Yevgeniy Ivanov, Jollylook, believes, “You will not make money on Kickstarter. It is PR, kick start and launch”

Yevgeniy Ivanov is a Co-Founder and CEO of Jollylook. Their vintage instant camera raised $377,000 on crowdfunding platform, having exceeded the target amount by 25 times. The editorial team of AIN.UA discussed with the entrepreneur the nuances of preparing a campaign, a renaissance of analog photography and key errors, made by inventors.

How did you come up with an idea of Jollyllook camera and when did it become a commercial project?

Our Company has two Co-Founders: I am CEO and Oleg Khalip is CTO. Approximately three years ago Oleg’s son asked him how camera worked. Oleg and his son came to the market and bought cardboard and all other required things. Being an engineer, he decided to make a cardboard camera that will explain the set-up of a camera. They also bought a cartridge Fuji instant film 100c. So, Oleg assembled a camera from cardboard in order to demonstrate how it worked. The camera came out cool, but it did not go beyond the prototype. When Jollylook first decided to put the camera on Kickstarter (before we knew them), Oleg shot video and made presentation, but Fuji cartridge went out of production. The project was frozen.

Later Oleg started slowly developing the camera that we are launching now. It was kept in his office and Oleg had no time to prepare its putting on Kickstarter. At that time I met him. He remembered my first unsuccessful project – Booster One headphones. We did it with other guys and the project failed. Oleg helped us with manufacture of the prototype. This was the grounds for our acquaintance. When I saw a camera in his office and asked why it had not been on Kickstarter yet, Oleg told me the whole story. Further I made unsuccessful launch of the above-stated headphones and Oleg came to support us.

Thereafter Oleg phoned me and proposed to become his partner in the project Jollylook as well as to launch Kickstarter-campaign. We agreed on the terms of our partnership. Oleg handed me over the camera and video footage, taken in Zaporozhye. It happened in mid-November last year. Since that moment I have started preparing campaign on Kickstarter. For two weeks I have made a web page, re-assembled a video and provided it with soundtrack. On the first of December a page on Kickstarter was ready. During the following two months I have been working on PR and marketing.

I made a landing page, where we collected e-mail addresses of subscribers, prepared press kit and started looking for journalists and sending letters to TOP international media, which mentioned instant photography. Since December 1 till January 31 (the day of our launch) I have sent about 1,000 letters to diverse journalists. All letters were personalized and intended to spark the authors’ interest in our product. In response to my 1,000 letters, I’ve got about 10 replies. However, these replies were from the TOP editions, which now can be seen on our Kickstarter page. This was a major impetus at the launch of our project as far as, for instance, PetaPixel, the largest photo blog in the world, wrote about us.

Major efforts were taken before launch and not after it as in case with the previous project when I knew a little about Kickstarter. On the first day, we raised $37,000, further – $100,000. Till the end of the month we had $377,000.

Who buys Jollylook: is it an amateur photographer, a hipster or a connoisseur of original gifts?

Anyone can be a buyer. It is not a professional camera, but rather a toy and souvenir, which can make cool photos. It is interesting for professionals as well as for amateurs.

Actually, the target audience is very wide. Among our backers there are professional photographers, who like analog photography, who are well-versed in it and make expositions. There are also amateurs and people, who are far from photography. They just enjoy the idea of cardboard camera.

Why all these lamp and analog things, including photography, are back in fashion?

People always get back to basics. There are some trends, something new emerges and fashion begins. However, there are some things, which always come back. There is a classic, which never goes away.

Analog photography is more vivid.

Whatever bright and sophisticated screens we have and whatever cool photos we get, the photo is innatural anyway. It does not reflect actual colors, seen by human eyes in ordinary life. And vice versa, it makes artificial, overbearing and bright picture – it is beautiful, but innatural.

Here we see the photos as if we see it with our eyes, especially taking into consideration souvenir photo. Instant photos are stored for a long time – people put it in the purse, hang it on refrigerators using magnets.

In analog photography color reproduction is very close to the way we see it in real life. Therefore, digital photography is cool, but analog photo is a classic, real live and getting back to basics. Plus, if we are talking about photography, there is a big difference between the way when photo is recorded on camera matrix and then transmitted to the screen, and the way when the photo is stored owing to instant chemical process, which takes place on the photo surface – naturally.

Therefore, instant photography provides such a cool result that people enjoy it. When you take a small photo, produced by Jollylook (by the size it is similar to a credit card), you see a true-life result, which delights the eye.

You often mention that the camera is made of environmentally friendly materials – for example, its body is made of cardboard. Was it difficult to find the supplier, being able to meet all assembling requirements?

In fact, it is not so easy to find the required cardboard. But we managed to do it in such a way: we contacted partners in China, who found 10 factories, matching our criteria. Further we chose top-3 out of these factories. Jointly with Oleg we visited China, examined all factories and found the most optimal ones. It is a very long-term process that we jointly worked through and improved.

It really took a great deal of time, but we were excited about the prospects.

Unfortunately, it took more time than we expected – due to a huge amount of the order and continued orders as well as absence of any ecosystem for manufacture of the camera in Ukraine. We made attempts to manufacture our product in Ukraine, but, disappointingly, it was impossible in our realities and we were forced to go to China.

Now five different factories work for us. One of the factories manufactures plastic parts (developing unit is made of plastic), another factory manufactures developing rollers, the third one – lenses, the fourth – cardboard and the fifth – assembles all parts. It is quite efforts-consuming production process. Of, course, sometimes we have certain delays, but we do our best to provide the highest possible quality of the product that we will never be ashamed of.

That is why we have already apologized to backers and posted updates – we always keep them informed. We have a very strong support. We are committed to make a high-quality product.

What was the most unexpected problem at the development and production stage?

We had different problems, starting from the developing rollers. It is metal rollers with special coating – it adds roughness to the rollers and allows fully squeezing reagent for development of photos. We have been working on such rollers for a long period of time – until we got an ideal coating, size and spring pressure for reliability and efficient operation of the device.

There were funny and, at the same time, unpleasant situations. For instance, viewfinder lens that a person looks through. It is Fresnel lens. We ordered samples of such lenses from the factory. We got the lenses and approved it.

10,000 lenses were delivered to our warehouse and were kept there for a certain period of time. When it was the time to assemble the first cameras, we opened the lenses. These lenses were not the ones that we ordered. They were similar by form, but not the ones that we approved. It was impossible to notice this visually at the moment of delivery to the warehouse.

However, in general, apart from time consumption, it’s going well.

What definitely should be avoided when you enter Kickstarter?

It is critical to keep in mind that Kickstarter is a crowdfunding. People donate money for implementation of a product that they wish to see, expecting to get it in return as a remuneration. This is in no way a purchase.

The first thing, which should be changed in understanding of the crowdfunding, is to perceive it as a platform for sale (most of our people think so). It is not sale, people donate money there. It is not a store where you buy something.

Therefore, when you are going to produce something, you should invent a unique product for mass marker, to manufacture functioning prototype and put it on Kickstarter in order to raise funds for manufacture of something innovative, and not the things that already exist. Many people enter Kickstarter to promote their product. In fact, it doesn’t work anymore. For the last time the platform has changed a lot. Now they have much more projects.

Three years ago journalists reported on new projects as soon as they were put on Kickstarter, because it was cool and innovative. Further media burnt their fingers as many projects did not fulfil their promises and in the eyes of the readers the journalists also looked like liars. Now Kickstarter faces rather negative attitude of media – journalists write about projects with caution and do not write about the projects that they have no confidence in reliability of.

It is very important not to lie. If you still don’t have a finished product, it is better to tell that you are just going to manufacture it. It is essential to have a functioning prototype, which is almost ready for production. Then you can go to crowdfunding with it.

Summarizing the results, are you satisfied with financial model and operating mechanics of Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is doing very well. They even facilitate promotion of products. For example, in September they launched a new service, which helps to prepare for production and to calculate the cost of hardware product.

Many inventors have never dealt with production and they can wrongly calculate how much does it cost.

Kickstarter actively works on this aspect. They have a top level support service and detailed guidance for the authors of new projects. I like what they do.

I would like them to make the criteria for selection of hardware products more stringent and to make sure of the availability of products. It would enhance filtering of products. This will make people more confident in reliability of project and increase the number of its supporters. It would be better if Kickstarter avoided murky projects and invited more gifted guys, offering the innovations which really worth creating and disseminating throughout the world.

What are your future plans for Jollylook?

Jollylook is a company that will continue production of camera and accessories, made of cardboard. In the nearest time we will produce Jollylook Square — square format, and further – Wide – wide format, thereafter stereo photo camera and various accessories to all models.

Now, as fun as it sounds, despite of the fact that we raised an impressive amount on Kickstarter, the project is almost at breakeven point. We are looking for additional funding to extend turnover and enter new markets.

Retail networks like Michaels stores in the USA and other networks of the Great Britain, Japan, Korea and other countries. demonstrated interest in our product. The product is in demand, but we have not enough funds for the desired development. Therefore, we are looking for investments and new solutions for as rapid growth of sales as possible.

Are you looking for investors abroad?

Actually, we are looking everywhere.

Unfortunately, in Ukraine there are almost no investors – just a couple of funds, which invest in IT sphere. We have no Ukrainian investors, who invest in hardware startups and consumer goods.

Probably, there are some investors, but it is very difficult to find them. It is not just funds that we need, but this option is also possible. Ideally it should be an investor, who will help us to enter new markets and who has an experience in international trade.

Did you have an idea to raise the cost of the camera to protect yourself from risks? Can you provide any advices in respect of product price formation?

If we protected ourselves and raised the price a little bit, it would cut the number of preliminary orders. You will not make money on Kickstarter. It is PR, kick start and launch. You start making money as soon as you finished the project and began selling. Kickstarter is a great platform to test market demand of the product.

Concerning price formation – you should calculate cost price of the product and multiply it by 3-4 times. At the moment of launching the company the price should be minimal. Then you should rely on the average price, evolved with the progress of the Company: for instance, Jollylook price started from $29 (for the first 200 backers) and further it gradually increased till $41. We also studied and calculated many factors, but, due to production delay and the associated costs, we had to fly to China time and again – that was the reason of our miscalculation. We didn’t expect to encounter so many difficulties in the production. The initial expected cost price turned out to be almost two times higher.