In many ways, Engine Kites is a selfish production. The idea is a byproduct of our own desire to have the best kite surfing experience possible – and that means not having to drop a couple grand or lug a bunch of gear around. We began playing around exploring the concept of a reefable kite last spring, and several sewing machines later we’ve developed a pretty reasonable MVP. At which point, we realized we knew next to nothing about how to make a business plan, which is what led us to seek out E245. The customer development framework is perfect for the extreme sports industry, where everyone seems to know everyone and nobody seems to have real jobs-which means lots of time to talk to inquisitive students!Through our network of friends and contacts we’ve had received feedback on this idea from over 50 kite surfers in the bay area. Thanks to Steve’s constant reminder to “get out of the building!” we have accosted another 20 kite surfers in the past two weeks to get their take on our kites. The response has been overall very positive, and the two things we keep hearing in every conversation are:
Price and Performance
Price and performance. Price and performance. As one wordsmith we chatted with put it: “If it flies good and costs less, hell yeah I’ll buy the sucker.” We’ve also got some great technical feedback in terms of the best way to seal and air bladder, rig a bridle, configure the zip-off flaps, etc. (Not to mention some very helpful stitching advice from my grandmother). We are continuing to interview our end-users with a goal of 100 customer conversations by EOQ! But overall, the results of our conversations have highlighted a clear demand for the product we are describing and we are compiling a list of excited, kite nerds who have offered to help test-drive our kites. The following is a great quote by Matt Sexton, the founder of Collegiate Kiteboarding Association, that echoes our beliefs and vision at Engine Kites.
“Companies need to offer more entry level packages that don’t go obsolete once a rider starts wanting to progress. You can get some sick SLE and hybrid kites that are great for learning, but once you want to unhook or learn some freestyle they’re garbage. That needs to change and it’s apparent that it already somewhat has, but the image of the sport needs to change as well. There needs to be a much higher rate of mainstream exposure and the image of the sport needs to look a lot cooler.”
At a high level, kite surfers can be broken into the following groups.
- Professional Kiters: solely concerned with performance
- Average Kite Surfer: cost and performance sensitive
- Prospective/Entry Level Kiter: cost sensitive, ignorant of performance
The segments we intend to target are the beginner and average level kite surfers, as we feel our value proposition of strong performance at low cost is most attractive to these groups. However, the having one kite is also less of logistical nightmare than having two so it is possible we could attract some professional kite surfer interest as well.
On a more granular level, here is what our customer demographic looks like:
- Male dominated sport, primarily ages 20-45
- Over 60% have a university degree
- Majority tried kite surfing at the recommendation of a friend (image 1 indicates how a sample of 473 kite surfers reported getting into kiting)
- Majority have previously tried skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing (image 2 indicates what other sports kite surfers indicate participating in)
- Most common complains are cost and infrequency of sessions (due to inconvenience of access or light winds)
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