On this episode of CrowdFund Genius ZacBob interviews a Crowdfunding Rockstar. Vincent from Halo Belt has been able to build his entire company on Kickstarter for a new belt designed to save lives by putting a new spin on an outdated form of reflector belts. Most importantly Vincent shares how he was able to reach a large amount of writers and bloggers before launching his crowdfunding campaign.
CFG 007 Halo Belt (KS)
ZacBob: Welcome back to CrowdFund Genius. Todays guest is not only a Crowdfunding genius but he’s a bit of a rock star when it comes to crowdfunding. He’s not only a one man shop, but he’s running multiple campaigns perfecting his product the Halo Belt 2.0.
So before we jump into your crowdfunding campaign. Tell our audience about yourself Vincent, and how you came up with the Halo Belt 2.0
Vincent from Halo Belt: Okay, well I was born and raised in San Francisco, I have a huge passion for music as well as cycling. Growing up I didn’t come from much, and I’ve always wanted to own my own business someday. I was never the best academic student. I think I would find myself working more than going to school. As time progressed my passion for music progressed as well and same thing for cycling. So I would combine my passion for the DJ lights systems, in the clubs, as well as cycling. How do I incorporate this type of lighting into a product that you can wear as an essential? And I came up with the Halo Belt, which is an illuminated safety belt. And I thought it would be the perfect product to make. You know what do you carry when you go out, your glasses your wallet, your keys your phone and maybe your belt. And that’s how that product came about, launched it on Kickstarter and two years later here I am now with a business that helps saves lives.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Correct. When we first launched the Halo Belt it was just a project, nothing more than the conception of an idea. We really wanted to see if there was any interest in this idea that I had. So I made a couple prototypes and I launched it as the Halo Belt. Well now its 1.0. But back then it was the Halo Belt which was an illuminated belt for targeting the cycling market initially. Then later on we had a lot of interest that wanted to incorporate the same type of lighting into a backpack, or dog collars. And then that’s how we came up with the concept for our Halo Mini which is an illuminated dog collar as well as our collaboration with Rickshaw Bag works for the Halo zero which is an illuminated messenger bag.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Originally it did. It ran of CR-2025 batteries and then CR-2032 batteries which are tiny little watch batteries that we put inside the belt. It was pretty difficult to find a solution to I guess power the belt without carrying triple A’s, or Double A’s on your waist. Because nobody wants to carry a super heavy belt. It took awhile of development to figure out how to improve the product over the last two years into a lithium rechargeable battery. So right now it is mini USB rechargeable much like your Go Pro. You can just plug it into your laptop or your wall or your car. So it’s a very versatile product and its meant to be on the go. So you can charge it anywhere, if you need it for emergencies just pull it out of your backseat to just change your tire if need be.
Vincent from Halo Belt: You can wear them however you want actually. The whole point of the Halo Belt was to create a product that was so simple to use that you could strap it on anything. So with children, a lot of children use it going to and from school. Especially when it gets darker at night they strap it over their shoulder. It creates illuminated visibility while walking home. Its a lot better than reflectives, it combines reflectives along with LED’s. And the great thing is, with reflectives if your wearing your reflective jacket, you can only see the reflective jacket if light is present. So if a light source projects onto the jacket. However with a Halo Belt even without a light source it would still illuminate. So you can wear it around the waist or clip it to your backpack, clip it to your luggage or your child. You can be creative with it and pretty much attach it to anything. Some people attach it to their bikes or large bags if their carrying duffel bags and so on.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Well with our new Halo Belt 2.0, it stays charged for up to 36 hours on consecutive flash mode. If you use it 20-30 minutes a day you can actually have it running for up to a month. So you rarely need to charge it actually.
Vincent from Halo Belt: At the time being it comes in red, green and blue.
Vincent from Halo Belt: We first launched our product on Kickstarter; to be honest it was the first crowdfunding platform that we heard about. It had a lot of momentum going for Kickstarter so we’ve gotten accustomed to Kickstarter and the way they do things and the Kickstarter community I would say has been very, very supportive. We’ve been using them, the Kickstarter platform for the last two years and we’ve seen some great results. We’ve been able to communicate back and forth with our backers and supporters to see what type of improvements we have to do with our product and its been very transparent. And that’s the great thing about Kickstarter, it allows the project creator as well as the consumer base to kind of knit and create a type of solution or product that works well for everyone and I think its important to have that type of transparency.
ZacBob: Your original goal was only 10K, and given how much you made on your last crowdfunding campaigns, I assume you knew you were going to easily surpass that 10 thousand goal
Vincent from Halo Belt: We did, We put our goal at 10k because that is what we needed for a small production run. Our minimum production run to create a product like this was 10 thousand. We knew it was going to go over, we just didn’t expect it to go so much over. I believe in the next three days we will end at 130 thousand and close to 150 thousand to include our website sales.
ZacBob: I noticed you only had 5 pledge amounts, which is fitting along a theme I’m noticing with crowdfunding campaigns where simpler is better.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Yea I thought whenever I look at someone else’s project if there’s to many options, I have a hard time choosing. So I wanted to make it as simple as possible. We had people who just wanted to support and we had some other options were as if you were to pledge earlier you would save a little bit of money. Originally when we first started our company back in 2012 our product launched at 85 dollars. Because we weren’t able to create a product like that in super small quantities. Over the past two years our company has expanded significantly and we’ve been able to source raw materials at a smaller rate and produce at larger volumes. So we than passed on these savings to our consumer base. So instead of selling our product at $85 dollars and marking it up for improvements, we cut everything. And all our product now, the Halo Belt 2.0 we offer at $37 dollars with shipping included. The goal of our company honesty is to save lives. We want to get our product out there to as many people as possible and are margins are super slim but were really doing it to number 1 expand the company. And number 2 to really to expose to people that there are different alternatives to safety. Safety doesn’t have to be clipping a bike light to your helmet, or walking around with a flashlight. There are alternatives that can work with our generation that are maybe cool and fashionable that most importantly are effective. We really believe that this is a product that people will use once they see it and not really like a reflective jacket because you know its not really the coolest thing to wear a reflective jacket. So we believe our product has kind of been able to bridge that gap between safety, as well as an effective product that people will actually use.
ZacBob: I can totally relate here Vincent. When I was basic military training we had to carry these flashlights around everywhere we went. When we would march we looked like a bunch of fire flies marching, and it didn’t stop there, throughout my 7 years in the Air Force I had to wear reflective vests, multi-colored belts. And the one thing that really sticks with me that you pointed out, was the fact that all of those needs a light source to be seen. Yet with Halo Belt, you don’t need headlights for someone to see your pet, or you, or even your child walking close to the road. Its safe and as a father I like it. Have you shown this to the military yet?
Vincent from Halo Belt: We have, we’ve had a lot of interest from, not the military itself, but from people in the service. I guess people in the military use a reflective belt. However like I said reflective belts only show visibility when a light source is present. Our Halo Belt is able to illuminate just in case there isn’t you know headlights pointing at you, you can still see someone off in the distance in the dark. We’ve had a huge consumer base from the military purchasing it as a safety product as well.
ZacBob: Good maybe they can get rid of those outdated plastic reflective belts now. Lets move onto your crowdfunding video. It was around 3:16 long, and you had some awesome action shots from what I’m guessing was a Go Pro?
Vincent from Halo Belt: Yes it was, for those action shots it’s a little bit easier to film with a smaller camera. The quality is not as great, especially at night, however, it does kind of portray how the product can be used. We used a Go Pro, we used just a standard camera. We didn’t have any high production film, budget or anything like that. We literally bought a camera from Costco, and I figured out how to use Final Cut via YouTube and hacked everything together in my living room.
ZacBob: I keep hearing “We” a lot during our conversation. Who are you referring to when you say “we?”
Vincent from Halo Belt: Me and my team. Over the past two years we’ve grown from myself, to my partner, and then a group of friends that slowly became employees and a lot of supporters that have just helped tremendously for our company to grow in the last two years. We have a team of people and they don’t get paid (laughter). But we go out and we have a good time we film when we need to get done to show our audience what type of product we offer and then in the end I take them out to dinner.
ZacBob: Sounds like you have an awesome group or team. I must’ve seen your campaign a thousand times on my Facebook News feed, you’re all over Twitter, like I said in the intro your bit of a crowdfunding rock star. So how did you get the media and press so interested?
Vincent from Halo Belt: Yea, when we first launched our product we really didn’t expect it to go viral. I think its just the simplicity of the product were as, its so simple but it makes so much sense. We launched it on Kickstarter and next thing you know were featured on Fast Company, Mens Journal, and Wired Magazine. All these media just picked up and said something as simple as an LED belt can be so effective. You can literally put it on anyone or anything. You can create visibility where visibility is needed, like in airports or even now where we are in mining industries, oil rigs, construction, and child safety and so on. I think it was just the conception of the idea that really blew it up. We didn’t have any type of PR budget, or marketing budget or anything like that when we first got started.
ZacBob: So since you have run campaigns in the past, and your company has been around a couple of years, did you have an email list going into your campaign?
Vincent from Halo Belt: Well we have all of our customers contacts that we have compiled up over the past two years and that’s about it.
ZacBob: Did you use that for your campaign? Like to get the word out?
Vincent from Halo Belt: I did, over the past few years we’ve had a significant amount of customers. We just shoot them an email and say “hey, we got a new product coming out, check it out on Kickstarter and it would be great to have your support.” When we send out these emails we just notify them that we have something new coming out and see if their interested. We never really use it to spam or anything like that. I think we’ve used it for the Kickstarter campaign once over the past two years and that’s it.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Social media has helped a lot to get the word out there, however I don’t think social media has been able to, bring a lot of sales to be honest. In regards to Facebook we haven’t seen a lot of return via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Perhaps it’s the product, perhaps it’s that once people see the product this product in real life; they’re more likely to say “Oh wow this is really cool.” The first impression I usually get is “Oh that reminds me of Tron.” That’s almost every impression I get. When people see it in real life they’re really excited. However seeing something on your computer or on a television screen or on your phone just doesn’t have the same appeal. For the most part social media hasn’t helped so much in regards to sales, but it has helped us get the word out there.
ZacBob: Its funny you say that about Tron. Because it does look like something from the movie, and I think that speaks volumes for the quality and the greatness of the Halo Belt. But lets talk a little more about how you promoted your campaign. Since you did do some promotion on Social media, how exactly did you go about spreading the word about your crowdfunding campaign with such success.
Vincent from Halo Belt: So this year when we launched our product, we did have a couple people that worked with NPR, and they got our name out there and wrote a few articles. But it really started picking up I think when Fast Company featured us and when Mashable featured us. So we started getting attention from different news outlets within the tech community. And the tech news and the tech media has really helped spread the word of our of our campaign. Pretty much explained to people what our mission is with creating a product as simple as an LED belt and save lives.
ZacBob: Was it one of those things were you sought them out and sent them a press release? Or did they just hear about it and contact you like hey, we heard your doing something really awesome with the Halo Belt.
Vincent from Halo Belt: A lot of them contacted me surprisingly. They heard about it via another blog, or another website. The most people who shared it initially were people like you and me just bloggers. They see it on Kickstarter and they say “Oh this is a great idea” and then they tell it to their followers and it starts to spread like fire. The more attention it starts to pick up caused the media to pick up on it as well. And then if one or two media aggregators start to pick it up than it really starts to spread.
ZacBob: Okay Im going to dig a little bit deeper here, how did the bloggers find out about your campaign? I know the media just jumped on after your campaign had launched, but the bloggers you said helped spread the word from the beginning. Did you cold call them or what?
Vincent from Halo Belt: We pretty much just cold called them. I did a basic Google search on top fitness bloggers or top cyclist bloggers or long boarders or anyone that maybe interested in our product. We sent them a sample and we said “Hey, Beta test this, and see what you like about it, what you don’t like about it, and see what improvements we can and cannot make.” I think that’s really important just to be able to get that feedback that way we do create a product that everyone can use that is versatile and effective. So when we send out our Beta prototypes not only do these bloggers test it, they give us reliable feedback and real world feedback. Rather than us just thinking its not going to work on a piece of paper and were able to develop our product even further at the same time they tell there following or their fan base about our product.
ZacBob: Great idea, they get to check out the product for free, and consider how awesome the Halo Belt is, I’m sure just about everyone that received one in the mail was more than happy to spread the word. Was that who your primary target audience was in the beginning, the fitness area and cycling area?
Vincent from Halo Belt: Correct, initially it was like I said mostly cycling. It was a cycling product but over the last two years its developed into such a versatile product that anyone can use. We wanted the Halo Belt to be just a simple on the go product. That you can literally strap to anything. A lot of people buy it for their children even if they’re walking from the parking lot to the grocery store, they just strap it around the waist of their kids. It creates a visibility were as sometimes at night you might not be able to see someone if their in the blind spot or lower to the ground, a little bit shorter.
Vincent from Halo Belt: I don’t think we were ever featured on the staff picks on Kickstarter. I know there’s a lot of talk in between who gets featured on the staff picks and I think those that get featured on the main page. But as far as popular, a list I believe, we should be on the popular list because of the number of backers we get a day. The more backers we get a day the more likely we will be on the popular list. Much like Google analytics How to stay on top.
Vincent from Halo Belt: That’s tough to say, to be honest I haven’t had much communication between myself and Kickstarter. If any other than getting my project approved. When I think of Kickstarter I don’t really think of the platform itself, I think of the community. As of right now I think they’ve made some adjustments over the past couple of years to develop their platform more transparent between the backers as well as the project creators. I think they’ve done a great job. I don’t have any complaints. But like I said when I think of Kickstarter I think of everyone else but the actual Kickstarter platform. I think of all of our backers and our supporters.
ZacBob: That’s definitely one of our better answers on the show that a lot of people come to forget even myself. Kickstarter is not just about the platform, there is a community on Kickstarter of people that browse projects and have backed multiple campaigns just to help out. So lets move onto the big 2! First up, what is the one thing you wish you knew going into your Kickstarter campaign?
Vincent from Halo Belt: Momentum. I think momentum is key. Once you lose momentum it is hard to come back. When you launch your product on Kickstarter whether it’s a product or service or anything at all. Its important to reach out to you know the bloggers, or people that will spread the word. Over the past two years I’ve been very fortunate to have a community of supporters who have been there every step of the way. They’ve seen the project start as a conception and an idea all the way to development, manufacturing and distribution. Even helping us and guiding us along the way in regards to logistics, I’ve even had customers tell me this would be a great way to ship your product and so on. So we’ve had a lot of support from the community and I think that’s key. In order to create that support you would have to have momentum. People need to know about your project and they need to know about your product or service. And I believe that there is a huge community of supporters who are looking to help. These people seek out the entrepreneurs and they seek out the people who are ambitious and driven and if you have an idea and you believe in your idea and you believe that it would do good in this world and help others or save lives and I believe a lot of people would join you along that mission. And its not just about us, or the Halo Belt company my employees or my team. Its about the entire community and in the video I said “You founded our company.” As in the Kickstarter community founded our company. It has nothing to do with just myself. Everyone helped build this company. Without that support we wouldn’t be here today.
ZacBob: Now for number 2, what is the best tip or tool you can give to any Crowdfunders out there hoping to accomplish there crowdfunding goal?
Vincent from Halo Belt: I believe your community of support is really important. They’re going to stick with you through thick and thin. And if you come about a project just as an idea its important to listen to their feedback and listen to what they have to say and how you can improve you product. Not only do they give you good feedback about your product they can give you great experience into learning how to actually run a business. Before Halo Belt I had no experience about running a business. Within two years actually I’ve been able to expand Halo quite significantly and we distribute products all over the world at the moment. To different avenues, to child safety, to schools, to the military, to oil rigs, to pedestrians and to senior citizens homes and so on. And to be honest most of this has been suggestions through our consumer base and our portals. So it’s really important to have your supporters as your backbone because they’re like family. They help build the company and they’re going to want to see the project successful as well.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Yea they can find me via our website or just Google Vincent Pilot Ng. And I’m sure they can find my Linked In or my email that gets to me. Our website is www.halobelt.com and you can find our Halo Mini as well as our Halo Belt 2.0 on our website and we plan to distribute all over the world in July.
ZacBob: Well thanks for coming on the show and sharing your crowdfunding campaign the Halo Belt Vincent.
Vincent from Halo Belt: Thanks for having me
ZacBob: Make sure you check out our show notes, you will find links to everything we talked about in this episode. Also if you feel I deserve a 5 star rating please leave one, each week one lucky 5 star rating will be receiving a free pair of Skullcandy earbuds. Thank you for listening as always Happy crowdfunding, ZacBob out.
Links from the show!
Halo Belt Kickstarter
Halo Belt Website
Halo Belt Facebook
Halo Belt Twitter
Halo Belt Instagram
Link to the Crowdfunding video software Final Cut
Link to the Crowdfunding video hardware Go Pro