Well we didn’t have time to blog about it last week since we were stretched pretty thin getting our presentation in on our time, but we made 5 sales! Sort of. We couldn’t actually sell anything, since we don’t have any kites to sell. However, we did get 5 firm commitments to purchase (and I’m working on a sixth). These commitments came from an email blast to 40 people who submitted their emails to our website after a facebook I posted a link about Engine Kites. That’s a 12% conversion with zero marketing or sales effort and while it’s certainly a self-selected group, we feel pretty good about it. Furthermore and perhaps most exciting, none of our “customers” have ever kited before, which is a fantastic validation of our customer segment hypothesis. E.g. that we are lowering the barrier to entry for prospective kites. So good news on that front and I am continuing to try and russle up new prospects in hopes of getting enough commitments to purchase that we can submit a factory order of 20 kites with each one accounted for.
On a different note, while we believe our kite is geared toward the prospective and average Joe kiter crowd, we though it was worth showing it to some pro kiters to get their feedback on the idea. Below are some quotes from our interviews, and as you can see, the feedback was largely positive. The big takeaway was that performance is what matters. The fact that it is adjustable is cool and would cause them to choose it over other kites, assuming it performed just as well. So, that’s a great insight and we’ll have to do some more testing and prototyping before we can honestly say Engine Kites performance is competitive, but it is still exciting feedback to get.
If anyone wants to share this please do!
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This post comes late, I forgot to blog about the work we’ve done exploring partnerships with hotels and resorts. We figured that many people not normally in the “extreme sports crowd” are still inclined to try sports like kite-surfing when on vacation. Turns out there’s a big market for this! Targeting consumers in this field is not a new idea, I think what really sets us apart is our value prop which offers prospective kiters with an easier and cheaper way to get started. We called over 20 hotels and resorts in areas where kitesurfing is particularly concentrated to see how popular kitesurfing is as an activity for tourists. Around California, Florida, and Hawaii were good places to start. When we posed as prospective guests, most hotels were able to connect us kiteboarding schools or instructors that they already partner with. We asked how popular the sport was and they said it seems to be increasing in popularity each year.
We then called other hotels/resorts to see about the possibility of partnering with them: offering free kiting lessons in exchange for a commission on sales of our kite. The response was largely positive! Still, some hotels did require that companies they worked with had hefty insurance policies.
Here are some places that already offer kite surfing vacations:
- Club Med: Kitesurfing Vacation
- Hotel Wailea: Kiteboarding Package
Coleman talked to Don Montague this week and learned some interesting things…
Don is on of the grandfathers of kiting, he helped design the software most people use, set up the factories in China that make all the kites and knows everybody. Basically he knows more than anyone else we have talked to so far about the industry.
First some interesting #’s and insights:
- Approximately 100,000 kites are sold per year, no single company sells more than 20,000 a year.
- Most big companies i.e. Slingshot, Naish, etc sell about 10,000 units
- North does 20,000 but they only sell half at MSRP and then dump the other half for really cheap at the end of the year which screws up prices.
- Best Kites’s (a kite company) direct sales approach has also screwed up prices.
- Even the big companies aren’t making much money though, he doesn’t think there are any kite designers making more than $100k and that most are making about $50k (also most companies only have one designer, not a whole team or anything).
- Not only that but its very risky (lots of recalls, lawsuits, etc).
- Materials costs have tripled in the last 10 years so the margin isn’t as good as it used to be.
Basically the take home point about the market is that it is totally saturated, way more people making kites then are buying them. He said that even if our prototype is perfect its simply not a strong enough platform to battle the competitors. We might be able to get a toehold with some specific segment or local area but that it would be a struggle to compete on a national scale.
He suggested that we patent and then try and license it out (he was willing to help out in making those connections). This news may sound largely discouraging for the business, but Don has not actually seen our product yet (we are setting up a meeting to have his try out our kite) and it’s important to remember that this is still just one person’s opinion. We’ll discuss this more with the class and teaching team during our final presentation!
Looks like we might get to test out the prototype after all! Looking forward to serving as a guinea pig before I start letting people demo it.
This week I finished the 4th and by far best prototype to date. I was hoping to take it to the beach, let people demo it and film people’s responses/try to sell it. Unfortuneately is was a beautiful sunny weekend with no wind so that didn’t happen. As a plan B I made a video demonstrating how the kite works (I’m not comfortable putting it on the blog because it gives too much away) and sent it to people I trust that kite. Here are some initial key quotes from peoples responses to that video. All these people kite pretty well and have strong opinions about gear. Key points are that performance takes priority over cost or anything else and that people would pay an extra $200 -$500 just for having the zipper on there.
“Looks interesting. I could see this marketed as a one kite quiver which would be really nice for travel. Price, it could go for the equivalent of a kite and a half I would think. Performance an durability would be key”
“I would pay maybe 200 bucks more for that feature”
“rad idea for your kite I like the idea of haveing the ability to change kites without having to walk to your car and pump up another kite. as long as the kite performance was the same I would say it would be worth at least 50% more [$500]“
“If this kite rocked it – just flew amazingly, and the price was significantly less than the cost of two kites – I could see it being appealing. If the kite flew at a mediocre level, the cost was only minimally different than the cost of two kites…I’d definitely go for the 9m and 7m kites (more range and no alteration necessary)”
As always a post needs a picture. Having fun getting a little tunnel vision at Scotts Creek last weekend.
Kitesurfing currently holds the 500m World Speed Sailing Record at an average speed of 55.65 knots (64 m.p.h.) over 500m!
The record is held by a US kitesurfer by the name of Robert Douglas and it was set on a speed channel in Luderitz, Namibia, on the 28th of October 2010. Luderitz is an ideal location for speed kiting. The kitesurfers speed along a very thin channel of water in a lagoon which is surrounded on either side by low lying land allowing consistent winds of between 40- 50 knots to blow past uninterrupted. The small width of the canal ensures that the water surface is perfectly smooth for the fastest rides, but also leaves the kiters very little room for error.
Here’s a video of Robert Douglas’s record breaking run with and interview and a good example of how easily things can go very wrong!
I’ve been MIA on the blog this week but certainly not for lack of things to write! A quick update on what I’ve been up to.
1) Wind Sensors – The three locations for a wind sensor that would get use the most attention are Waddell, Gazos Creek and Pigeon point. The issue with Waddell is that our sensor would probably need to be solar powered and connected to a cellular network which makes things tricky and more expensive. The Gazos Creek grill was enthusiastic about having some kind of sensor or cam on their roof which could be the best option for us because they offered to let us tap into their power and wifi. The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is another good option but we are waiting to here back from our contact with the park service (in his defense we dropped the ball and didn’t contact him as soon as we could have). In terms of the sensor itself we are looking into an IP sensor which automatically uploads to a server via an internet connection without the need for a onsite computer. Prices on these start around $350. This would be convenient but it might be cheaper to go find an old computer and hook it up to a stand alone sensor. I have been talking to the creator of www.ob-kc.com for technical advice.
2) I spoke with Fletcher at Patagonia/FCD and he was supportive but not into the idea of partnering. He liked the idea of the kite but basically just had too much other stuff on his plate. I think this is going to be the case with any potential partner (at least while we are small) so that strategy has been put on the back burner. Fletcher’s main suggestion was the licensing the patent to pre-existing companies might be a much simpler and more profitable way to move forward.
3) On Wednesday I spoke with David Hassell which was incredibly helpful. One of his main suggestions was that I find a mentor or team of advisors that know the kite industry specifically. He connected me with Don Montague who is a veteran of the kite industry and has a lot of experience with kite related patents. David also connected me with Patrick Buckley, a kiter and designer that he thought would be a good advisor to have in my corner. In terms of licensing vs. starting a company David suggested starting a small company and then getting bought might be more profitable than throwing in the towel and licensing from the start. David connected me to Bill Tai as well who said he wouldn’t be able to meet until April (Wood’s contacted him unknowing I had an “in” via David and somehow got an appt. for March 7th).
4) I have been burning the midnight oil trying to finish the 4th prototype so that I can get something worthwhile into people’s hands and start getting their reactions. The goal was to make a short film of local kiter’s responses to it by Tuesday’s class but I haven’t been able to get it finished quickly enough, expect it for the final presentation.
All in all things have been busy and productive. My goals for the next week are to get a sensor up, talk to Don and Pat, and finish the kite so I can get people’s reactions + try to sell it.
Making a stencil for the graphic on the kite
The week wasn't all work, Saturday I got to go play for a bit!