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Travlwear successfully funded over $95,000 after amazing KickoffLabs Campaign

Luke Rafla-Yuan from Travlwear wrapped up a successful KickoffLabs campaign and launched their travel backpack for photographers on Inidgogo. They were successfully funded at 95 thousand dollars! In this episode you’ll learn how KickoffLabs helped them validate the business, how they ran a referral campaign by keeping the rewards simple, built a product they wanted to buy, what percentage of your ideal crowdfunding raise you should spend on marketing, and how you could use Facebook Messenger to answer questions from potential customers during your launch.

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Interview Bio

Luke Rafla-Yuan

Luke has his B.S. in Electrical Engineering Management from Cornell University. His operations & risk-mannagement skill-set have helped ensure the ERA Backpack's on-time delivery.

Learn more at Travlwear.com.

Key Takeaways!

Get your project out there. Don’t skip the advertising!

Keep it Simple & Give a Discount

Giving a discount is a valuable incentive to test if the target market will purchase the product.

Don’t Forget to Interact!

They used Facebook Messenger to stand out from the crowd.

Test Your Marketing Before Launch

They ran a KickoffLabs campaign to get a feel for how their target audience would convert before launching on Indiegogo.

Set Aside a Budget

Prepare to set aside 10% of your Kickstarter goal for marketing expenses.

Connect With Your Customer Base

They kept their customer support in-house to stay connected to their customers. This was made possible by setting up systems.

Be Your Target Audience

The Travlwear team launched a product that they use themselves.

Full Transcript



Josh: Welcome to KickoffLabs On Growth. I'm Josh Ledgard and my goal with this podcast is to help you grow sustainable businesses through the stories of our customers and our team. Today, I'm talking to Luke Rafla-Yuan from Travlwear. At the time of this recording, they had just wrapped up a successful KickoffLabs campaign and launched their travel backpack for photographers on Indiegogo.

Josh: By the time you're hearing this, they had successfully blown past their funding goal and raised over $95,000. In this episode, you'll learn how KickoffLabs helped them validate their business, how they ran a referral campaign to keep rewards simple, built a product they wanted to buy, what percentage of your ideal crowd funding raise you should spend on marketing, and how you could use Facebook Messenger to answer questions from potential customers during your launch. Enjoy the show.

Josh: All right, I am live with Luke Rafla-Yuan from Travlwear with the e dropped in travel, as we discussed before the interview makes it trendy and as you said, the domain was also available. So hey Luke, welcome to the podcast.

Luke: All right, how's it going?

Josh: Great. Can you tell us a bit about the product that you're promoting and the campaign you've got going on right now?

Luke: Yeah, so we're actually live right now on Indiegogo with the air backpack and our company's travel wear. So the air backpack is what we think is the perfect travel and photography backpack. We've put a lot of thought into the compartments and it's got a modular design. And something cool that we did was we did sort of a machine learning optimization of the padding. So not to get too technical, but basically we put a gyroscope in the backpack and we dropped it a bunch of times and varied the padding volumes and proportions. And from there we were able to take that data and train a neural net and that neural net provided us with an algorithm that mapped the inputs where changing the padding's volume and dimensions.

Luke: And the output was the peak mag magnitude of de-acceleration, or in other words, the impact force. And we were able to iteratively calculate that out and get the parade out front. These values are the theoretical optimal values. And from there we were able to make manufacturing decisions to make it more shockproof than the normal manufacturing and design process, which is where you just build a backpack and you try and guess at how you pad it to make it shockproof. And here it was sort of cool because we had an equation that helped us make these decisions.

Josh: That's really neat. Can you tell me why backpacks and then why the niche of travel photography backpack? What made that an appealing market for you?

"We are the target audience."



Luke: I think because we are the target audience. We want to get into other gear as well, but it's sort of cool because all of us like to travel and some of us are big photographers and videographers. Sort of the impetus for the idea was a few years ago we went on a trip to Singapore and I don't know if you know this, but the flight from SFO to Singapore is about 18 hours. And we got there in the morning at like 6:00 AM and we wanted to go ... we couldn't even check into the hotel at that point. So we went to do sort of a hike straight from the airport to a hike. And then we went around the city for a while and then we went to our hotel. And on this same trip we went to Sumatra for a three day jungle hike with orangutans. We went back to Singapore and stayed up in some more upscale hotels.

Luke: So we needed gear that would be waterproof, comfortable in all these different environments and well thought out so that we could pack it easily. Also, it would look nice because we didn't want to just show up into some of these locations looking more raggedy or like the classical backpacker look. So we had a year that did just fine. Actually myself, I went shopping on Kickstarter beforehand because there's some travel gear coming out and I used some of it and some of it I liked, some of it I didn't. But as engineers, we sort of have the mindset of there's always a way to do it better. We want to figure out how to do it better. And so that's why we started with a travel backpack.

Josh: Cool. And let's back up a little further. What is your background or you mentioned that you're an engineer by trade, it sounds like. So can you tell us a bit about your story and what led you here?

"KickoffLabs just makes it so easy and seamless and it's such a nice product to use that I think the biggest compliment to KickoffLabs is seeing somebody who's a software engineer at use it.”



Luke: Yeah, so I am a software engineer. I went to school for electrical engineering. I did my senior project with machine learning and neural nets. It's actually called smart weights and it's published. So you could find that out there. I've been working as a software engineer for the past six or seven years now. I switched to software engineering and the other people on the team ... we have somebody who is a biomechanical engineer. We have somebody who is a mechanical engineer. We have another electrical/software engineer, and then we have one business development person.

Luke: So it's cool because if there's something technical, we don't have any qualms about doing it. And I think that speaks really highly about KickoffLabs because I'm a software engineer and I've built websites in the past and I know how to do that. But it takes time and KickoffLabs just makes it so easy and seamless and it's such a nice product to use that I think the biggest compliment to KickoffLabs is seeing somebody who's a software engineer at use it.

Josh: Well thanks. I appreciate that. It's a great transition because I did want to get into your campaign. And so as of right now when we're talking, I'm looking at the Indiegogo campaign, you have a 292 backers. You have 31 days left and you've raised over $50,000 US dollars, 500% of the goal that you set. So congratulations, you exceeded the goal and that sounds like a great start.



Luke: Good start.

Josh: Back up. Let's back up from that for a second. Before you launched the Indiegogo campaign, which I think did you launch it over the weekend of this past weekend?

Luke: No. We actually launched it on Tuesday.

Josh: Oh, last Tuesday. So before you launched the Indiegogo campaign, you were, as you kind of alluded to, running a campaign on KickoffLabs, and how did that campaign go for you?

"Also another big part is getting your project out there. People need to be able to see this."



Luke: That went really well, actually. So our entire company is bootstrapped, so we wanted to make sure that we spent our money wisely and we were able to get a lot of leads for the amount of money we spent. Part of this I think is because people really vibe with the product, so it's a pretty easy sell. Also another big part is getting your project out there. People need to be able to see this. So we drove ads and then we also did the KickoffLabs referral competition. I think there's this cool part where there's this intersection on Indiegogo where having people be your early backers is a huge value to a company.

Luke: So we're able to sort of break even on the very first perks and because we get value from those customers. And so we were doing a referral campaign where we were giving such a good deal that it was an almost at-cost product and for people who referred enough other people they would get this unique discount link.

Josh: Cool. So tell me how you decided that that's how you wanted to spend your marketing budget to give people that discount.

Luke: So I know some people on KickoffLabs like to do a referral campaign where they give prizes for referrals are something related to the product but isn't the product. We instead decided to give an additional discount because we thought that was more than ... it was just a simpler referral set up that we thought. And it was also more in line with what we're going for. We're selling the air backpack. We're not doing referral competitions as our main business goal. We're not giving out other prizes. So we decided it was simpler and more in line with what our business was going for.

We got thousands of leads with the first part of the campaign on KickoffLabs



Josh: No, I think you're absolutely right. So for most people doing a physical product, I tend to recommend when they were like, "What kind of products should they give away for the referrals?" I say, "Well the really simple thing is just a discount," because I mean you want people that are ultimately going to buy your product and so you don't want people doing it because they're getting some related or accessory thing that they might want any way. You want them interested in the campaign because of the product and you want them to indicate that they might actually buy it and that they're interested in the discount that you're offering them. So you kind of glossed over. You guys did really well. I won't give an exact number if you don't want. We got thousands of leads with the first part of the campaign on KickoffLabs, getting their email address. And you mentioned advertising. Can you talk a bit about how you drove traffic to the campaign? Because oftentimes people struggle with that step.

Luke: Yeah. So we did paid advertising where we would have our ads on say Instagram, and we did two different methods. We drove them straight to the page and then we drove them to Messenger chat. And then from there we drove them to the page. The straight to the page converted really well because I think we have this ... we were able to have really nice graphics, a really clear demonstration of the features of the backpack. So that performed well there. And then the Messenger chat, because you have them go through an additional step, of course you're going to lose some of that email conversion.

Luke: But I think it was valuable because we were able to communicate more with them in Messenger chat. And another value that we didn't see until the campaign actually launched was that Messenger chat was a good way to provide customer service to these people. So actually when it was launching, we were getting this huge influx of messages about where's my email discount, how do I use the email discount, when is it going to be available? What is shipping? And it just opened up another line of communication where we were able to communicate with our customers a lot more easily versus ...

For Indiegogo campaigns in general for your raised amount you're supposed to set aside about like at least 10% for marketing.



Josh: Cool. And then can you give people a sense of scale, because this gets asking ... of the marketing that you put behind it. I mean are you talking a campaign where you guys spent $10,000 on a marketing campaign? Not for the cost of the product or anything like that or shipping, but for the advertising piece of it.

Luke: I don't think I'm really allowed to say the exact number. I can say proportions. So our return on the ad spend was about, for the initial campaign, was about two X. And I think for Indiegogo campaigns in general for your raised amount you're supposed to set aside about like at least 10% for marketing.

Josh: Yeah, I mean I've heard that number from several customers that your minimum is around 10 to 20%. So if you want to raise, for example, $100,000, then you'd have to imagine spending about 15 to $20,000 on marketing.

Another thing, cool thing about KickoffLabs is it sort of lets you test out your marketing before actually driving a lot more marketing dollars to your campaign.



Luke: Right. And it really depends on your product as well. So if you have a really nice product that people can connect with, you'll spend less on marketing. But if you have something that's already been done or is in a saturated market or just isn't that nice, it'll be a lot harder to do. And another thing, cool thing about KickoffLabs is it sort of lets you test out your marketing before actually drive a lot more marketing dollars to your campaign. So we were seeing really good cost per leads, really good conversion rate on the page. And so that led us ... Well we really liked the backpack, but we're also biased. It was really nice seeing that confirmation early on and being able to know, "Hey, this isn't going to be a huge money loser for us."

Josh: Cool. And so you felt like running the KickoffLabs campaign before Indiegogo was good proof that you could gather enough interests. You're like, "Oh we are able to market this. We are able to get enough leads to feel like this would be a successful campaign to take to the next level."

Luke: Correct. That was the first point where we thought hey is something that we could build a business or not.

Josh: What's been the most challenging thing for you and your team?

Luke: It's very time consuming, so like I mentioned before, we're bootstrapping a lot of this, so a lot of it we're doing on our own. We've set up systems where we sort of rotate customer service. We haven't really outsourced customer service first because of the expense and second because I think it really helps us understand our customers more. I think as a business grows, that's not something you should really move away with or move away from. So it's just very time consuming. There's a pretty straightforward process that we followed. There's a lot of good documentation out there on how you can launch a campaign. Your podcasts help a lot with that. There's other podcasts on actual Indiegogo campaigns.

Josh: Do you have any resources that you'd want to share with the audience besides our podcasts that you found helpful?

Luke: Yeah, so there's two main podcasts that I listened to. There's a crowd crux that has a lot of concrete crowdfunding details. And then there's how I built this by Guy Raz, which is a lot more ... there's not as many step-by-steps because he interviews people like Michael Dell or people who founded big companies. But that's more inspirational when we're feeling burnt out or tired. That's a good podcast to listen to because it's very motivating and it's very aspirational.

Josh: Cool. So what's next for you guys? So you're running this Indiegogo campaign. I imagine at the same time you're probably working on how you're going to be producing the backpacks or you already nailed all that down and you're just ready to open up the store?

We wanted to get a lot of the risks out of the way beforehand.



Luke: So we actually did a lot of that beforehand. We have a risks portion on our Indiegogo page. We wanted to get a lot of the risks out of the way beforehand. So we actually have partnered with a few manufacturers and we have our samples built. We've gone through a sample run so that we know we can scale it. And so we're ready to go. We have our distribution channels set up. And so what's next is just placing the order and following through with getting the backpacks up to the backers.

Josh: That's really impressive. You guys are steps ahead. Can I ask, is this your and your team's full time job at this point or is this still a side gig and you're still working as a software engineer?

Luke: So all of us have another job that we're working on at the moment. Yeah. So it's not like it's a side gig because it's sort of a full time job. It's more like now I have two full time jobs.

Josh: That's often the case of people at your stage. I would have imagined that would have come up as one of the most challenging parts was having to go to work and then be thinking about this other project and then at night having the energy to keep up with the other project. But you've made impressive progress. The campaign went really well. The Indiegogo campaign looks like you're off to a great start in the first week. So now I'd like to get to the last few questions just off the top of your head style answers. So the first thing that pops in your head is probably the best answer and we'll just move really quickly through these questions. So are you ready for that?

Luke: Yeah, let's go.

Josh: All right. So how do you get in the work zone?

Luke: I'm a big music listener, so I'll put on headphones. I've got noise canceling headphones. I've got a few different pairs of headphones. I've got speakers. I'll just put on headphones and get into the zone.

Josh: Headphone recommendations for people that are similar in taste?

Luke: I mean there's a lot of new good ones coming out, so I don't know about contemporary headphones, but I've got some Bose noise canceling ones that I've had for like six years that I really like.

Josh: Cool. Favorite vacation destination?

Luke: Well, we live in San Diego so it's pretty nice here.

Josh: Absolutely.

Luke: I've been to a lot of places that I really like. I really like Singapore. I really like South Africa. Alaska is really pretty in the summer. Iceland is really nice. I don't think I can name a top destination. There's just so many cool places out there.

Josh: Yeah, and obviously this is an interesting question giving your product of being a travel backpack specifically. So you mentioned a couple of podcasts. Do you have any other favorite podcasts that you listen to?

Luke: Yeah, Guy Raz is a personal hero of mine. I love his. He does [inaudible 00:20:29] hour and he does How I Built Those. Those are two amazing podcasts. The Freakonomics podcast is pretty good.

Josh: See, I get my Guy Raz fix from Wow In The World. My kids are huge Wow In The World fans.

Luke: Oh yeah. I know he started that.

Josh: Something you've learned in the last year that you didn't before.

Luke: Gosh, there's so many things that I've learned. Let me try and see. An interesting fact. Okay. This is not related to anything Travlwear.

Josh: Doesn't have to be.

Luke: Just a cool or an interesting fact. We went swimming with whale sharks actually fairly recently. They are huge, but they're actually the biggest fish in the world because they are a shark, which is technically a fish. So it's pretty cool to see a "fish" that big.

Josh: That's impressive. So let's see, the last question. So you already kind of mentioned a little bit potentially, but somebody you look up to business or personal or otherwise.

Luke: Somebody I look up to, and there's a lot of people I look up to. I think one of them ... there's this one really cool professor and author called Elyn B Saks. She wrote a book called My Descent Into Madness. Essentially it was about her struggle with schizophrenia and how she managed to get both her MD and JD, and now she's a professor emeritus at University of Southern California. I think I got those right. But it's really cool to see somebody who has these big struggles and is able to not only get through them but be so successful and use the way that they've struggled to help other people.

Luke: There's so many cool people like this in the world. For example, there's another person that I really admire is Jane Goodall, Jack Vogel, who pioneered low index funds for Vanguard and was not for ... It's really cool how he was in the business industry and how he was for the common person versus how a lot of other firms were for just for making a profit. In essence, I really admire people who are very good at what they do and try and use it to help other people.

Josh: Cool. That's a great list. Is there anything that we didn't talk about that you feel like our audience would benefit from hearing or learning?

Luke: Yeah, I have a tip for businesses in general. So I did my Master's in engineering management at Cornell and part of it is taking a bunch of business courses and one thing they're always going over is what's your moat? What's your key differentiator? How do you differentiate yourself? How do competitors not come in and just do what you're doing? And I think for us one of the things is the machine learning, the patent pending machine learning that we've put into shield tech. And then another thing is that we are actually very technical and if there's technical things that come up, we have no problems dealing with those, but that's not enough. There's always things that we need to differentiate ourselves. And that's something I ask myself a lot.

Why is our business special? Why are we providing benefits to the customer in a way that nobody else can or will?



Luke: So that's what drove me to try and incorporate the chat bot into our KickoffLabs campaign. There's some other things that I tried to do that made us stand apart. But I think as a business, if you go in saying, "What's my unique value proposition? Why is our business special? Why are we providing benefits to the customer in a way that nobody else can or will?" And I think if you do that and you keep trying to do that every day and every year, then your businesses will be positioned in a way to thrive.

Josh:That's a great last bit of advice to go out on. I want to thank you for joining us today and if people want to reach out to you directly or if they've got a question for you after listening to this, what's the best way to get ahold of you?

Luke: So if you Google Travlwear, you'll be able to find our website and our Indiegogo campaign. And then if you want to reach out to the team or me directly, you can just email info@travlwear.com.

Josh: Great. Thanks for taking the time. We went a couple minutes over, but I appreciate the extra tips that went into this. It looks like a great campaign. The product looks really cool. I'm excited to see how far you guys go on Indiegogo and to hear about your success down the road.

Luke: Thank you, Josh and good luck at KickoffLabs.

Josh: Thank you. Have a great one.

Luke: You too.

Josh: Bye.

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