January 18, 2022
So we’re running a survey to better understand how mental health (both good and bad) affects entrepreneurs, and what to do about it. If this is a topic that resonates with you, we want to hear your story.
On Tap This Week:
- Our Latest Obsession: Lessons learned from $34m+ in Kickstarter product launches.
- Quick-Fire Opportunities: We uncover white space in modular vertical parking, relationship advice, and cold therapy.
- Guide to Reddit Marketing: How Bearable grew to 300k+ (and profitable) using Reddit communities.
- Tips and Tools: James Camp’s playbook for flipping websites.
- ICYMI: A roundup of don’t-miss convos and resources from the Trends Facebook community, including an extensive list of Web3 resources and detailed 2022 NFT predictions.
Let’s get to it!
|Our Latest Obsession|
Lessons From Kickstarter’s Most Successful Company
One of our best features from the early days of Trends was called Obsessions — where our analysts (mostly Sam) would share insights on businesses they were fascinated by and what made them worth building.
We wrote about the lucrative opportunity with virtual private networks (VPNs), which Sam said “checks all the boxes for why new entrants can win,” including:
- massive margins
- little upfront costs
- untrustworthy competition
And we became so obsessed with the idea of building motels for millennials that we put together a 14-slide deck, which was among our most-clicked pieces of content for years (don’t miss the last 3 slides).
Our latest obsession is Peak Design, a travel and camera gear company that holds the record for the most money ever raised on Kickstarter by a single business. From 2011-20, they launched 1 product per year on the platform, ultimately landing ~$34m+ exclusively through crowdfunding (no VC)!
Here’s the cool thing about companies built on Kickstarter: If you read back through their project updates, you can watch them learn lessons in real time. It’s like a master class in how to launch a product.
So we combed through some of Peak Design’s most important campaigns to pull out the lessons you can use.
2011: Lessons From Launching
Peak Design’s first product was a camera clip called Capture that made it easy for photographers to carry a DSLR on their hip or backpack strap.
Source: Peak Design
In May 2011, founder Pete Dering set a target of raising $10k in 10 weeks. He blew past that in 2 days, ultimately raking in $364k+ and becoming Kickstarter’s 2nd-biggest campaign ever at the time.
- Media was key: The project got a major boost when it was covered by Gizmodo, PetaPixel, Digital Trends, and others. This was a lucky accident for them, but with a little planning you could make it happen more reliably.
- Cashflow was a challenge: Dering’s success was a double-edged sword. The product was far more popular than anticipated, but Kickstarter doesn’t release funds until a campaign ends. He needed to deliver more units than expected, without immediate access to his money.
He ended up having parts shipped in from 7 manufacturers and assembling them himself — proof that you don’t need everything figured out in order to get started.
2015: Their Biggest Year-Over-Year Growth
In 2015, their messenger bag raked in 3x its entire funding goal on Day 1, and ultimately raised $4m+ — nearly 2x all the money they’d raised from their past campaigns combined.
It was the single biggest jump in funding (465%+ YoY) the company has ever seen.
So what changed?
The biggest contributor: They partnered with well-known photography influencer Trey Ratcliff to design and sell the bag. Not only did Trey offer reach, but he also drove press with various media outlets reporting on his new bag.
Other things that helped:
- One month into the campaign, they launched on Product Hunt, snagging ~500+ upvotes and landing at No. 4 for the day.
- They started hosting regular hangout sessions with backers where people could meet the team, see the products, and ask questions (example).
2019: Their Biggest Campaign Ever
In 2019 they released the Travel Tripod, which raised $12m+ (~24x their goal), becoming the 5th-most-funded Kickstarter project of all time and landing them the title of most-funded company of all time.
Their main goal — eliminate wasted dead space in traditional tripod designs (Source: Kickstarter)
By 2019, they had 8 years of Kickstarter experience (and a growing audience) to work with, which definitely helped. But here are some things that make this campaign stand out:
- Their influencer strategy was much more dialed in, with YouTubers posting product reviews in time for the Kickstarter campaign.
- They released a product add-on 5 days before the end of the campaign to drive more hype.
- They used ViralSweep to run a social sharing contest during the last week, giving away 3 $400 gear credits.
The final push worked, bringing in $3.5m+ in the last week of funding alone.
Even the small days averaged ~$50k (Source: BackerKit)
BONUS: 2020 — The Project From Hell
For their 2020-21 Kickstarter, Peak launched a mobile phone case with a series of innovative mounts and accessories (20 unique products in all).
Launching this turned out to be way more complex than expected with pandemic delays, travel bans, and Apple introducing new design specs. The project faced months of delays.
Dering’s video update is a great lesson in how to deliver bad news as a leader:
- Own the delay, and offer a full refund to anyone who wants one.
- Then offer a reward to anyone who stays (they gave customers 20% off sales through their website, and 50% off their next phone case).
- Finally, don’t grovel. Dering stands behind his team, insisting that great products take time.
For another great lesson, check out how they responded when Amazon Basics ripped off one of their bags. 🤣
And yes, this drove even more sweet, sweet press (example, example, example) (Source: YouTube)
All in all, we think this is a badass company everyone can learn from. We’re gonna interview folks on their team. If you want, you can submit questions.
And if you want to see way more, check out Ethan’s (very informal) research notes here.
Vertical Parking Is on the Rise
The global smart-parking market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14% to reach $3.8B by 2023 (Source: Statista)
Ever tried to park in a big city? It sucks — and it’s only getting worse.
Parking shortages in urban areas are a global problem. Populations continue to grow while usable land becomes more scarce. At the same time, increasing urbanization is driving demand for vehicle ownership.
A typical urban parking space has annual costs (i.e., land, construction, and operating) of up to $1.5k, which means that many parking spaces are actually worth more than the vehicles that occupy them.
The crisis is compounded by mandatory parking minimums. In the US, commercial buildings need at least 4-6 parking spots per 1k square feet of space. Similar requirements exist in countries like Australia, China, India, and the Philippines.
One solution entering the market, which is still ripe for entrepreneurs to capitalize on, is modular vertical parking towers.
Early players in this space include China-based Mutrade and Germany-based VePa, which launched in mid-2021 (perhaps unsurprisingly, rotating vertical car parks have long been a thing in Japan).
VePa’s product, which can be set up and dismantled in just 5 days, can be designed for 6, 8, 10, or 12 parking spaces in the area of only 2 parking spaces. It includes a digital booking system, electric charging stations, and space for bicycles, e-bikes, and motorbikes.
The company also plans to integrate with shared micromobility providers, so that customers can park their cars and switch to e-scooters and e-bikes.
You could buy one of these and run a parking business, or get equity in VePa by joining as their co-founder.
It’s Hip to Be in a Healthy Relationship
The pandemic brought with it a much-needed spotlight on mental health. As people openly sought to improve how they treat themselves as the world was crumbling around them (self-care is still trending on Google and has 16B+ views on TikTok), another taboo started to see the light of day: romantic relationship problems.
Source: Google Trends
Soliciting expert relationship advice is taking many forms:
- Searches for traditional couples’ therapy on Google are growing
- Couple counselors and psychologists are gaining followers on Instagram (e.g., @the.holistic.psychologist — 4.8m followers, @risingwoman — 2.5m, and @nedratawwab — 1.3m)
- #RelationshipAdvice and #RelationshipTips each have 4B+ views on TikTok
- Pinterest searches for “Couples counseling worksheets” and “Healthy marriage tips” are up 115% and 190%, respectively
There are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to help build healthy relationships. An obvious one is content: things like worksheets, courses, podcasts, videos, newsletters, and books.
You could also create apps that help couples stay connected, whether that’s through daily emotional check-ins, joint workouts and meditations, or budget tracking.
All-inclusive luxury relationship rehab retreats, complete with couples’ counseling sessions, sexual intimacy workshops, romantic dinners, and couples’ massages are another option.
Cold Therapy Is Still Hot
Interest in cold therapy has been steadily rising since it was popularized by the Wim Hof breathing method, which hit the mainstream in 2014.
The point of cold therapy (AKA cryotherapy) is to decrease blood circulation, which in turn reduces pain, swelling, inflammation, and muscle spasm/cramping. Recent research suggests that it also positively affects mood and metabolism.
Source: Google Trends
You can capitalize on the emerging wave of new cryotherapy applications, as the trend is definitely not cooling off. These include:
- Cold therapy headache relief hats (like this one, which brings in $1m+/mo. on Amazon, according to Jungle Scout)
- Cold therapy ice machines (like this one — $800k/mo.)
- Facial ice rollers and globes (like this one — $470k/mo.)
- Ice packs (like this one — $450k/mo.)
- Cold massage roller balls (like this one — $277k/mo.)
Other solutions include at-home ice-plunge baths (like this one for $4.8k) and ice barrels (~$1.2k). There’s a gap in the market for more affordable options — perhaps a portable cold chamber, similar to this portable sauna, which goes for ~$380 and brings in $2m+/mo. on Amazon, according to Jungle Scout.
Sam holding court in his new cold-plunge bath. (Source: Facebook)
|Trends in the Trenches|
How Bearable Grew to 300k+ Users (and Profitable) Using Reddit
James Saady runs Bearable, a bootstrapped (and profitable) personal wellness app with 300k+ users.
The idea came in early 2019 when mysterious symptoms (i.e., headaches, dizziness, nausea, etc.) forced Saady to leave his job. He needed a way to track his mood, symptoms, and the lifestyle choices that were affecting each.
- The free version launched in February 2020
- It grew to 100k+ users in its first 6 months
- They added a paywall in September 2020 and currently see ~4%-5% convert from free to paid
Saady had no previous startup experience and isn’t a designer or coder. The key to his success has been the way he leverages communities (primarily on Reddit — a notoriously brutal market) for both product ideas and growth.
Lesson 1: Use communities to generate early ideas and demand
Bearable was built over the course of a year with heavy feedback from the Reddit community.
- January 2019: Saady began asking various chronic illness subreddits what features they’d like in a journaling app (e.g. anxiety, bipolar, fibromyalgia).
- August 2019: He launched a dedicated subreddit where he gathered beta users, shared design updates, and got feedback on feature ideas.
- September 2019: He returned to the chronic illness subreddits to share app mock-ups (e.g., fibromyalgia), and directed people to the new website.
Using WordPress (plus the Elementor and Mailchimp plug-ins), he built a simple landing page that allowed people to sign up for early access to the app. Thanks to ongoing Reddit posts, the waiting list for Bearable grew to 10k+.
His first post was simple (all text), proving you don’t need a lot to get started (Source: Reddit)
Lesson 2: Storytelling > Marketing
Rather than talk about Bearable’s features, Saady shows the app’s value by sharing screenshots of his own personal data that captivate Redditors and drive discussion and sign-ups.
His first big hit came pre-launch when he shared the results of a yearlong experiment to track his social life and see who made him happiest.
The post got 11k+ upvotes, drove 5k+ email sign-ups, and stirred a lot of fun speculation over who these people were, and what role they played in his life.
“Why aren’t you dating Marissa or Dan?” the community demanded to know 🤣 (Source: Reddit)
Since then, he’s shared the results of many other wildly popular experiments, including:
- What causes/improves headaches
- How video games affect his and his girlfriend’s heart rates
- The effect of their sleep experiments
Lesson 3: The community will reward you for caring
Bearable introduced a premium version in September 2020. Early feedback shows that many people bought simply because of how community-driven he’d been while testing/refining the app.
- Offered a 2-week 70% off sale for members of the Bearable subreddit
- Landed 3k+ sign-ups, recouping the ~$30k spent on development
- Added an “Upgrade to Premium” button to home screen — 2x conversions
- Today, conversions are ~4%-5% free to paid (~2x the industry average)
Growing to 300k+ users has meant Saady needs to be more selective about which ideas the team executes on. But the community still plays a pivotal role in his week to week.
As Bearable eyes its first angel round, he still blocks 30-60 minutes/wk. on his calendar to read and respond to people on Reddit, and the company keeps a community-driven product road map (which we think is cool, and preferable to Ethan’s filing system).
You can use Changemap if you want to create your own version of this (Source: Bearable)
|This Time Last Year…|
We wrote about a company called Ancestral Supplements making bank on Amazon.
They sell a range of grass-fed beef organ supplements, which includes liver, brain, eye, and even prostate supplements for ~$50/bottle.
Since then, global Google searches for the company have risen to an all-time high.
Source: Google Trends
|Tips and Tools|
How to 6x your money with a quick website flip: James Camp recently bought a small-dog frisbee website for ~$500. With a few quick changes, he’ll flip it for $3.6k+. Here’s his playbook:
- First, identify the 20 top search engine keywords to rank for.
- Write articles targeting those words. Release 1 every 2 weeks.
- Update old articles (e.g., change “2020” to “2022”) and add product comparison tables on any page that mentions products.
The site only makes ~$13/mo. He’ll boost existing revenue by 1) fixing any broken affiliate links, 2) adding programmatic display ads, and 3) creating an exit-intent pop-up to catch people before they leave the page.
🛠️ Tools You Can Use
If you want to buy and flip a site, check out…
- MicroAcquire — Trends members get 25% off Premium
- Ezoic for adding programmatic ads
- OptinMonster for adding exit-intent pop-ups
- Rakuten, ShareASale, and CJ for high-quality affiliate deals
You can find other cool tools (or submit your own deal) inside our exclusive Trends Deals Directory.
📚 More Resources to Bookmark:
- Joe Valley’s webinar on valuation, deals, and online acquisitions
- A Trends AMA with Andrew Gazdecki, the owner of MicroAcquire
- Sam and Shaan’s MFM interviews with Ramon van Meer, who’s acquired and flipped sites for 4 to 7 figures (episode 1, episode 2)
- Free: A giant list of Web3 resources
- How to grow ecomm stores faster using the CAC: 3 mo. CV ratio
- Launching a collection of 10k NFTs
- MicroAcquire fans: Fundraising mistakes to learn from
- Cold emailing tips and tools
- 2022 NFT predictions
- An ex-lawyer launching a Chrome extension
- A list of things your executive assistant should be doing, daily
- Tips for negotiating UPS/FedEx rates
- Are paid Facebook ads before launch a good idea?
- OG Trends analyst Mark Dent’s Reddit AMA on how he uncovers trends
- Scaling an ecomm biz to $10m with revenue growth vs. efficiency
- How Trendsters landed their first clients (including a throwback from our very own Ethan, who used to run a web-dev biz!)
- How to get out of a dark place as an entrepreneur
HEAD OF CONTENT