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.

April 15, 2010

Blue Oceans of Jellypods

Posted in Blue Ocean, Competition, ERIC, Marketing, Strategy at 8:01 am by Kilo

Earlier on this blog we mentioned that ERIC helped us refine our the valuable characteristics we built into each Jellypod. Who the heck is ERIC?

ERIC stands for Eliminate-Reduce-Increase-Create. It is a way of looking at a competitive situation and changing the mix of product attributes to establish a new product, or even market, category. This is exactly what we did from the very first moment with Jellypods, driven by a process now famously and fashionably known as Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS).

Chan Kim and Renee Maubourgne are the now quite well-known INSEAD business school professors who invented Blue Ocean Strategy, and we have been lucky enough to study the subject under their tuition – naturally back before they were famous. Since then, their book on the subject has gone on to sell millions of copies. Here is a nice picture of the two of them looking very much like people who just sold a few million copies of their book:-

The main point of BOS is that you should look for ways to break out from the bloody red seas of intense price and feature competition by inventing new offers that create entirely new market categories with more attractive attributes. These new markets are the “blue oceans” that allow clear sailing. Some classic examples of BOS are Nintendo’s Wii, Cirque du Soleil, and Southwest Airlines. You can find quite interesting case studies and interviews on these and others knocking about the internet.

BOS offers some quite simple techniques to help you explore different parameters of competition, from the degree of current product attributes to things you can invent that don’t exist yet. Underpinning these options are the decisions you take to eliminate, reduce, increase or create various parts of the mix, like pushing the sliders up and down on an audio mixing board. Here’s the visual mix for Jellypods:-

You can hopefully just about see that the green line (Jellypods) is clearly very different on a number of attributes to things we are defining as existing offers. Some things have been eliminated entirely, others increased drastically, still others created from nowhere – in other words, ERIC.

You will have seen the very first version of this in the post below where the initial idea was sketched out in a Moleskin, and it has been quite fundamental in our thinking. Many of the final Jellypods properties and values are derived from BOS/ERIC, and we think we have created a new category that will be quite appealing to a large number of travellers and others over time.

But it’s still a risk – it might not work out, and maybe very few people will want one. Unfortunately nobody is able to guarantee success!