I recently sat down with Noah Dentzel to talk about his exciting new Kickstarter project: ChargeCard.
How would you describe the ChargeCard to your grandma?
ChargeCard is really simple. It's a USB cable, just like the cable you use to charge your phone, but it's in the shape of a credit card. Because it's only 0.1'' thick, you can easily stow it in your wallet. And because it fits in your wallet, you'll always have it on you whenever you need to plugin, to charge.
Where did you come up with the idea for ChargeCard?
After college, I worked at an internet company in Madrid. We were always on our phones and our phones were always dying on us. We had Blackberries. When we went out on the town, one of us would often bring a charger or a micro USB cable. Everyone was always looking for a charge -- we were BlackBerry addicts after all. But there was something wrong with this scenario. So I began pushing around the idea of a tiny micro USB to USB connector, something portable enough to always have on you. But then I was talking with a friend who was working in the mobile division of our company, he was launching a mobile operator at the time and was working with SIM cards. He mentioned that shaping the device in the form-factor of a credit card would allow the user to always have it on them. The idea stuck.
The Kickstarter platform is as brilliant as the projects that launch on it. Kickstarter allows entrepreneurs to gauge market response for their product before committing to costly tooling and manufacturing, which in our case can run tens of thousands of dollars -- quite a stretch for a couple of recent college grads. We considered the options of taking on more traditional financing, but we were excited to be part of this new movement. Much the way venture capital changed startup financing 50 years ago, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter are once more changing the way finance works. It's no longer necessary to seek the funding (and control) that comes from angel investors and venture capital (VC) firms now that the general public can take part in supporting and financing new products and creative projects. After all, the fun of investing in cool creative projects should be open to all.
What's it like in the life of a Kickstarter entrepreneur?
Hectic, exhilarating, and (when I'm not stressing out over something) fun, too! As anyone running a project or starting a business knows, you'll have to wear many hats throughout the course of the day. There is no marketing department, sales team or customer support group, it's all you. It's like some sort of an MBA crash course or perhaps even something more considering that we're spanning the gamut of product development, manufacturing, and, of course, delivering the product.
What have you learned? Any tips to someone aspiring to launch a Kickstarter project of their own?
If you've already got the project or product in mind, then great. Otherwise, keep your eyes and ears open. Listen, watch and observe your surrounding. ChargeCard was inspired through the repeated first hand experience and observation of a really annoying problem, dead phone battery. There are a lot of big (and small) problems in this world that could use some ambitious and creative energy. Of course Kickstarter is a great place for the arts, too. When you do get going though, my one piece of advice is to lose the ego -- recognize what you're not good at and focus on adapting, improving or getting help. That's the best way to ensure that you're doing your best work.
Any last words?
Execution is key. Many things sound easy, and indeed they might be simple, but the test of success is in executing and delivering. I used to meet with one of our team members every morning at 8.00 a.m. One day he was an hour late. It's easy to set an alarm and wake up on time, anyone can do it. But sometimes it can be tricky to execute, and I'm sure we've all failed here once or twice before. Lastly, communication is crucial. Communication within your team and outside of it. Be transparent, bring up issues early, and be sure to follow up.