The new product fail rate continues to be an astounding 80%, yet we can all think about an idea or two or three that surprised us.
Think Doggles: These goggles for dogs offer 100% UV protection and also protect against dust and debris. The initial success was so great, the company has since branched out to include backpacks, floatation jackets and cat toys.
Think Uglydoll: The Uglydoll may not look pretty, but it has raked in over $100 million in retail sales since its debut. The idea started as a love story when the two founders (David and Kim Hovarth) were staying in touch by writing letters. David drew a little orange character at the bottom of the letter and named him Wage. The girl surprised him by sewing a handmade doll in Wage’s likeness. Wage was shown to a pop culture Asian store in LA. The demand was astounding and quickly, the Uglydoll could be found in stores all around the world, as well as making appearance in TV shows and elsewhere. Today, an animated film is in production and will be released in 2018.
When you think about new product success, consider the following:
- Turn passion into purpose.
- Be clear with who your target audience is and do not waver.
- Identify what the need is that you’re fulfilling.
- Look for the resources you need to move your venture forward.
- Be sure you have proof of concept.
- Build followers and funding sources.
- Look at what’s next while you’re working on what’s now.
And, now for Wobblrs—already a great case study.
What the heck is a Wobblr? It’s the first soccer-specific tailgate game.
Wobblrs is a story about two friends, Max Hasselquist and Roberto Camacho who met in college on soccer scholarships. After graduating, they each got married, started careers, bought houses, and started families. Living life simply got in the way.
Both realized they wanted an excuse to get together again, so they purchased season tickets to the local MLS club team, Sporting Kansas City.
While tailgating, they started playing a mindless game that involved two water bottles.
Max described what happened: “We placed the bottles on the ground about 11 steps from each other and the objective was to knock over your opponent’s water bottle by kicking it with a soccer ball. Each time you hit your opponent’s bottle, you got 1 point—first to 11 won the round. It was a great way for us to enjoy soccer informally. The more we played this game, the more we enjoyed it. But the more we enjoyed it, the more we realized how much we hated picking up the water bottle every time it was knocked down. As we looked around the parking lot, we saw other people playing this same game with improvised materials. People played with water bottles, aluminum cans, or even glass bottles. That’s when we knew the game was flawed but could be fixed. So we decided to create a product that was fun, safe, and self-rights. This fixed the inconvenience of resetting the ‘pin’ every time it was knocked down.“
Max and Roberto had intuitively zeroed in on two key ingredients: a self-identified target market and a need.
But, there was a hitch. Neither Max nor Roberto knew anything about how to launch a business and manufacture what they envisioned.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” says Max. “That was my biggest fear, fear of the unknown. I’m not much of a risk taker. If I put time and energy into something, I want to be good at it. If we failed, we didn’t want it to be because we did something silly. We wanted to do it right. That’s when we discovered E-scholars.”
Entrepreneur Scholars, E-Scholars, was an eight-month crash course on building a business. Offered through a local university, UMKC, the program guided Max and Roberto through venture creation. “It helped us take our idea and put it on paper in the form of a business plan, financial model, and financial projections,” says Roberto.
So, how much help was it ? At the end of the E-Scholars program, there was a contest called the Regnier Venture Creation Challenge. It was open to the community. Out of over 80 applicants Max and Roberto’s business plan was selected as one of the 46 ventures to compete for cash prizes. To advance into the finals they needed to finish first in their group, and they did. The four finalists gave the same 15-minute presentations to a well-respected panel of judges from the community. At the conclusion of the competition Max and Roberto earned a second place finish with a cash prize of $10,000.
Winning validated that the concept was something people liked. It was the first real proof of concept. It felt great to have worked so hard and to be complimented like that, reported both Max and Roberto.
Now that they had proof of concept, what was to be next? Products fail when underfunded, so raising the financing to produce and then market the product is essential to success.
Remember, that these are two young men in the earlier stages of their careers, with mortgages to pay and families to care for. Max puts it best: “We put the ‘lean’ in the term lean startup. We don’t have a lot of disposable income to throw at the very expensive processes that are involved in developing a physical product. So we decided to learn about crowd funding.”
Kickstarter is a platform that allows you to take preorders of a product. If you reach your funding goal the money raised can be used to purchase molds, start manufacturing and production, and deliver the first round of units. It’s also a no-risk for backers. It’s all or nothing. If the funding goal is not reached, then the backers are not charged for their pledges.
“Kickstarter is a stepping stone for us,” says Roberto. “It’s an opportunity for us to try to do this alone before we give up any equity by looking for an investor.”
The fundraising has begun, and what a feeling of relief it has brought. Max and Roberto spent many months building their campaign and building followers. It was a lot of work and pretty exhausting. “And, it’s just the beginning,” says Max.
They’re already thinking ahead as to how to build the Wobblr brand and evolve it into other sports besides soccer.
This new venture is a great example of turning passion into purpose. “We hope we have provided a fun way for people to enjoy fellowship and soccer informally. From day one, we’ve always been about the youth, giving kids an avenue to fall in love with the game of soccer.” says Roberto.
“For me, it was the game of soccer. I played soccer because I enjoyed it. Then I got a college soccer scholarship which helped pay for my education. Now this, Wobblrs, has given me memorable experiences and, if we’re successful, may financially support my family. It all derived out of a hobby I was passionate about,” say Max.
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