Launching a Kickstarter product – and beyond

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Papp Gabor
Oct 05

Creating a product can be hard: First, you have an idea – a rush, a feeling that why hadn’t anyone thought about this. Then you start to give short pitches to your friends (which usually fail, as you are struggling to make sense of the idea, that sounded so good in your head).

You might forget it for a while in the fast-moving ordinary, but sometimes it sticks. Sometimes, especially if you have an education in technical drawing and CAD, you are able to make sketches, then digital versions. Sometimes you end up designing mass production-ready products and launching on Kickstarter. This is one of those stories. Gerd – Founder and CEO of T-up MK1 –  shared his journey with us. We decided to share our little wisdom in between the lines to give you some tricks&tips&inspiration for your own designs and crowdfunding launch.


Can you tell us a little bit about your background? (education, occupation)

I am a 45-year-old architect running my own company, primary working on living spaces. I did my diploma 20 years ago as an architect/engineer and I have been working with CAD system since the first day.

The Product & Kickstarter launch

“In the university, professors make up artificial problems. In the real world, the problems do not come in nice, neat packages. They have to be discovered.” Donald A. NormanThe Design of Everyday Things

How and why did you create T-up?

The T-up idea was born two years ago when I practiced the first time on a fully automated driving range and loved the possibilities. This made me think about new ways of training in golf which would be realizable with a mobile auto Tee up machine.

As a group we would also like to create many more golf-related machines, T-up MK1 is the first of a bigger brand.

What does it do?

T-up serves balls on every practice surface of the driving range in a predefined sequence by choosing a number of balls and the time interval. This gives the opportunity of rhythm based training/learning which is a great addition to existing ways of practice.

What were the major steps in creating the machine?

It took me about two years from the day I decided to develop such a device to the point of the mass production standard. After the initial thoughts about how this could be realizable, I did research in other solutions and their history. I was able to find other concepts but they either had to use a specific rubber tee or the ball was placed rolling.

I wanted my rhythm training to work the same no matter the surface, so I had to invent a placing system that suited my needs. The technical system – which I finally came across after a few months of research – is simple and reliable so I decided to patent this. The rest was standard work such as electronics, housing design and so on.

How many of you worked on the project?

For the first 18 months, I worked alone and then a golf professional, Christof Schürmann joined me, so I was able to talk with – other than myself – to end users and professional trainers.

What happens if the Kickstarter won’t succeed?

We are confident that the campaign will end successfully as we are waiting to be mentioned by several golf channels. We don’t have 1% of the reach we need to.

Besides that, we have many contacts behind the scenes with companies who want to take over distribution for their countries and many business clients such as golf schools or driving range operators. With Kickstarter, you reach mainly private clients.

So this project will for sure find the way into the market in the next couple of months.

Launching on Kickstarter – 7 lessons learned from Gerd

This little box gives you a rundown on what worth considering before and during the product development and your crowdfunding campaign to reach a successful launch.

  1. Design a simple product T-up MK1 could have been different if the designers wouldn’t have tried for months to answer the pain point the best possible way. The could’ve sold special tees or other equipment, but instead, they took the long road to build something individually and imminently useful.
  2. Design a beautiful and easy-to-understand product I’ve never played golf, but 30 seconds were enough for me to be astonished.
  3. Be transparent Share all the necessary info about your product, yourself and the roll-out schedule. Visualize them for an even better understanding.
  4. If you’re a customer as well, don’t be afraid to say so Gerd created the product based on his needs, and he highlights this fact and even strengthens the product’s appeal by attaching a PRO golfer to it.
  5. Come with an offline plan as well:  Gerd and his partners had a strategy, and since they have already validated the idea and business potential, they only used Kickstarter as a channel to private customers. This move gives them freedom, and a nice sandbox to play around with different messages. Engage with potential customers before the launch.
  6. PR It’s one of only many channels, but as you can see the T-up example, they identified their niche, their target group and managed to get into the relevant publications.
  7. Give your users various ways to support you On their Kickstarter page give multiple ways to support, invest: from symbolical support to big purchase support one can find many ways to interact.

Designing the product

What tools were you using for designing/production?

I started with pencil and paper to create the early prototypes. I quickly moved on to actually building a proof of concept, using a knife, glue and forex plates. After this phase I start rapid prototyping with Shapr3D and my Ultimaker 2+, this allowed me to create different versions.

T-up-golfball-placing-machine

Why did you choose these products?

During my graduation year, I decided to go with ArchiCad by Graphisoft and we use it in our office for over 15 years now. I don’t have a great need for other CAD solutions, except when I have to present ideas in the very early stages to my customers. In these cases, I need solutions, that easily integrate with the 3D printing process, so I can quickly make adjustments in the very early stages of the design.

As I use ArchiCad for over 20 years I’ve become very familiar with its capabilities and this makes it hard to break out from the well-practiced routine and learn new systems for industrial design. Also, this type of design was never needed until this project came up. ArchiCad lets me do all my work and the early models for printing were created with Sketchup but loved the simplicity of Shapr3D when I ran into it and the way the developers improve this app from the first days on.

product design with Shapr3D

Can you share some previous projects?

I never made industrial projects as my home field is architecture, so I can’t share anything like this.

How do you fit Shapr3D into your workflow?

From the first sketches on paper, I switch to Shapr3D and finish everything in the app. Then I export the STP file to our suppliers, who are doing the laser cuts, bending and welding.  That’s all! 

iPad Pro

What other types of 3D tools do you use/did you use on your iPad?

Nothing right now but I would really LOVE a primitive render engine then I could make it all on the couch 🙂

How long have you been using the iPad Pro and why did you choose a tablet to do your modeling?

Believe it or not, it was never an option to use a tablet for 3D working and I only owned an iPad for couch surfing. Then I came across Shapr3D and bought an iPad Pro with pencil only for that reason. Without ever trying it out, I had a feeling this could be perfect for my needs.

If you have any secret Shapr, or product design tips/philosophy, please share!

My way is wild sketching and building volumes. When I reach my goal I start cleaning the unnecessary sketches and volumes that came up during that process. This does not match my normal workflow on the desktop system but somehow I found this more usable on the iPad Pro.

It gives me a feeling of being really creative wherever I want to and leave usual structures behind me.

Links to T-up MK1 related news: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tupgolf.de/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tupgolfgermany/ 

Website: https://www.t-up-golf.de/