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What it's like launching on the web in 2014

Posted by David Wolffe on

More people than ever are launching their own businesses. The barriers to it keep lowering. But for many, a business launch is something other people do. That's the way I used to see it too. So, what is it actually like, at that launch moment?

When you launch, set free, and watch anything go off (a reed boat, a firework, a bowling ball, you choose) it is a moment to briefly savour. You hold your breath, just for a second. The website opening last week has been the culmination of a lot of activity but in many ways it is much more than an arrival. Yes, it is the end of one phase but it is the beginning of many more. It is a single event but with it comes a multiplicity of streams, data, communications. It is just a website but really it is part of the amazing possibilities that are now available on the web for a start-up in a way that would have been totally inconceivable 15 years ago.

Firstly it marks the winding down of the intensity of the product development phase. When you have a vision of reinventing how a backpack should work, and set yourself the goal of producing a truly revolutionary and innovative backpack, you can't help but get excited and consumed by it. When you invent a new technology that leads to the patent process it becomes significant and almost part of you. We have had many months of focus on how to make this backpack function in a totally unique and revolutionary way. We have tested prototypes over and over with the aim of achieving a user experience that gives the wow factor as well as delivering a well-designed backpack with all the pockets and features you'd expect in a great backpack. Now we are moving on towards a new phase of scale production, tooling, fundraising, communication, delivery, service and so on and so on. So not a culmination at all, just the beginning of lots, lots more, and beginnings are so full of promise.

Secondly, this marks information tsunami time. I wish I'd paid more attention to that lecture on how to drink from a fire hose. When the password came off the site and all the social media went live suddenly it has become about not just www.wolffepack.com but twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and multiple identities for both yours truly and the wolffepack itself. This is a big transition from creating the content that illustrates the features, the airflow of the back, the comfortable padded shoulder straps, the ergonomic handle, the quality ballistic fabric, the laptop section, to simply serving pages. We've been having fun with recording video. This week we tried to demonstrate the destruction of the super-strong Dyneema cords. We failed to destroy them, but cracked each other up with the out-takes. Content creation is moving on to page delivery. Each has its own metrics and responses. Where's the surprise? Well, there shouldn't be one, should there, for an experienced guy who has worked at AOL? But when you are in the thick of it is different. Not only do you need to monitor each one but you care so much more about every movement, every eyeball. They are not just unique visitors but they are the first uniques, your uniques and every one counts. Every comment on Facebook has intense meaning. Every email address submitted to the mailing list is a new beginning. The good news is that with little marketing effort we've already generated thousands of views of all kinds and and the quality of the comments has been amazing. It has been a great start but that doesn't stop you hovering over the different dashboards checking the latest page views, likes, signups, and then going back a few minutes later to see a few more click up. It's compulsive, compelling and a real buzz.

Finally, this is a moment to reflect on how the web has been a vital enabler to this venture. Without it, no startup. 15 years ago this mission would have been impossible for an individual to launch without huge backing. It would have been in the exclusive domain of the established firms, the incumbents. Today, a disruptive new technology, a challenger idea, this time in the world of backpacks, is now on the field of play. The web brought quickly the knowledge and confidence that the patent-pending expetoSYSTEM is truly unique. Social networks connected me to the skilled engineers and designers that pushed forward my ideas so rapidly. 3D printing and its resulting components, arriving within days of their conception on a CAD screen, cut cycle times and accelerated innovation. Kickstarter presents the opportunity to engage a new community of creative design-lovers, backpack enthusiasts and innovation-lovers who I hope will help us guide the product development and get the first production run going. The story of one person having a vision about a totally new product and turning it into a reality is actually starting to come true.

This journey is still in its early part, and there are unknown twists and turns in the road ahead. One thing is for sure, being on the web means I will learn very quickly how it is going.



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