Yes, you read that headline right. After years of only being able to fly your paper planes by throwing them, this company has found a way to do it through some add-ons and a smartphone app.
PowerUp Toys is the company that created this awesome invention. A couple months ago, they put up a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their Smartphone controlled paper airplane. About 2 days ago, they successfully funded their campaign raising a whopping $1,232,612 out of their initial target of $50,000.
We recently had the chance to catch up with PowerUp Toy’s founder Shai Goitein. In this email interview, we talk about his process of building PowerUp 3.0 and the advice he’d give to entrepreneurs looking to crowdfunding their next big idea.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business background before all of this.
I’ve been trying to make things fly from the age of 7. My passion took me from paper planes to hang gliders, culminating in a 15-year stint as a cargo pilot for the Israeli air-force. While flying was my passion, industrial design was my profession. I studied design at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and I worked for 10 years as a leading manager of B2B product design for Kodak and finally started my own company in 2011, which I’m running as a family business with my wife Avital.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I myself have always been a flight enthusiast and a tinkerer/maker. The Eureka moment came when I was volunteering in teaching immigrant teenagers aerodynamics in the evenings I ran into the advance of micro electronics and the use of it in micro flight and – bam – it hit me. I quickly made a few mockups and with the help of a dear friend who is a rocket scientist I was able to architect the concept of PowerUp remote control for paper airplanes.
You’ve mentioned in the past that it took you six years for you to develop this product. Why did it take so long? What was the process like?
Well, I think I should write a book about this process!
So, in 2007 I had my ‘Eureka!’ moment when I volunteered to teach immigrant kids the principles of Aerodynamics. I had been researching the advances in micro indoor flight and came up with a concept for a remote-controlled paper airplane and a first working prototype. The idea was too good not to make, so in 2011 I created my own company to share my idea with the rest of the world. In late 2012 I brought back the original product and started to produce and market it myself.
The product evolved after numerous prototypes. It started with a remote control (2.4 GHz) with a big motor and propeller converted to a smaller form factor with the Bluetooth technology to control and an external battery and eventually into the smallest and most efficient form factor where the battery is internal and charging is done directly to the module. This is when I decided that it would be ready for the consumer and we would have it made.
Now, in the front of the Smart Module, a bumper protects the mount that holds the Printed Circuit Board and the battery. That’s why the PowerUp 3.0 is super crash-proof even if it lands on asphalt. The back of the Smart Module contains a high-precision rudder and a powerful motor.
How did you build your core team?
My core team has been working with me in the last 4 years on all PowerUp projects. What defines them is that each one of them is highly skilled and talented – from our illustrator, R&D, graphic artists, operations to our technology provider.
Your initial goal on Kickstarter was $50,000, you’ve raised over $1.2 million now. Did you expect this much success?
I’m surprised how many people believe in the idea and how much they love it. But deep down inside I’m not so surprised, because I always believed in the product. Also, it’s great to see how many people support crowdfunding the production of PowerUp 3.0.
Are there any downsides at all to raising so high above your target goal?
It’s actually giving me a little headache, to be honest, that I’ll need to fulfill so many orders. In order to meet the ultra-high demand, I had to start production ahead of time and we’ll need to produce another set of PowerUp 3.0s to send to all our backers.
This is your first product, why is it called PowerUp “3.0”?
It’s actually not my first product. I’ve started developing the PowerUp module for paper planes (“PowerUp 1.0”) back in 2007 and have improved it significantly (“PowerUp 2.0). If you watch the Kickstarter video, my friend challenges me by saying “Nice gadget, really! But you can’t make a remote-controlled paper airplane.” I accepted the challenge and added a Bluetooth unit to the module and a rudder. What sounds rather easy to make took me two years of research and 57 different prototypes!
You’ve gotten some great press coverage, including getting featured on Jay Leno. How did you market your campaign? Was it all just word-of-mouth?
It’s important to work with a great team when you do a Kickstarter project. You simply can’t do everything on your own: producing an awesome Kickstarter video, continuously responding to your backers, pitching your ideas to the media and the press, writing snazzy updates, staying in touch with your current customers, overseeing production, developing the technology, etc. I think have a great team, who have helped me make PowerUp 3.0 what it is today and I’m really grateful to every single one of my colleagues and employees.
What advice do you have for anyone who is looking to crowdfund their next big idea?
I believe these are great times for industrial designers. They are at the intersection of making things and of conceiving things. They have all the know-how to do things. Today it’s easy to access all the resources. It’s all about the maker culture. Our project is just another maker project that’s turning into a business. The message I have for everybody out there is: Just do it! Because everybody can do it. It’s always worthwhile trying. But you have to put an awful lot of planning and preparation into your campaign before you click on that ‘Launch Now’ button.
Lastly, are you looking to expand to other toys? If yes, which ones?
We’ll keep focusing on Bluetooth-enabled toys and we’ll keep looking into how to merge modern-day technology with physical pastime classics.
Check out PowerUp Toys