How Bluesmart became one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns everNews / Technology | OnlineBy Nick Vivion | December 17, 2014Share This article was originally published on Bluesmart is the first smart suitcase to market, appearing with a bang and becoming one of the top funded campaigns ever on Indiegogo.When looking at the most funded crowdfunding campaigns of all time, the Bluesmart team comes in at #50 - just ahead of Elon Musk's Tesla museum. That's an incredible feat, especially for a niche travel product.Bluesmart's success indicates a latent need for better, smarter and more functional travel products.The travel industry should be thrilled to see such consumer interest in goods to improve the travel experience, and hopefully this signals a groundswell of inspired inventors to tackle travel's more pressing problems.While these seem to be #firstworldproblems, the number of humans traversing the globe is only increasing and creating a growing consumer base for all things travel. This is a positive sign for the ongoing health of the industry, and all of its related services and products. Bluesmart is also keen to become a larger player in the connected travel ecosystem, as it appears that this suitcase is only the beginning.What can the travel industry learn from Bluesmart?One of the key differentiators to this project was the stellar video for the campaign, which really offered a traveler's insight into the product while being entertaining and light.The tone of the video was irreverent, fun and shareable, garnering nearly 280,000 views during the life of the campaign. By publishing a well-produced situational video, Bluemart offered a professional tone that underscored the company's seriousness, attention to detail, and ultimately its ability to deliver on a quality product. This last point is especially important when it comes to crowdfunding, as the customer is essentially pre-ordering a product without any guarantees that a company can actually deliver. In fact, the campaign was so successful that Indiegogo couldn't bear to see it go - the campaign is still live, which means that the suitcase is still being sold to the Indiegogo community. This is unprecedented, as part of crowdfunding's structure is the set timeframes for campaigns.Neither Indiegogo (who reaps a percentage of sales) nor Bluesmart wanted to lose out on any paying customers, especially given the enormous amount of media coverage the campaign has received. Now each of those backlinks from media coverage point to a page in which an interested party can purchase rather than simply learn about the a completed campaign.In an email interview with Tnooz, Bluesmart CEO and co-founder Tomi Pierucci shared more about his company's long journey to creating the product, the decision to crowdfund, and the lessons learned for other travel entrepreneurs considering crowdfunding.Give us some background on the product. How did it come to be? How did the team meet and come together over the idea? What was the product ideation and creation process like?I’ve been an entrepreneur for the last ten years, creating two successful companies in Argentina. With the last one I had to travel a lot across the Americas, Asia, and Europe. On these trips I had all kinds of mishaps with my luggage.One day I grabbed coffee with my friend Diego Saez-Gil in New York and talked about all the problems we both had with our luggage. We came up with the idea for a smart suitcase that would help solve a lot of travel headaches and prevent you from losing the suitcase among other things.My experience was in manufacturing consumer products, while Diego had experience in software and in the online travel industry. In the same day that Diego and I had the idea, I started building a multidisciplinary team that could take on the challenge of building a smart suitcase.We brought in industrial designer Alejo Verlini, aerospace engineer Martin Diz, and operations expert Brian Chen. We started studying the traveler’s experience and its pain points, and from there we went on a process of design and iteration, finally getting all the way to a manufacturable product. It was a challenging but fun process.How did you come to the decision to crowdfund? Explain the thinking here, why it was ideal for the product, and what the positives and negatives were. We are fascinated by crowdfunding 2.0. I say 2.0 because it turns out that crowdfunding has existed for hundreds of years! Beethoven crowdfunded his symphonies, and the builders of the Statue of Liberty crowdfunded the basement of the sculpture.We think it’s a great way not only to get funded to finish whatever project you are working on, but also to validate the need of the market and get feedback from future customers during the development of the product.In this case in particular it was a perfect fit, as it’s a product with a long development process, many features, and a clear reward for the backers. The one thing to keep in mind is that creating a successful campaign takes a lot of work. You have to put a lot of thinking and work in communicating the product effectively and making the world learn about it.Why did you choose IndieGogo over Kickstarter?We looked into the two platforms and decided to go with Indiegogo for many reasons.First, their platform is more flexible and provides more tools for measuring and promoting your campaign.Second, they are more global, as the platform can accept payments from almost anywhere in the world. Finally, their team and customer service are amazing; we literally got assigned an account manager who personally helped us achieve success. But I think that all crowdfunding platforms are great, you have to find what’s best for you.The campaign was a rousing success. What are some concrete lessons learned? How can others replicate this success?Yes, it was a big surprise for us! We worked really hard and of course dreamed of having a huge campaign, but we also knew how hard it would be to have runaway success. Some of the lessons we learned are the following:Focus on the problems your product will solve: it’s super important to explain very clearly what problems your product is trying to solve. People have a very short attention span, so you have a very short window of time for capturing their attention and explaining why they should care. We put a lot of thought into the creative brief for our campaign, even before scripting the video and the writing copy for our campaign page. We also decided to utilize humor as a vehicle to connect with the audience with a positive emotion.Build a community beforehand: although we were in stealth mode before launching, we involved hundreds of people along the way, who helped us in all the aspects of the creation. All these hundreds of people were the initial community who were ready to back us, and promote us with their friends as soon as we opened. With this initial push, we completed our goal, gained some momentum, and the campaign was on its way.Focus on the right press outlets: Instead of focusing only on getting into the major media outlets I think it’s smart to focus on the media outlets where your specific audience will be. In our case it was tech and travel blogs (including of course Tnooz!). These outlets drove more backers than bigger, less specific media outlets.Pay attention to every detail: We obsessed over every detail. The photos, the copy-writing, the video, the perks, the website, everything. By doing that, you are sending a message to your potential backers that you care a lot about what you are doing. At the end of the day, they are betting on you and your ability to execute on the product that you promise. You have to earn their trust, and the only way to do it is to genuinely demonstrate that you care deeply about what you’re doing.What didn't go well, or as planned? What would you do differently?We can’t complain, as everything in general worked out very well for us.One thing we didn’t expect was receiving so many pre-orders from all over the world. We have to ship to 109 different countries! Shipping to some far away countries is actually very complicated and expensive, and we didn’t anticipate some of the costs that we now expect for shipping. In some of the international orders, we will lose money, but that’s ok because it’s a way to get our product out there and build an international community.What advice do you have for any other travel-related companies that want to pursue crowdfunding?I advise entrepreneurs to spend a lot of time with their target customers and to figure out what message will resonate. Over-invest upfront on the creative brief for your campaign so you know what impression you want to leave your backers and how to communicate the features that you want to build into your product.I recommend offering compelling rewards and perks so that backers know exactly what they stand to gain by contributing. I sometimes see entrepreneurs who start working on their video script right away without truly understanding the objectives for their campaign.As I said, I think crowdfunding 2.0 is a revolutionary way for 21st century entrepreneurs to get their projects off the ground, jumping the traditional gatekeepers of funding, while building a passionate community of backers.While it has been most commonly used by hardware entrepreneurs I think it’s also possible to use it for software startups. I think there is a lot to learn from the video game crowdfunded projects in that sense. Even though their products are online software, they manage to create a passionate following and offer compelling rewards for their backers.How do you see the future of the Internet of Things and specifically in the travel industry? We think the Internet of Things is the step to follow the “mobile revolution”. Today we all carry a microcomputer connected to the web in our pockets, and we have already seen the endless possibilities that this opens for the travel industry. We believe that it’s inevitable that all the objects and places that surround us will also get connected to the Internet, including airports, hotels, and the objects we carry when we travel. With that, we will be able to really start thinking and building for the whole travel experience. Machine to machine communication, the data generated and the actions that these places and objects will be able to execute, will let the industry provide new amazing travel experiences. We hope to be a key player in that revolution.