What is the secret of successful startups?
Successful startupers are those who can imagine and offer something relevant from the point of view of the moment, who are able to meet some specific needs of their customers. There is no point in launching a project if the market is full of similar products. An advanced society is looking for genuinely useful products available right away and able to make life better.
Speaking about the products of everyday use, customers are mostly focused on comfort and functionality. For example, what is the sense of dragging along a huge backpack, if you can choose instead a smaller and a good-sized one. However, where is it possible to buy it?
Dmitry Gryadunov, the founder of the Pleatpack startup, has solved this problem by creating a universal city backpack for people leading an active life.
Why Pleatpack is different? It is an accordion-like stretchable backpack able to contain from 6 up to 27 L of weight keeping its initial small size. In other words, it’s a backpack adjusting itself to the size of the luggage. If all you have to pack is just a bottle of water, it remains compact shaped and does not take much place. The design of the backpack is thoroughly elaborated: built-in magnets protecting the luggage from thieves, all kinds of pockets and fasteners for small objects (a pen, a notepad, a power bank), an external usb-plug etc.
Recently we had a chance to communicate with the founder and the only member of the Pleatpack startup project team, Dmitry Gryadunov, and found out how he managed to start the project, how the brand was promoted and what kind of useful literature Dmitry would recommend to startuppers.
How has it all started?
To answer this question, I will say that the most often you come up with a new idea when you have a problem and need to find a solution, when there is something lacking or when you don’t like something about the situation. Talking about Pleatpack, it started when I realized that all my travel backpacks were good for nothing. For example, once I was coming back from Germany. It was a low cost flight, where only cabin size luggage was allowed. I had to take a small backpack, although it was really not enough.
Another turning point: once in a shop in Athenes I had to buy lots of things at a time, and my backpack turned out to be too small for everything I needed. It’s not comfortable. And one more illustrative example. I had a present for my girlfriend: a big box of chocolates. (It was a special box for a special brand of chocolates). Remembering about the size of the box, I took a big backpack. Nevertheless, as soon as I gave the present to her, I could not wait to get rid of the backpack, as it was too big for the rest. Finally, I started thinking about a universal backpack: comfortable, trendy, medium-size.
I drew myself a model of my backpack and found a seamstress, who made the first sample. It took six months to develop the idea and to make the first backpack, but it’s only at the fourth attempt that we finally managed to produce something like the one I imagined, although even this model is not the last.
We keep improving the design and the concept on the whole.
How many people are there in your startup team?
Just me. Of course, there are issues my friends and acquaintances help me to cope with, but I do 94% of the job by myself.
How do you promote Pleatpack and what is your most important target market?
I decided to promote it at the Western market right from the start, that’s why I used Kickstarter. Unlike Amazon, here you can start with a small budget. It’s good for me, as all I have invested in the project is nothing but my own savings. That’s why I did not think about promoting Pleatpack at Ukrainian market: it would have required as much time, as many efforts and investments as in the West, but without bringing as much as there. I don’t want to invest in something that doesn’t work.
Pleatpack backpacks can also be found on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. But the most useful promotional platforms as far as my project is concerned are Quora and Reddit. You just come up with a product and start asking questions, and the best experts in the field give you free hints and advice. They provide enormous support, assistance and recommend you to customers. I haven’t launched any target advertising campaign, but in any case guerilla marketing turns out to be efficient.
From my point of view, the most reliable advertising tools are Facebook Ads. I used them at the very beginning and still use from time to time when necessary. They make your brand recognizable and increase your sales. Many cool projects become popular owing to Facebook Ads. As for famous advertising platforms and bloggers, they give me 3% of sales. On the other hand, this kind of advertising is good for social proof: people find out about Pleatpack and trust it.
In one of the interviews, you told that before launching your product you had no experience in marketing and business. How have you succeeded in waging your campaign? What have you read, what have you been focused on?
First of all, there were two extremely useful books by Jack Trout: «Marketing Warfare» and «Positioning. The Battle for Your Mind». I am really excited about them. Another useful book was «Customers for Life» by Carl Sewell and some books dedicated to the history of development of certain brands, for example, Walmart. In general I’ve read about 45 books for the first year of my startup.
What challenges have you faced when launching your product?
A challenge is everything a startupper has to do. It’s normal. Legal issues are the most complicated, I believe. It is necessary to understand them in details.
What would you recommend to startuppers?
First of all, don’t think too much about what you have to do: advertising, sales and all this stuff. You should understand that all the problems are solved with time, one by one, as your project takes shape. Secondly, when you look for some necessary information (advertising materials, articles, video from YouTube), I recommend using sources in English. It can provide useful guidance, if you want to promote your project abroad in the West. As for books, it’s better to start with professional literature to be able to apply your knowledge in practice.
What is the most valuable business recommendation you have ever been given?
«Differentiate or Die». It’s the title of another book by Jack Trout, and it matches up perfectly with my own business position. The whole thing is about choosing a narrow market niche, instead of trying to be everywhere, and working for target audience instead of trying to please everyone.