Ottermatics Apple Watch Charger by Aleksey Matyushev

 White leather covering for the top and a steel base for weight. 

White leather covering for the top and a steel base for weight. 

With the Apple Watch looming around the corner, our team started talking through one of the largest market opportunities with all Apple products - charging devices. 

Apparently, Dodo Case and a couple of other companies have already started eyeing the Apple Watch charging arena.  However, most of their concepts (which are in pre-sale by the way) focused on what we felt was the wrong use-case.  They displayed the Apple watch facing upwards during charging.  Since we felt that the watch will be on a bed-side stand during the nightly charge, the charging stand should focus on directing the watch face towards the user. 

Our concept for the Apple Watch incorporates the existing Apple Maglite inductive charger but positions it vertically.  A leather cover or wood prevents the watch from being scratched when it is charging (and adds to the presentation). A steel base helps keep the charger firmly on the ground as the user is able to remove the Apple Watch in one smooth motion. 

Natilus and Ottermatics join forces by Aleksey Matyushev

Natilus is a large (half the size of a Boeing 747) sized drone.  It is the first drone in the world designed to carry any worthwhile cargo.    The 120 ft wingspan drone has been designed with Ottermatics help to carry 200,000 lbs of payload from Shangai to LA at 300 mph, 80 ft above the water and 70% of the cost of a Boeing 747 making the same trip. 

Natilus is designed to circumvent any FAA regulations by taking off from international waters (12 miles off the coast) instead of runways.  With that approach the drone does not have to interact with busy airport traffic and is far enough away from occupied land that if something fails, there will be no injuries.  

Natilus and Ottermatics have joined forces to start construction of a scaled prototype as a proof of concept demonstrator. The prototype will deliver 200 lbs of payload completely autonomously to the South Pole research station next summer. 

Why WE Advise Against SharkTank by Aleksey Matyushev

businessIdeas

Most people I talk to are familiar with Kickstarter or SharkTank.  Both are awesome ways to leap your idea or business forward quickly, however, to get started with either you have to be in completely different stages.  Having had clients interviewed by SharkTank producers and having been on the Kickstarter train, it becomes obvious that there is a time and place for both types of “jump starts.” 

Just starting out

If you have an idea for a product or service, but that’s as far as you have gotten then you have to first jump the very first hurdle of entrepreneurship - ideas are worthless.  If your father and grandfather both tell you that the first step in building out a profitable idea is to get a patent, they are terribly wrong. There is a ton of reading and thought leaders that will help you snap out of this daze, so I’m not going to dive into that. 

If all you have is just an idea, Kickstarter is probably your best bet.  Kickstarter only requires the following pieces: 

  • Product or service prototype
  • ~2 minute video 

As simple as that sounds, there is definitely an algorithm on creating a successful Kickstarter campaign.  Tim Ferriss’ blog post outlining the Soma Water Filter success has a good outline of what is needed.    

The prototype can usually be created in a garage, through a professional design firm like Ottermatics or a freelancer (eLance is pretty good). 

SharkTank will not take you if all you have is an idea, their producers usually hunt for compelling products or services which have already been validated. 

Stuck with a product and inventory

The other stage of entrepreneurs I usually encounter is a person who has sold a couple of units but has yet to get widespread traction (distribution) or notoriety.  This is where SharkTank can really help out, but don’t forget that it’s a show first and an “incubator/accelerator” second.    

SharkTank is interested in seeing traction and a good story/product.   Meaning, the entrepreneur should have already sold 100 units/subscriptions of the product and is just stuck as the business is not scaling.  If that sounds like your business, you should apply to SharkTank.  The producers love a good story (fit for TV), so if you are a firefighter, struggling mother or anything that might be interesting to watch your chances are pretty good in making it through the first cut.   

However, there are some heavy price tags with this approach: 

  • SharkTank (the show) takes a percentage of the company
  • The sharks usually take a huge bite of equity and sales.  At the end of the deal, the entrepreneur might not even be running the company. 

The choice

I strongly advise my clients against going with SharkTank, usually if you stick with a blend of Kickstarter and Venture Funding, you should have all the money you need. The question then becomes whether the entrepreneur can use it effectively to produce the four digit growth that we have come to expect from a startup. 

The Triforce: Design, Testing, and Lessons Learned by Aleksey Matyushev

 Production Triforce Photoshoot [Getting Ready for Distribution]

Production Triforce Photoshoot [Getting Ready for Distribution]

About a month ago we finally received the production version of triforce from our manufacturer in Shenzhen (China), our desktop USB charger for the Lightning Rabbit brand which Ottermatics helped create.  Although the design process only took about 1 week, there were a lot of lessons learned as far as certification and packaging which are worth sharing.    

Market Research [3 days]

The initial business case behind was put together quite quickly.  We wanted to add a successful product to the Lightning Rabbit brand without a lot of risk.  To figure out the product we were going to design, we used an old Time Ferriss trick which consisted of two phases: 

  1. Find the hottest selling consumer electronics (charging) product through Amazon - a quick search shows you that it's desktop USB chargers.  Bingo, we had our product.
  2. Reading the Amazon reviews for competing USB chargers and figuring out where the product lacking; that became our product specification. In our case, it was the low Wattage/Power of the competitors and the fact that they looked childish.  

Prototyping [1 week]

After specifying our use-case as a nightstand centric semi-portable device. A number of iterations of design shapes and sizes were tested; from pyramids, rectangles, and triangular cylinder we tried everything. For a number of reasons that mainly center around manufacture-ability and user experience a triangular prism was chosen. During this concept phase we had been working our way through a number of manufactures who had circuit configurations that would meet our aesthetic and technical specifications. To iterate quickly on the shape, we used our in-house 3D printer.

 Testing 'Form' and 'Function" of the Triforce Using our 3D Solidoodle Printer

Testing 'Form' and 'Function" of the Triforce Using our 3D Solidoodle Printer

Testing [1 Week]:

There is a point in every shiny new product's life when it must be tested. Apart from ensuring that a product completes it's basic promises to the its new owners, proper testing should additionally ensure that a product is use case tested for situations that might exceed It's original design. Now we could have easily just sent the triforce out to some lab in a distant land to get all the certifications it needs to be sold. We wanted to go further. 

We received our first production triforce from our manufacture recently. Personally, I was really excited to tear it open and put it through its paces. Well obviously the first thing we did when we got it was to drool over its sleek aluminum case, and test its basic charging functionality which it passed to no one's surprise.

Since most distributors required some sort of proof of compliance to federal regulations, we did end up getting the triforce CE/ROHS/UL compliant for about $500 through a testing house.  But having put it through it's paces ourselves, we felt comfortable that there would be no surprised once it was sent to the testing facility.

Packaging [1 month]

We struggled with the packaging for triforce since we didn't know if we needed display packaging (for store-shelf distribution) or something just to get us by through Amazon (drop-ship packaging); that argument alone took 3 weeks to settle.  After agreeing to do the drop-ship packaging, we created the artwork and engineering drawings in-house in about 1 week.  We engaged the same overseas manufacturer who is producing the triforce to do the packaging so as to keep the logistic costs and headache to a minimum (most manufacturers would gladly do the packaging along with the product, just have to ask). 

Launch and Marketing [Never-ending]

We just recently launched the product and it can be purchased on Amazon or through Lightning Rabbit.  Amazon does all the fulfillment for us which keeps us light on our feet.  We are currently in the process of blogger outreach to create some buzz and speaking with distribution buyers to get the product into the store.  

Finding an Overseas Manufacturer by Aleksey Matyushev

injectionMoldingManufacturing

Ok, so you have a product idea, how do you find a manufacturer to build it for you?   Finding a manufacturer is in-fact pretty easy given this whole internet thing came about.  Before even doing that a manufacturing package which communicates the product idea needs to be put together. 

The often missed first step

Most manufacturers are skilled labor, meaning they have a high school education and are used to working with 2D drawings; they do not have  engineering departments, CAD software, or inventor type mentality.  Sending them a message with a bunch of hand sketches will be about as effective as trying to play pictionary over email (often with a language barrier). Typically this is where a design firm like Ottermatics comes in, we can help translate the hand waving and napkin sketches into CAD models and engineering drawings that can be communicated to the manufacturer.   A good design firm also designs for manufacturing which should help you save on the per part costs.  

Zen and the Art of Alibaba

Besides being predicted to be the largest IPO in the last 20 years, alibaba.com is an excellent resource for finding overseas manufacturers.  Most new product ideas are an improvement over existing ones, so searching for similar products on the website and then sending emails to the manufacturers will usually yield pretty good results.  

What if the product idea you had doesn’t exist yet? Manufacturers are classified by their capabilities with materials.  Some are good at bending metal, some at doing plastics work, electronics and etc.  If you are inventing something completely new, then the best approach is to de-compose your product into the raw materials, and think of products which have similar material composition and then do the same search on alibaba.com

Going Domestic

MFG.com is one of our favorite places to get quotes from state-side manufacturers, and the coolest part is that it’s completely free.  The idea is that you post a Request For Quote (RFQ) on the website with engineering drawings and in 7 days you will have manufacturers bid on the project.  

Over the past 10 years, there has been a new desire for United States based companies to keep production state-side.   Whether for patriotic, marketing or communication reasons this new shift in manufacturing approach has yet to still see widespread adoption for one simple reason - the cost of United States based manufacturing.  Time and time again, we have seen US based manufacturers quote 3000% and sometimes even 20,000% more for the same project as an Asia based manufacturer.  To this day, none of our designs have been produced in United States, not because we don’t want to keep things “home grown”, it’s just the business case doesn’t make sense. 

LATITUDE28 Design is now Ottermatics by Aleksey Matyushev

About a year ago, Latitude28 Design started bringing products onto the market and help entrepreneurs succeed.  We have done a lot in the past year, from launching Lightning Rabbit, triforce, a wine aerator (in the works) as well as continuing to grow our client base - it's been a busy year and it is not over yet.

With a lot going on in the past year, we realized that we were different than all the rest of the design studios in the country. We are scrappier, bolder and less boring than our competition.  We seem to do things quicker and operate on a leaner side of product design.  We wanted to make sure our clients and customers knew that, so we decided to re-brand as Ottermatics.

Ottermatics is Latitude28 Design re-imagined.  We have a new vision and way of doing business.  We want to make a dent in this world and industry - not play follow the leader.  We also want to drink a beer and have a lot of fun while doing that.

We are excited at the possibilities this new brand and vision offers the studio and our clients.  

Before You Launch Your Kickstarter Campaign, Consider These 10 Lessons by Aleksey Matyushev

Ten Lessons to Consider Before You Launch Your Kickstarter Campaign

This is the 2nd post in a series explaining how we launched our first product and ultimately our business.  

Sign up for our mailing list and we will shoot these lessons learned right to your inbox :)

We knew right away that we wanted to use crowdfunding to launch our first product. There is so much upside to crowdfunding, and very little downside. If your funding goal is hit or exceeded, you get a huge influx of cash (before you've even bent metal to produce your product). This is such an advantage for brand new companies that are, by nature, cash limited. Some other great benefits include low barrier of entry, awesome exposure (if promoted properly), validation of demand/price point, and real-time feedback.

But before you launch your Kickstarter campaign there are some key things you need to consider. First and foremost, very seldom (if ever) do projects that are just 'thrown' onto a crowdfunding site get funded. Launching a rock-star Kickstarter campaign takes planning, investment, planning, hustling, and more planning. Having launched two campaigns on Kickstarter (one that went 189% funded and one that was never going to close on its goal), we have come to understand what it takes to be successful at crowdfunding. Instead of breaking down each past campaign separately, we thought it would be cool to share with you the steps we are going to take when we launch our next product (the world's most versatile phone stand).

1. Start Sharing
I mean RIGHT NOW! "But I'm afraid someone will steal my idea." Really?!? How many times have you had a 'great' idea only to find out someone had started before you? Did you continue on or did you abandon your idea because someone beat you to it? Exactly! People don't like competition, especially when starting something brand new. So start sharing progress, picturesdetails, asking questions RIGHT NOW.

2. Get Social
The name of the game is awareness. If you look at the most wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns, they hit their funding goal on day 1! In some cases, it only took a few hours (need example). This is because their potential backers were aware, before the project was even launched. The best way to begin building awareness is through social media. Lean on your personal and professional networks to start. Before we launched Sabine we copped a @7decibels Twitter account, Facebook Fan Page, and a Google+ Page. We then used HootSuite to simultaneously post to all networks. The key is to get your personal network engaged and then have them help you spread the word. This is a quick way to gain traction with social media.

3. Claim Your Domain
Getting a site set up early is key. The internet is getting exponentially bigger and bigger everyday, get on the map ASAP and start adding content about your project. Regularly updated content about your project, with choice keywords inserted where natural, will help you become discoverable through search. You site will also act as your home-base as you prepare to launch your kick-butt Kickstarter campaign. As you post updates about your project share them on your social networks. This will drive folks to your site and hopefully help with the next to-do.

4. Build a Mailing List
One word... MailChimp. Seriously, you need to begin building your email list. Importing your contacts from iCloud or Gmail is a great place to start. After that, include an action form in PLAIN SIGHT on your homepage. Once things start to materialize and you begin getting closer to launch, use MailChimp's awesome mail campaigns to judge the effectiveness of your copy. Unlock A-B testing and that's where the real fun starts. After a few campaigns using A-B testing, you will be a copywriting ninja capable of pumping out engaging content that motivates readers to take action!

5. Get Your Email Legit
When Google decided to dump their free GApps email hosting a new starlet arose... Zoho Mail. They offer multiple email accounts for your custom domain. Get legit, get Zoho Mail.

6. Befriend the Bloggers
Bloggers and columnists are going to be your best friend during your campaign. It's time to start connecting with the bloggers you think would be most interested in covering your product launch. These folks get tons of unsolicited emails everyday. Experiment with subject lines and the text of your emails to see which ones gain traction. The best approach to befriending bloggers is to actually care about them. Put yourself in their shoes, offer some feedback about a recent post of theirs, start the dialog, build rapport, then mention your product. This step is time-consuming and really hard; but be genuine and grind it out... it will pay dividends come launch day.

7. Shoot an Awesome Video
The video sells the campaign. Period. The End. This is probably the most important part of the entire campaign so start early. The folks over at StillMotion have an AWESOME series on Storytelling. I could get into what I think makes a compelling video, but I'd rather defer to the experts on this one. Seriously, watch this series BEFORE you start planning your video. We took this very seriously with our first campaign. We hired a local video production firm, the whole nine yards. For round two, we got a bit complacent to be perfectly honest. We used the same production firm, they did a great job... exactly what we asked for. But we didn't put the same thought into the content of the 2nd video. The two videos are embedded below. Take a look for yourself.

Kickstarter Pitch for Original Sabine (189% Funded)

Kickstarter Pitch for Sabine mini (would not have gotten funded, but was cancelled due to production issues)


8. Show and Tell
Get your best prototype and marketing collateral (photos, spec sheets, Kickstarter video, etc) and go on a road show. Seek out brutally honest feedback. This part is key, friends are not going to want to rain on your parade, but press them to provide some critiques. "If there was one thing you would change about the video what would it be?" or "Would you buy this yourself at this price point?" Ask the hard questions and lean on your friends to give you honest feedback. Iterate if needed.

9. Get Organized
Sit down and think about the questions you are going to get regarding your product and come up with canned responses for each of them. This will serve three purposes. 1) It could lead to "bottom of the 9th" improvements for your product before launching. 2) It will be used to populate your FAQ section of your Kickstarter campaign. 3) Finally, it will save you a ton of time once your campaign launches. I don't know how many times I typed out the same email answering the same question. Once we wrote down and saved a response to the 2 or 3 questions we were getting repeatedly, it saved us a ton of time.

10. Sleep
This is the calm before the storm. If you did your homework, and hustled to get here, then your Kickstarter launch is going be one of the wildest, emotional, and fulfilling 20-40 days of your life. Good luck, you'll do great!

Join our mailing list to and we'll send you our tips for during your Kickstarter campaign.

 

Launching A Successful E-commerce Business by Aleksey Matyushev

About 8 months ago we began taking pre-orders for our elegant iPad sound amplifier through our website.  Today, 7decibels.com offers 4 products and is a profitable and growing business.

We have gotten a lot of questions about how we set up our business and got to where we are today. We wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at the steps we took to get started.  Over the next couple weeks we will be posting detailed guide of what we did to get started.  The topics we plan to cover are outlined below.  Be sure to sign up for our mailing list and we'll drop the articles write to your inbox!

Pre-Launch

-Social media, friends and family, and professional networks.

-Building website.

-What we did right.

-What we could have done better.

Launching a Product on Kickstarter

-Benefits of crowd-funding.

-Tips for running campaign.

-What we did right.

-What we could have done better.

Post Kickstarter

-Delighting backers during order fulfillment.

-How to continue to build momentum.

-What we did right.

-What we could have done better.

Tools We Used Along The Way

-Shopify - Everything you need to start selling online today

-MailChimp - Send better email

-1800Accountants - All of your accounting solutions in one place

-Xero Accounting - Beautiful accounting software

-BizFilings - The small business incorporation experts

-HootSuite - Social Media Management

-Google Drive - Everything you need, everywhere you go

-Zoho Mail - Take control of your inbox

-Pandora Radio - Listen to free music you'll love

Sabine is Going Mini by Aleksey Matyushev

We created Sabine for iPad to solve a common problem we were having, to stop cupping our hands behind the speaker to amplify the sound from the devices rear facing speaker.   Through countless prototypes, we were able to create Sabine, an elegant sound amplifier that not only delivered more than 6 times the sound amplification of plastic products, but also lived up to Apple design standards. With your wonderful support Sabine was funded way over our initial goal, reaching a final amount of 189% on Kickstarter . 

After such a successful Kickstarter campaign, we set our sights on the iPad's smaller brother, the iPad mini.  Today, we are proud to announce that we will be launching our Kickstarter project for Sabine (mini) on August 20th. The same elegant sound amplification designed with stereo capability and lightning connector in mind. 

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