: 76% of the backers bought a Nano because of the TikTok or LunaTik.
Initiative: Finally, Scott noted that there are many young product designers/entrepreneurs who want the glamour without doing the hard work. Thus, show initiative: Ask for new learning and work opportunities. In Seth Godin’s words, “poke the box!” And have fun!