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Onewheel Inventor Explains How Its Kickstarter Campaign Asked For $100,000 And Raised $630K

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    Articles Articles Feb 07, 2014 12:37 AM EST

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    The Kickstarter campaign for Onewheel, a self-balancing electric skateboard, just blew its $100,000 goal out of the water. In the last hour before the campaign ended, Onewheel surpassed 1,000 backers who pledged more than $629,000 to the company.

    Raising six times your initial goal on Kickstarter is a success worth celebrating but Onewheel's inventor, Kyle Doerksen, is not swimming in a Southern California pool full of that money.

    Doerksen began working on Onewheel years before its Kickstarter campaign and its future is still uncertain — although bright.

    He told Design & Trend about what type of Kickstarter campaign Onewheel's was and why it was so successful.

    "Crafting a good Kickstarter is kind of an art in itself," he said.

    Not all Kickstarter campaigns are the same

    There are two types of Kickstarter campaigns: those designed with the life of the product contained in the timeline of the campaign, and those designed to boost a company or product towards profitability and success. Onewheel is an example of the later.

    "This is not the end of the product, this is just the beginning," Doerksen said in an interview Friday. "After the campaign, we're going to grow this into a full-fledged business."

    Doerksen worked on electromechanical products for IDEO in Palo Alto, California for several years. He managed projects for kids toys, bio-medical devices and other consumer electronics, including the Farady bike.

    The Faraday bike was also a crowdfunded venture and Doerksen took that experience and applied it to a product he was developing on his own out of his garage: Onewheel.

    Four years ago, the first Onewheel had a chain drive, was difficult to maneuverable and weighed about 50 pounds. All of those attributes developed over the course of time into a product that was ready for investors, or Kickstarter. The Onewheel in the Kickstarter campaign had and electric motor, an advanced algorithm to balance it and is half the weight of the first, at 25 pounds.

    A good product doesn't guarantee a successful campaign 

    You don't just put something on Kickstarter and get traffic, Doerksen said. It took time and money to create a campaign page that would sell Onewheel and get people to invest.

    He said the company spent "tens of thousands of dollars" on product prototypes and preparing for Kickstarter.

    Doerksen hired two filmmakers who had just graduated from Stanford to shoot the video for the campaign so people could see Onewheel in action.

    There are also photos, the specs and a backstory on the campaign page that make it more professional than others.

    All of the above lured backers and ultimately got Onewheel on Kickstarter's front page, which drew more even more.

    Still, Doerksen said it is important to ask, how else you are going to publicize your product?

    Since it is something people ride, it was important to get Onewheel out there for people to see and experience.

    Doerksen said he activated Onewheel's Kickstarter campaign while traveling to the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show. They presented the electric skateboard there and once the crowds saw it, it was only a matter of "building the snowball."

    "There are buyers, retailers, press people, engineers, designers," Doerksen said. "It got a lot of that press momentum and that helped us get the world out."

    Entrepreneurial spirit is still necessary 

    The sixth generation Onewheel, which will be delivered to consumers for the first time this fall, is not being made in China.

    This choice was an obvious one, Doerksen explained.

    He said a lot of people think they will either build something themselves or just send it overseas, but neither is practical for a developing product.

    Constructing something yourself takes too much time and if something goes wrong overseas, get ready to spend $1,000 or more on a plane ticket. If you want to fly business class from Los Angeles to Beijing, expect to drop more than $4,000.

    Manufacturing Onewheel with a U.S. contractor gives Doerksen and his employees the freedom to pop over to the factory and check up on things, as well as tend to any issues. And there will be issues.

    "Even if you've done this before, you don't get it right the first time," Doerksen said.

    Onewheel was created with recreational and transportation interests in mind. However, the interest in transportation is higher than expected, which is changing the way the company markets and develops the product. The interest is also international. Buyers expecting a prototype this fall are from countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America, all with different product safety standards.

    Once the original $100,000 Kickstarter goal was reached, a $300,000 goal was established to add LED lights to the board (think headlights and brake lights). A second stretch goal of $400,000 was established to develop iPhone and Android mobile applications after backers started asking for them.

    The apps will enable Onewheel riders to choose riding modes: learning, speed and trick. They will also be able to control the LED lights and see the battery life of the device.

    The algorithm that balances the board is constantly being tweaked. Programming Onewheel not to over correct itself while turning was one of the challenges Doerksen mentioned. It's something changed based on feel, which differentiates it from other devices using PID controllers.

    Larger goals can be motivators as well. A profitable business is not just what Doerksen hopes to accomplish.

    "We're really interested in changing what a sidewalk in going to look like five years from now," he said. "I want it to look different in five years."

    The Kickstarter is over but anyone interested in learning more about Onewheel can still visit the campaign page or their website.

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