Swedish startup Shortcut Labs put together one of the country’s most successful crowdfunding campaigns – And now they understand what’s the power of the community.
The Co-founders of Shortcut Labs Amir Sharifat, Pranav Kosuri and Joacim Westlund have their community in the heart of their business. Photo: Shortcut Labs
Shortcut Labs first Flics, the wireless smart buttons, are sent out to the users this month – And we can hear the excitement from the Co-Founder and CCO Pranav Kosuri’s voice. The company went through a successful Indiegogo campaign gathering in total nearly $900 000, but organizing the mass production for the product has been a long process.
The crowdfunding campaign for the shortcut buttons finished in January. This wasn’t the first time the company was searching for people to back up their product. Actually what led Shortcut Labs to search for funding from the community was an offer turned down from a big American company.
“We started our company in a basement in Stockholm. Then we got in at Highway1 incubator in San Francisco, which was a great six month learning experience for us – And an awesome opportunity to network. After moving back to Stockholm, we were looking for investors through a funding round. The negotiations were extended to last finally for several months and while turning down the last offer we figured out we had almost ran out of funds,” says Kosuri.
Instead of searching money from the investors, the team decided to turn to the potential users. “We thought people will understand the idea better. After all we almost killed the company, because we didn’t focus on the product anymore,” continues Kosuri.
After finding over 13 000 supporters through Indiegogo, the company concentrated on getting their product ready. This year, they’ve been growing their team as well as engaging their community in developing Flic. The company has an own idea forum for users and at the moment their 400 people beta community is testing the product, sending feedback and developing new use cases.
“We learned from the crowdfunding experience that we need to be an open company. When we couldn’t start delivering the products on time after the campaign, we kept at first the information for ourselves and received a lot of angry feedback from the community. After that we decided to start communicating everything clearly to the users, we’ve never received that much love and engagement from our backers before. All that our users wanted was us to be honest and know what’s going on with the product,” Kosuri emphasizes.
Personalized buttons for unique needs
Flic was invented over two years ago, when one of the three Co-Founders, Joacim Westlund, wanted to quit using snuff. To support his decision, he developed an app with a button that helped him to count how many portions he used per day.
From the first idea, there has been developed multiple use cases and Kosuri tells that every Flic can be used for three functions. While you can set the lights, play music or even order a pizza with a simple click, Kosuri uses his smart button to help him in solving small everyday problems.
“If I click my Flic once, it helps me find my phone which I lost all the time at my place. If I double-click it, it sends me a text about when the next bus leaves from the closest bus stop. If I hold it in, it sends an e-mail to my co-founder colleagues that I’m running 10 minutes late which happens pretty often,” he laughs.
“I also sent Flics to my grandmother in India, so that she can easily call to relatives around the world. The buttons are attached now to picture frames so she can easily start a Skype call by opening her computer and simply clicking the Flic on the picture frame,” tells Kosuri.
Reaching for perfection – Learning to cope with constant development mode
While talking about being a Nordic entrepreneur, Kosuri says that one big realization their team has experienced is that you need to be willing to put yourself out there – And not be scared about the failures that might happen during the process while getting your product to the market.
“We Swedish entrepreneurs don’t usually want to put anything in the market that’s not perfect, but there’s always things you haven’t thought about. We’ve experienced during our process that no matter how much you try to polish every part, the product has to be delivered to the people at some point – so you can’t keep on developing it yourself until forever.”
Kosuri tells that they for instance sent a batch of Flics to their ambassadors packaged so lightly that the buttons were smashed when they received them. After the first delivery, they also had to call back products which was a really hard decision for the team. But these learning experiences made the company even more open.
“Transparency engages the community. The backers have their trust on you – And their money on something that doesn’t yet really exist. Our community has been helping us tremendously and giving us further business by telling people and companies about us,” says Kosuri and emphasizes the importance of changing startups’ mindset in the phase when they’re developing the products.
“When the people actually get the products in their hands, one can see how they’re using them.”
Ready for shipping
The first official shipment of Flics will be sent out latest in the beginning September – And this includes those 60 000 Flics ordered through Indiegogo. Next the company will concentrate on developing the product even further and they’ll continue building an ecosystem around the wireless button.
“It’s not only about developing things around our app and button – Our vision is to have Flics that can do basically anything. To figure out what that ‘anything’ is, we’re keeping our community in our heart and we also want to encourage third party app developers to find new ways to use the product through their services or apps for instance,” says Kosuri.
And one thing is really clear for the Shortcut Labs team:
“We want a Flic in every household.”