“The biggest thing you hear, especially in Silicon Valley, when you talk to anyone about building a business is: ‘Who is your team?’ And when it was just me, I was really concerned about finding a team. I knew I could not do it on my own.”
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SG: My today’s guest is Eric Due, CEO of Bullz-i. Eric and his team are working on a very cool gadget, that is letting all of us be even more connected to our devices.
Hello Eric, it’s so nice to have you here.
ED: Hi Sylwia, it’s a pleasure to be here.
SG: Tell us about The RiNG. What is it and how the did the idea come about?
ED: So it is just this circular product called The RiNG. It’s minimally intrusive, it’s all machined aluminum, it opens, it rotates 360 degrees. It’ll fit in any case, any phone, any tablet. It allows me to hold my device, rather than worrying about clutching it. So now I can actually use it very easily. It rotates very smoothly. I can flip it over and grab my child, I can grab a beer, a glass of water, my door handle — whatever I need to do instantly and get back to you, whether I’m texting or on a phone call. Now I can actually use my device. It’s the same thing if I put this on a tablet, and it works fabulously. We give you the strength, the confidence, the comfort and style to your mobile device.
SG: Where did the idea come from? (1:30)
SG: Can you also attach it to a case? (2:40)
SG: Are there many of these things out there already?
ED: There are few. Some of them do a great job at what they focus on, a lot of them don’t.
SG: When did you start working on this?
ED: About 1,5 year ago.
SG: How many of you are there in your startup right now?
ED: There’s three of us. Geoff Knopp, George Caliendo and myself. We partnered, split the company three ways and really focused on building a brand. We’re really aware that this is a great product, but in the end, we are another manufacturing marketing company. They’re all over the place. So how are we going to differentiate ourselves besides an initial product? We spent the time and effort to really build a brand behind us and that’s what we want to promote.
SG: Do all of the founders have different, complimentary skills? So that you feel like you don’t need any more employees? (4:13)
SG: You’re bootstrapping right now. Are you doing this full time? All of you?
ED: Two of us are, myself and Jeff. I was doing consulting work up until January 1st, and now that has stopped and this is full time.
SG: That’s a great start of the new year!
“It’s a little scary. Not having any money coming in at the moment is definitely something to be concerned with, but we’ve set ourselves up, so that now the we are in the Kickstarter campaign.”
ED: It is, it feels really good. It’s a little scary. Not having any money coming in at the moment is definitely something to be concerned with, but we’ve set ourselves up so that now we are in the Kickstarter campaign. Once that goes through, we can get some proof of concept in the market, people can really start to see what we’re providing, and hopefully in a short enough time frame, we can turn that around and really push forward.
SG: I want to ask you about Kickstarter campaign it in a moment. What were you doing before this?
“People have tons of ideas. You know there’s a saying that 5% is the idea. I think it’s actually 1% or less. You can have a fabulous idea, we all know this, I think, and if you can’t push it, promote it and really give a quality product, it’s still just an idea.”
SG: Speaking of ideas. Once you had this idea, were you concerned about sharing it with others? Or were you so comfortable knowing that idea is just this 1% and thought “We need to find a team, that’s most important…”
ED: All of the above. The biggest thing you hear, especially in Silicon Valley, when you talk to anyone about building a business is: “Who is your team?” And when it was just me, I was really concerned about finding a team. I knew I could not do it on my own.
SG: But you were not concerned about sharing the idea?
ED: I was concerned about that for sure!
SG: Everyone is so attached to their idea. They think that: “Ok, someone will get to know about this, for sure they will start a company tomorrow, and go with it, right? But that’s not really the case. Do you have the same impression? Maybe it’s not that important to be so secretive about your idea.
“You’re talking to enough people in the industry and you realize, that no investor is going to talk to you unless you share your idea. Nobody’s going to give you any traction, you can’t get any feedback until you share your ideas.”
ED: The change in your impression comes with experience. When I started doing this and showing the product, I was mortified to share the idea. For exactly the reasons you’re talking about. Someone is trying to find out, then rip it off. I’m not even patented yet, because that’s a whole another process. You’re talking to enough people in the industry and you realize, that no investor is going to talk to you unless you share your idea. Nobody’s going to give you any traction, you can’t get any feedback until you share your ideas. So it becomes trying to find the right people, who invested in their image, to be able to share it comfortably. I wasn’t open to showing to just anybody. I realized, that this isn’t something I can patent on my own, I have done that that in the past. It’s too complicated. We’ve got to do full utility patent, multiple design patterns, do the trademarking before you can even talk to somebody outside of the business. That’s why it was so important to find partners and some key players that we’ve partnered with.
SG: At what stage did you decide that this is the right moment to file for a patent? Do you think that it’s important to do this at the very beginning or at what point exactly?
“We realize, that it [patent application] doesn’t cover you from people taking your idea, copying it, making another product exactly the same if they want. But they’re gonna still need to spend the same resources, as we did, to do it.”
SG: Let’s talk about Kickstarter. It just launched couple days ago and it’s already almost half way?
ED: I checked this morning. I think we’re about $5,600. We had about 110 backers already. We’ve only done friends and family marketing so far. This coming week, we really start pushing hard on the rest of our advertising. Kickstarter has been great.
SG: It looks like it’s going to be successful!
ED: I think so! We did put on a fairly low number to hit our target. That will help prove the product and prove the interest. We’ll get a little bit of cash flow. We are really looking towards a higher number than our minimum. The feedback that we’ve gotten has been phenomenal. Jeff and I are on the street almost every day talking to people. We handed out cards that have the Kickstarter on it, so they can remember when they go home, and sign up. Take for example CES. It happened the week before we launched on Kickstarter, and it was fantastic. We went, we didn’t have a booth, we didn’t even know if we’ll already have products, so we didn’t know if we can get a booth. We went there just with a product in hand, were walking around talking to people.
SG: To how many people do you think you were talking a day?
ED: I know we handed out close to a 1000 cards or more in the three days that we were there.
SG: Oh my Gosh! Every time you were talking to someone?
ED: Every single minute. The beautiful thing is, everybody has a mobile device. Everybody is our market.
SG: After Kickstarter, what are your plans for the RiNG?
SG: How about the investors? Are you also planning to get any investment?
ED: We’re happy to talk to investors. We’ve talked to plenty already. We’re happy to talk to more. We really are about trying to line up and mitigate the risk for you as an end user all along the way.
SG: At this point of your business, are you aware of any mistakes that you might have done so far? Something that you would not do again and everyone else could also learn from it.
SG: Please tell me a little more about you. Are you coming from here, Silicon Valley, or did you move here at some point?
“I came out here on vacation, had such a fabulous time in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It really fits my lifestyle. (…)I went home, I waited six months and thought: ‘Was that a dream? Was that really what I could have as a life?’ I came back out for another five-six day vacation, the exact same experience, I said: ‘That’s it!'”
ED: I was born and raised in Boston schooling at UMass Amherst. Practicing architecture on the East Coast. Moving into tech. I was a director of IT at JSA Inc. in Portsmouth New Hampshire, helped them expand up and down the East Coast in that role. A friend of mine moved out here to San Francisco, he had gone to Stanford. I met him through bicycle racing. I used to do a lot of mountain bike racing on the East Coast. I came out here on vacation, had such a fabulous time in San Francisco and the Bay Area. It really fits my lifestyle. The people, the environment, the attitude, the opportunity. To so many people this happens too, right? It sounds cliché. I went home, I waited six months and thought: “Was that a dream? Was that really what I could have as a life?” I came back for another five-six day vacation, the exact same experience, I said: “That’s it!”
SG: How many years ago was that?
ED: That was at the height of the dot-com boom and I wasn’t in a tech industry. People thought I was nuts moving out here. I managed to find a job a block away from where I moved in. It was the right move for me, I found some great friends here, some great opportunities. I never would have known at the time that I would be doing this.
SG: Thank you so much, Eric. I wish you luck with the product and keep fingers cross for the Kickstarter campaign! Everyone can check out more information at your website www.bullz-i.com and that’s also where they can find the Kickstarter campaign. Thank you so much!
ED: Thank you Sylwia, this has been great!
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