Welcome to the new KINESIX,
And I mean new because Kinesix exists now since 2015 and incorporated in 2016 officially. That’s right, Kinesix started as a sportswear company under its full name Kinesix Sports, creating t-shirts and on its way to develop a whole product line of sportswear apparels for both men and women.
By the end of 2016, I, John Albrecht the founder of the company decided to make a pivot because of my growing interest for wearables, those clothes and accessories coupled with electronics to measure your heart rate for example or give different anthropometric statistics about your well-being.
I was mesmerized back then and seeing a potential to grow the business, I wanted to explore that avenue. And so began my journey of finding a product Kinesix could create that could eventually give us an advantage over our competition.
The Smart Heating Jacket
Then, it hit me! A Smart Heating Jacket! After all, I was living in Canada for a good 10 years now and I worked in a sports store for almost 5 years. It was always an issue helping sports enthusiasts finding the right clothes to enjoy sports during the winter season.
So why not making a heating jacket to help them, knowing it already existed in the market but could be different and attractive at the same time. I began looking on the internet what are the options and how I could differentiate my product from the competition.
I found out quickly that even if there is a lot of heating jacket, they were all using the same heating system, a simple button to activate it and then 3 or 4 different heat level. That’s it!!
I started to write down my ideas on a couple of papers on my desk and I had my first idea of connecting the heating system to a mobile app to offer a better control. When I mean a better control I was thinking of offering the user the opportunity to choose a specific temperature instead of choose a certain level of heat.
But I found out it was not enough to really “disrupt” the heating clothes market, I needed something more advanced to outperform the competition and stand out.
And then, I had it, a heating system controlled by a smartphone that adapt the temperature automatically when and where it is needed. I had my idea!
The Crowdfunding Campaigns
Fast forward in 2017, I was so convinced of my product that I started to pitch my idea everywhere, which resulted in traction over this potential Smart Heating Jacket. I even participated to an event, presenting a fake concept, inviting a journalist who agreed to make an article and knowing the potential of the jacket, I decided to setup an e-commerce platform on my website with the possibility to pre-order the jacket at a small price in order to attract a maximum of person. This way, I could measure the real interest and the money would be used to start working on a first prototype which would become our official Smart Heating Jacket.
We raised our first $10,000 CAD in 45 days and I was impressed by the interest knowing we raised this amount of money locally through Facebook ads and contacts all over the Quebec province.
With this kind of interest, I started to get interested to a real crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter and so during the summer of 2017, that’s were I started to work full-time on creating the campaign. The money provisoire raised helped us create both one man and one woman jacket, plus we made the first real prototype with open source electronics and our first mobile app with the most basic feature which is adjusting the heat pads automatically. Each heat pad was connected to its own thermosensor to make sure we could demonstrate the potential of our heat management firmware. Then, with the rest of the money, $2,500 CAD precisely, I launched the campaign and invested all that money into Facebook ads and Google Ads.
The Failing Success…
The campaign on Kickstarter started at the beginning of October 2017 until mid-November. Over the span of 45 days, I had to be careful about the campaign budget because it was almost nothing, knowing I set the goal relatively high for the budget I had. The goal was $50,000 USD and even if the official launch was set on a Tuesday morning at 10am, I secretly launched the campaign on Monday night and sent emails to a list of early adopters I collected while preparing the campaign. And it worked!!! Over night, we raised $10,000 USD which helped us a lot when we officially launched because we already showed traction. This moved helped us tremendously and all along the campaign we gradually increase the amount of money needed to attain our goal.
Before the end of the campaign, the small amount of money I had from the budget was all invested in our last Facebook campaign and we had help from our contacts to spread to a maximum of person and we finally did it!
What a huge relief but also a huge accomplishment knowing I did the whole campaign on my own, from web marketing to filming and editing the campaign video, it was seriously my most important accomplishment and the one I was the most proud of.
But not for long…
Even with all this “success”, now came the real challenge, finalizing the prototype to be commercial ready and start production. This is where I hit a wall, the largest and most difficult obstacle ever. I thought raising money was difficult but this was another level of difficulty I couldn’t imagine and until this day, it emotionally hurts a lot.
I was not prepared to what was coming after this success. Between the fees from Kickstarter and PayPal and the number of people who didn’t pay at the end of the campaign, I lost a big chunk of money. The money left at the end was below the amount of money I needed to pursue. But I couldn’t back down, so I decided to move forward and go according to the plan. It was all good according to the plan but one mistake I made was to not completely evaluate the potential of the electronics company I was working with up until now. That was probably the final blow to this debacle. I lost a lot of money with that company and even while I’m writing this, I can’t say the number, it’s too painful.
So I needed to find alternatives and start to seek investment from business angels and VC firm. I received some good traction and started to see the light and some hope… for a couple of minutes… One important thing from the past with company came to haunt me again. I was trying, before launching the campaign and even before preparing the campaign, to exit my ex associate over a different vision of the company and I needed to remove him as fast as possible.
Unfortunately for me, it was not easy at all, I needed money to purchase his shares and it became a burden while I was trying to raise money from investors. They all told me to get rid of my associate first and then come back. I heard this phrase so many times that I stopped counting. It was not good because I had my backers wondering what’s going on and why they haven’t received anything yet and it was and still painful to write to them. I feel like I abandoned them and even worst I feel, and they feel too, that I stole their money. Which is not the case!
Fast forward in mid-2020, in the middle of the pandemic and I entered the Founder Institute, an early-stage accelerator who believed in my idea and gave me another chance to revive that project and finally be able to fulfill my promise to all those people who believe in it in the past. Thanks to the director of the program in Montreal and the resources of Founder Institute, I was able to get back on track, exit my associate properly and regain the control of my business, but I also made a pivot and started focusing on the B2B market instead of the B2C market. Obviously, with all the changes I made recently, I made the decision to contact all my previous backers to offer them a refund over the next year or the possibility to wait a little longer and receive our new product instead which is way better and way more useful.
Thanks to Founder Institute, I could save my business from failure and can move forward with it. I have now the feeling that I will succeed and it motivates me a lot.
That is my entrepreneurial journey and I’m proud of all I accomplished!
John Albrecht, proud founder of Kinesix!