March 5, 2011

Jellypods: the global business in a spare bedroom

Posted in Business model, Frequent Flyer, Fun stuff, Marketing, Production, Strategy, Web at 10:34 am by Kilo

Over the past year or so we’ve been working on a wide range of things associated with Jellypods, and it is striking just how easy it has been to find suppliers and coordinate a literally global effort from a spare bedroom.

Just to give some impression of the breadth of this activity, our main location is Munich in Germany, but we have worked with companies in the USA, Argentina, India, UK, Italy, Hong Kong and mainland China to get to this stage.

All of those links and efforts have been created and coordinated across the web, using a combination of tools that simply did not exist 10 or 15 years ago.

The first of these is the web itself. Just thinking back to the mid-1990’s, the internet was a fledgling system. Broadband in those days was a 128K modem. Today there is almost nothing you cannot find on or via the web, at speeds that we take for granted; VDSL at 25mb/s allows almost anybody to connect to the world in high definition, in real time, and it is enabling what Thomas Friedman calls a flat Earth. We’ve been able to make new friends, research suppliers, find interesting stories of similar endeavours, even learn the language of silicone injection moulding all from a Mac desktop at home.

The second toolset is Elance.com. Without Elance it is fair to say we would not have found some fantastic partners, some who delivered the CAD from our original hand-drawn technical designs, which allowed us get to the stage where we could take this product to manufacturing, some who have helped us with various marketing efforts, and others who have helped with some of the design concepts.

Another great tool is Skype. With video and voice calling over Skype it has been possible to liaise with partners 9 time zones away without spending a fortune on airfares. Is it perfect? No, but it is pretty good, and we have been able to establish and maintain great relationships using this medium.

And of course modern email is the core of formal communications. Sending simple messages, instructions, huge file attachments, pictures – all of it enabled by mailboxes that are supplied as part of cheap web domain hosting packages and free of charge email clients like Thunderbird.

Finally social communications tools like this WordPress blog, bulletin boards like Flyertalk, Twitter, and Facebook, all help create a degree of connectivity and intimacy with our friends, fans and future potential customers. It is interesting to see just how much activity we see on this blog when we have done almost literally zero promotion – on some days more than 100 visitors – which is encouraging for when we do finally decide to go public in a bigger way.

All this means we have literally been able to create a small, but still global endeavour from a spare room at minimal cost. And on April 6th-7th we’ll see the fruits of all those labours live for the first time, when we visit the moulding factory and see the Jellypods coming off the machines. Stay tuned for more news soon!

February 26, 2011

Building a better bag

Posted in Airlines, Business model, Competition, Design, Frequent Flyer, Luggage, Strategy at 3:07 pm by Kilo

When we started researching the market for Jellypods, we discovered pretty rapidly that most of the offers available to the frequent traveller today provided solutions that focused on other aspects of the problem. As we went through the process of refining our own product (using the ERIC framework outlined in last week’s blog), we realized that we had ways to be very highly differentiated.

For example, many existing offers use a PVC vinyl bag with a metal zipper that will deteriorate over time and is certainly not 100% waterproof. In other cases the bags themselves were secondary to the main offer – special bottles to hold liquids.

Many of these limitations are enforced due to the use of off-the-shelf bags or bottles that have been re-purposed as travelling bags.

But because Jellypods was designed from a literally blank sheet of paper, we were able to make some deliberate choices during the design process to use more sophisticated raw materials that give Jellypods many advantages.

As examples, we were able to make Jellypods very strong, but still stretchy to accommodate slightly odd shapes; we could embed anti-bacterial agents in the specially-formulated silicone gel; we were able to invent a unique closure mechanism that is both waterproof and doubly-secure; and we were able to use more complex manufacturing processes such as extrusion and liquid injection molding, allowing us to create a something at another level of quality and precision. In all, a Jellypod that will last a lot longer and be more effective in dozens of ways.

Those choices mean that Jellypods are somewhat more expensive to make, but we think that the benefits delivered are well worth the extra cost, and we hope that those choices will make Jellypods stand out and that potential customers will recognize they are getting better value for their money –  a real piece of personal luggage that will last much longer, survive the toughest handling, that can be cleaned really easily and that will protect the traveller from disease and spillage.

Not bad for a funny little bag!

February 20, 2011

Sizing up the competition

Posted in Airlines, Blue Ocean, Business model, Design, Frequent Flyer, Luggage, Marketing, Materials, Strategy at 12:36 pm by Kilo

When we first started to investigate the market for carry-on liquid bags, we bumped into dozens of alternatives to the simple plastic bag out there in the marketplace.

Some producers took a high road, positioning (and pricing) themselves in the upper reaches, some positioned and priced to get volume. It was interesting to follow the PR efforts of the various positions: some pitching at high end fashion magazines, others pitching at the savvy backpacker.

What we quickly realized is that despite the intended price-based positioning, these various offers were competing on the same basic characteristics. Typically these bags all featured the same basic design: low cost metal/plastic zippers, inexpensive clear plastic sides, a lack of waterproofness, some 100ml bottles, little or no hygiene, and a few minor styling cues.

We saw that with the fundamental concept and design of Jellypods we had a chance to completely innovate the category, changing the rules by which the game was played. We used a couple of techniques such as the ERIC framework (Eliminate, Reduce, Increase, Create) to figure out which elements we would get rid of entirely e.g. metal zippers, and which we would introduce for the first time such as silicone materials; which were expensive additions that added little value such as the plastic bottles, and which areas were under-emphasized such as hygiene.

The result was a completely new product category for Jellypods, one in which certain core themes in most other products are completely removed, and several new attributes are introduced for the first time. We’ve been able to generate something that looks unique and behaves in a way that lifts it above the level of the rest of the market. If this ultimately does turn out to be a success, that basic thinking about product attributes is likely to be a large part of the reason why.

February 6, 2011

Designing packaging for Jellypods

Posted in Airlines, Blue Ocean, Branding, Business model, Feedback, Luggage, Marketing, Materials, Packaging, Production, Strategy at 10:56 am by Kilo

Packaging of Jellypods has been something we have considered right from the start, as part of the Blue Ocean approach.

We’ve been through a wide range iterations, from external to internal, from lots to none, but now we have started to zero in on a couple of concepts.

The mainline thinking of packaging Jellypods has always been around allowing people to see and feel the product on the shelf, while also having the benefits and value of the product explained visually to the potential buyer.

It also can’t cost the earth – there’s no point working so hard to cost optimize the basic product only to add 30% extra cost for a wrapper.

That set of goals is encapsulated in the latest designs for a wraparound package which is shown below:

However, one other option that is still seriously under consideration is to avoid external packaging altogether. In a Blue Ocean sense, this makes a lot of sense – it eliminates something that maybe adds little value.

Crocs, a story we mentioned earlier on the blog, deliberately decided to place their products out in the open air, with zero packaging, to show the wide variety of colours.


Jellypods have a convenient little Jelly-shaped hanging hole built into the ziptabs that would make this a very viable option, and because the product is crystal clear, it would be quite easy to put all “packaging detail” inside the Jellypod itself. What do you think?

 

February 5, 2011

The story of Trunki

Posted in Airlines, Branding, Business model, Design, Luggage, Marketing, Production, Strategy at 10:33 am by Kilo

On another of those searches across the vast reaches of the internet looking for information on companies that came out of nowhere and entered the luggage/travel goods sector, we stumbled on the story of Trunki.

Trunki is a product that mixes luggage with play for kids – it is luggage kids can sit on and roll along in the airport. It was invented by a designer called Rob Law, who got inspiration one day while browsing a local store. He took the idea forward and after many challenges has created a multi-million dollar business that has sold several hundred thousand units over the past 5-6 years, despite quite a few major setbacks:

  • a distributor who went out of business
  • the confiscation of his Chinese mould tooling
  • the very public failure of a trivial component on national television

You can watch a short documentary of how Rob got through those problems below.

Despite all those challenges, Rob and Trunki have kept going and kept growing, and it looks like he is now seeing the fruits of all that hard work, with significant growth, new deals in the Americas, new products, and now, according to his corporate accounts, quite a profitable, healthy business.

How is this relevant to Jellypods? Well firstly it’s an entrepreneurial story in the luggage sector, and we can learn valuable lessons from anyone who has done that. Secondly it’s a story about moulded luggage that was designed for a specific niche target market, which is a direct parallel to what we are doing with Jellypods. And thirdly it offers some insight to the timeline required when overcoming challenges, staying focused and ultimately delivering success.

We’ve never met Rob Law, but after hearing these stories, we’d like to get to know him. Let’s hope that Jellypods can benefit from some of those lessons.

January 29, 2011

The story of Senzº umbrellas

Posted in Airlines, Blue Ocean, Business model, Design, Luggage, Marketing at 9:51 am by Kilo

Sometimes when you are just surfing the net, looking for inspiration, you stumble across a really nice product that just came out of nowhere and became a massive success.

That happened on a wet Saturday a few months ago when we stumbled onto this video from Senz umbrellas:

After a little research we discovered the story of how Senz had got started: a young designer, Gerwin Hoogendoorn, gets annoyed at losing his third umbrella to stormy winds in a week, has an idea to build an aerodynamic umbrella. That idea turns in to 3 guys in a room the size of a cupboard who work together for a year to get the first models out the door. They manufacture their new design in China, order 10,000 umbrellas – and sell out in just 9 days in a blitz of media attention. You can read the full story here.

Senz has gone on to win just about every major design award on the planet and has grown rapidly since 2006, while charging about $50-$80 for an umbrella.

We like stories like that – taking a slightly twisted look at an existing, slightly boring category, that is just not designed for the bashing it is taking, then developing a new slant on it, and creating something that just twists the whole category into a new dimension.

Are we that clever? Probably not even close, but we are bringing some innovation to a large market that today is served by a horrible, unhygienic, unreliable plastic sandwich bag. That has to be worth something.

January 15, 2011

The market for Jellypods

Posted in Airlines, Blue Ocean, Branding, Business model, Design, Funding, Investors, Luggage, Marketing, Materials, Web at 11:28 am by Kilo

We started the Jellypods journey from a personal need, but we’re continuing it beyond the “half-hour serious” phase because to the potential of the original idea.

The original Jellypods design, for frequent flyers, is addressing a large market;  according to IATA, the International Air Transport Association, more than 2,750,000,000 passengers – equivalent to 40% of the entire population of the planet Earth – are going to get on an airplane in 2011. Now not all of those are unique travellers – many are the same person taking multiple trips, frequent flyers.

But just one airline loyalty programme, Lufthansa’s Miles and More, has 15,000,000 registered frequent travellers, and about 350,000 of those are elite travellers, Senators or Hons. Multiply those kinds of figures by the number of major airlines on the planet (about 100 of the 300 or so out there), and that’s a big market that can be addressed relatively readily.

Then when we started to look beyond the core market of the initial design, and look at other uses for nicely designed, waterproof, quirky bags made of hygienic, stretchy, safe, washable, heat/sun/rain/sea/tea/cold resistant bags we found literally dozens of markets out there and started naming various new Jellypods designs after them. We also saw that the basic design could be extended and evolved in new ways to create ideas like Jellyshells (more about this later this year), opening up even more new markets.

January 9, 2011

Crocs and design patents

Posted in Airlines, Business model, Competition, Luggage, Registered Designs, Trademarks at 10:00 am by Kilo

It’s not widely known, but even if your product is not technically novel, you can register the design – the look and feel – of the product with a special kind of patent or registered design, depending on which part of the world you live in.

And those design patents give you rights to protect you if someone copies your design. There are many examples of companies defending their rights in court using those designs as the basis – Crocs, for example, have successfully prosecuted cases against 11 other companies copying their designs.

Since this process costs nothing more than a few hundred dollars you can imagine we will be registering the final Jellypods designs (and Jellyshells, a new set of ideas) fairly soon.

Incidentally, the Crocs story is one of those stories that is almost too good to be true: 3 guys on a boat sell 1,000 boat shoes at a boating show and within 3 years sales are north of $100m and they have sold more than 6 million pairs of what some people call the ugliest shoes ever invented. Two years later they have raised $208M in an IPO and have sold 50 million pairs.

We’d be happy with a much, much smaller hit, but we do believe that Jellypods is opening a new category in the luggage market in the way Crocs did in footwear, and Jellypods have that slightly quirky design appeal that makes them a polarizing product – you’ll either love them or hate them.

December 31, 2010

We’ve chosen a manufacturing partner

Posted in Airlines, Business model, Luggage, Materials, Packaging, Production, Prototyping, Uncategorized at 4:53 pm by Kilo

It’s official: we’ve chosen a manufacturing partner to help us finally bring Jellypods to life.

It’s taken quite a while to get to this stage, almost a full year since the first scribbles in a notebook, and a large part of that process has been finding and settling on the production partner.

It’s been an interesting journey in understanding production issues and developing various criteria in choosing a good quality supplier. We’ve been lucky in that one of the companies we were considering has been very very positive from the first moment, and has some great references in liquid silicone so we were able to see products they have produced before actually in our hands.

Now we are just waiting for final CAD outputs, which have focussed on final refinements and optimizing the weight of the Jellypods, so that we don’t have a huge beast of a bag to ship around the planet. In fact, this is in a way a kind of cost optimization exercise, and we’ve been able to take about 15% off the weight, which saves a fair bit of raw material cost and therefore helps us to meet out cost target almost exactly on the button we set about 9 months ago. 

Those refinements have taken a little time to get right, but we’ll get there very soon, and over the next few days contracts and purchases orders for moulds, samples and first production runs will be flying across the globe, and soon we’ll be heading out on a trip to visit the factory and meeting our new partners. That will be a very interesting series of visits, as we have to travel across the globe to get there – stay tuned for more updates in the New Year.

December 19, 2010

Accepting investments in Jellypods?

Posted in Business model, Funding, Investors at 4:41 pm by Kilo

Over the past few months we’ve been pleased to be approached by many friends and colleagues asking if we are looking for investors in Jellypods.

It’s certainly very nice that so many people are offering to help make Jellypods real, but at the moment we want to keep things simple. So the best answer we can give today is “thanks – but not just yet.”

There are still some hurdles to overcome with the Jellypods concept, and we want to get to a certain point – a point at which we can definitely make the product for a certain price – before asking anybody else to risk any money.

And to some degree – beyond the first $50,000-$100,000 – we hope the business will be self-financing, so the need for a large investment pool isn’t that big.

So what we are saying to many friends is that we will be offering small opportunities – very low risk, small scale involvements of maybe $500-$1000 dollars – so that friends can have a low-cost, relatively low-risk piece of the action for a relatively small amount of money, get something tangible in return, and join in the fun of owning a little piece of something cool. In fact, it will be a little bit like the model used by www.kickstarter.com.

We’ll be offering more information about what kind of packages will be available in the New Year, but you can imagine there will be several levels, with each level offering a variety of benefits: from unique, specially-coloured founder Jellypods, through the right to get several Jellypods for a special price to Jellypods “buddy” t-shirts and even unique prototype artwork.

To be kept right up to date, make sure you sign up for email notices at http://www.jellypods.com.

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