March 20, 2011

Filing registered designs for Jellypods

Posted in Design, Frequent Flyer, News, Registered Designs, Trademarks, Uncategorized at 9:13 am by Kilo

This week we spent a little money (about $500) on registering the core design of Jellypods with a European Registered Community Design, also known as an RCD.

This registration, which was granted in just 3 days and is now in force, covers the look and feel of the design in 27 European countries with just one application.

A similar, but slightly more involved process existing in the USA and other major markets, and those are also in progress right now. This is a fairly simple thing to do; all you need are some good sketches of the product from a range of angles.

We’ve written before about how these kinds of simple protections, which are much simpler than utility patents, can help defend the value being created by a novel design. Another good example is the Poachpod by Fusionbrands, who have successfully defended their designs against knockoffs both in the UK and USA. It’s encouraging that these protections can be granted very rapidly, as a real utility patent can take years to be granted, leaving an inventor at the mercy of copycats.

What is fascinating about the Jellypods story is the range of new things we are learning from day to day, with the trademarking and design registration process being just one example.

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March 12, 2011

First trial runs of Jellypods on the moulds

Posted in CAD/CAM, Design, Frequent Flyer, Materials, Production, Prototyping at 12:03 pm by Kilo

Exciting news from the factory floor – the first trials of the Jellypods moulds are under way and we have the very first picture of an actual Jellypod!

Below you can see a teaser shot of the very first real, live Jellypods prototype being stripped from the test mould:

How cool is that?

The colour looks quite shiny due to the high transparency of the material of the pod – that shine is the P20 mould tool steel shining through the skin of the Jellypod – and already you can see just how flexible the skin of the Jellypod is.

Already we are seeing some minor challenges in the production process, but nothing that will stop the show.

Getting to this point is a very major step for us, and hopeful in 3 weeks time we’ll be be sitting in a pile of the very first batch of these little products! Stay tuned to have the chance of being a lucky beta tester soon!

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 12, 2011

Jellypods mould tooling – first technical drawings

Posted in Airlines, CAD/CAM, Design, Luggage, Materials, News, Production at 9:50 am by Kilo

Exciting news in the last couple of days: the first drawings of the mould tools have arrived from our production partner.

Those who have followed the blog for a little while will realize that a massive part of the time over the past year has been finding a production partner able to make this product.

After talking to about a dozen manufacturing firms, many of whom said that making this product was impossible, we were very lucky to find a patient, professional and thoughtful production company.

All our interactions with the excellent staff at this partner have been extremely friendly and they have been without doubt the most responsive and helpful company we contacted. It was pretty easy to award them the business, and it is really great to now start to see the production process move forward.

A Detail from the Jellypods Mould Tool Drawings

How their engineering gurus managed to get this part into production is a closely guarded secret, so we can’t post all the details, but suffice to say that moulding this little pod-like bag is a pretty tricky exercise. The design has several issues for normal moulding techniques that needed some clever thinking and we’ve really been very lucky to find a partner willing to invest some energy into solving these issues.

The really nice thing is that now those issues are solved, the door is open to an entirely new set of products beyond the basic Jellypods, and we’ve been pretty busy working up those designs in the background. More news soon!

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 30, 2011

Don’t forget to register for private updates

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:19 am by Kilo

Many followers of this blog already know they can get occasional private updates on email by registering at www.jellypods.com.

If you haven’t already registered, why not take 30 seconds to do so right now, and you’ll be certain to get all the private updates that won’t appear on this blog – especially important if you are interested in

  • being one of the first 25 Jellypods field testers
  • being one of the first to be offered a small stake in Jellypods
  • more news about our development into a real business
  • special deals and offers for “Founder Followers”
  • inside news on deals for frequent flyers

Just click here to sign up today: www.jellypods.com

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.

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