Kickstarting the outdoors: Offpiste packs get a jump with crowd-funding

Offpiste packs get a jump with crowd-funding.
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More than $10 million to start an activity tracking wristwatch? That was the power of Kickstarter for Pebble. Though some of the crowd-funding site's best financed products are in the technology space, campaigns are launched to raise money for just about any kind of project you could imagine, from children's books to khaki pants.

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Across the Atlantic in Israel, a pair of entrepreneurs is using the platform to launch a new performance backpack. Gil Wiener and Tal Stein Tzuk of Offpiste are offering up the UltraPack 7+3, and have set a goal of bringing in $49,000. Wiener talked to SNEWS about the how and why of his Kickstarter campaign (hint: it's not all about the money).

What made you decide to launch a Kickstarter campaign for Offpiste rather than seeking out investors some other way?
Offpiste CEO Gil Wiener: We realized that launching a Kickstarter campaign is much more then raising funds, it’s also a great platform to display and test your product to a unique market, a lab market, with the kind of crowd that would fit the definition of early adapters for any kind of project. We actually began looking for investors during early preparations for the campaign, but realized it was time-consuming and our goal was to get the product to the market ASAP. This is probably the best way we know to test out a product in a huge focus group.

How has the process worked so far? How did you set a fundraising goal, and how are you generating buzz about the product?
GW: The process has been good so far, some usual obstacles, but nothing we can’t handle. The fundraising goal is tricky! You want to identify a realistic number, which is probably not what you really need; I can say that our goal is way below our needs, but it’s better to have one bird in your hand rather than have two on a tree. We have a great PR team working with us, we’ve created a Facebook page and a Twitter account and we work really hard to get to people through any channel we can; friends, ads (in a modest budget), Kickstarter, press release, where we are slowly sharing bits of information, pictures, videos, testimonials, and so on, whatever our creative minds are capable of.

When did you get your start? What's your background?
GW: We are self-funded from the beginning. I’m an architect, but have worked in the internet and high tech-industry for the past 13 years. I’ve collected all kinds of experience, from programming and project management to marketing, and especially web marketing. My business partner Tal is a talented product designer and product manager for the past 10 years, specializing in designing high-intensity bags, packs and solutions for the high-end film and video industry. Tal was also a professional skateboarder and our experience in so many sports has brought us the understanding of what is needed in the ultimate bag.

We’re both long time action sports enthusiasts, from jumping and climbing walls as kids, doing all sorts of crazy stuff (I would never allow my son to do), to rock climbing, cycling, diving, skydiving, kite surfing, SUP, long-distance running, open water swimming, kayaking and so on … if there’s adrenaline in it, we’ve been there, or we will be there.

Why did you go for a triangular design with the pack?
GW: We started with only the notion that we need our pack to hold our necessary gear while in action; I particularly needed it for my GoPro Gear, so we tested all kinds of solutions and none were as comfortable and free as the triangle-shaped system. Think about it, it frees your upper body (chest and shoulders) completely like no other sport pack does. The triangle-shaped bag is upside down to the torso and wraps around it so tight that it doesn't shake and jump around the body while doing sports. We’ve tested it with many athletes and got many great ideas from them, though I can’t say we’ve implemented them all yet … still a lot to do, and a lot to expect! But that’s the fun about this modular system, it's practically endless!

How did you set the pricing for Kickstarter contributors?
GW: The pricing is also tricky since we wanted our backers to get the best price possible, yet there are so many costs to take into consideration. The manufacturing price is very much affected by the amount we produce, yet we had to speculate on that so we just went with the lowest price we could, no profit, and took $10 off that (for the early birds 100 VIP pre-sale reward). Bear in mind we are dealing in a very competitive market, with the biggest and strongest brands that produce thousands, and have a much simpler product to produce because they are not a modular system.

Does being based overseas in Israel affect who's participating in the Kickstarter campaign?
GW: We’ve just started, so honestly we can’t say yet, but we want to believe that since this product is manufactured outside of Israel, and very far away from it, and the fact that we’re in a universal industry of sport — which is a great way to make friends and peace — that it would be affected in only a positive way. We are doing this because we love sports, and we want our customers to have the best gear carrying system to maximize their performance and fun through the freedom of movement that our Offpiste UltraPack System allows.
So go out there and do your thing and feel the freedom of movement, feel the adrenaline, get addicted to it, and don’t be afraid to take whatever you need with you, this time it won’t hold you back!

--Megan Mulligan

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