In May’s article I shared my experiences on beginning a start-up and being in one. Today I would like to continue my story, shed some light on aspects that are ‘underestimated’ and my ‘Modus Operandi’ on finding and establishing partnerships.
Before I begin my story on aspects that are underestimated you will need some more background information on Manus VR. By now you know that we’ve been around for almost two years, but did you know our company has been in an accelerator program? When I started this company with my two Co-Founders, Stephan van den Brink and Tim van Veenendaal, we were just a couple of friend with an awesome prototype and idea. The idea was to bring your hands into the virtual world by creating a glove that is affordable to consumers. For that we needed money, and like every other start-up at that time that was this amazing platform: Kickstarter.
Quick side note: This is something I’ve said from the start and I continue to say this; we’re in a race against time. Meaning that we cannot be the only company who want to bring your hands into the virtual world.
This might sound jaded, and I know that I am, but I don’t believe in the ‘magic’ of Kickstarter anymore. It’s actually something dangerous to do if you go in unprepared. Being in Hardware for almost two years I know that amounts of 200k are not enough to create full-fledged product, pay for marketing, set-up logistics, mass production and paying your personal at the same time. Many hardware companies got in trouble because they had to many Kickstarter orders, anyone remember the Coolest Cooler?
I digress again. In the end we stopped our Kickstarter, because we needed more than just a prototype and some concept sketches of the product. Though the Kickstarter campaign did help us with something. In the Netherlands we received quite a lot of press coverage and that to that we got noticed by an accelerator program called Startupbootcamp HighTechXL. After multiple pitching rounds we got into the program and got trained by experts from November 2014 till February 2015.
During this program we learned the basics of what it takes to start a company, run it and how to set-up aspects like supply-chains, finance & fund raising, team dynamics and more. This is all done so they can prepare you to raise funds at the end of the program. Our company actually raised funds in record speed; two weeks after the program we finished the paperwork for our seed funding. Normally it would take three to six months before the due diligence period is done, but our investors new that we were in a race against time and did not want to cause any delay. Again I need to explain that this situation is very unusual. It’s very hard to secure funding, no matter how good your hardware, software or service is. It’s great that there are a lot of venture- and corporate capitalist for funding, but keep in mind that they will not just ‘hand you the money’ (after writing this I see I made an unintentional pun).
Which brings me to the next part of this story; aspects that are underestimated. Last month I already explained that people think it’s very easy to create a consumer worthy product from a prototype. As I said then; it is not that easy. Yes engineers can easily build a prototype for themselves from Arduino’s, and there is lots of open source software to support that. Yes you can sell these self-made prototypes. No you can’t ‘just’ set-up a factory and sell them just as easily to the mass market. There are lots of safety regulations you’ll have to abide to. Have you shielded your Bluetooth transmitter? No? Tough love, you can’t sell it then. This is just hardware, you’ll need to register either your company or yourself for taxes, find distribution partners since your product will need to get shipped. You didn’t think the product magically appears in a warehouse right? The world of logistics is a weird one, something a product travels the world, so it actually becomes cheaper. Some ports are just better and cheaper for distribution.
Don’t get discouraged by this all, just as I said last month, it’s really important to have a team with multiple disciplines who know about these aspects. Which brings me to the last part of this month’s episode; my Modus Operandi on finding and establishing partnerships.
I love these Ron Swanson quotes, though most seem silly they can carry wisdom in it. Even though I’m the Public Relations Officer for Manus VR, it doesn’t mean I just focus on this. Personally I believe that everyone in the company should always be looking for potential partners. There are many types of partners you can look for, from developers to production partners and anything in between and beyond.
Everyone has their own style; from cold calls to ‘listing’ in on conversations in public. The last one might sound extremely rude, as others have told me, but it’s very effective. My ears always seem to pick up certain keywords that trigger me and get my attention. People describe me as an extrovert; I’m very open and always up for a talk. Where ever I go, I always talk with people; whether I’m traveling by train or plane. Thanks to my job I get to travel a lot and represent the company on events and expos. What I always tell other people; don’t be afraid to talk with others. How do you think I managed the get Palmer Lucky to try out our gloves? (See: first image above) I just walked up to him and invited him for a demo. This kind of behavior is usually frowned up to which I reply; fuck that! I rather take the risk and potentially apologize later on. Though I will be honest, this isn’t always easy to do. Stepping up to a total stranger, even if they are famous, takes courage and I sometimes need a little push from my team. They encourage me and remind me of my successful encounters from the past and that pushes me on to do it.
For now I’ll end my story here. If you would like to hear more of my experiences and advice just let me know in the comments, or send an email to: bobvlemmix(at)manus-vr.com.
Glimpse of the Future to come
The Hero of this Story has yet to elaborate more on the latest developments of Manus VR. He cannot speak or write about it; bounded by the laws and code of his Title. Accompanied by his new Love he seeks a way to bring word to the masses.