We’ve covered plenty of tech start ups on The Sociable over the years but very few, (with some notable exceptions) are quite like Designed by m (@designedbym| Facebook), a Miami based start up that’s getting its hands dirty by creating something quite interesting for your iPhone.
At a quick glance Designed by M checks the usual boxes for a tech start-up;
- Young team of talented founders – Check
- Designed for the iPhone – Check.
- Backed by Kickstarter – Check.
But here’s where Designed by M are different; it’s not an app, nor a website, nor anything else so ethereal that they’re creating. The guys behind Designed by M are literally getting their hands dirty creating ultra thin and ultra stylish iPhone bumpers.
Using Aerospace Aluminum, the start-up’s first product is the AL13, a bumper which they have designed to complement the iPhone’s style, rather than smothering it, at an affordable price. And this is something that the iPhone community has been wanting for some time – after setting themselves a goal of $20,000 on Kickstarter that the company has been pledged over $81,000 since late December 2012.
With the company’s Kitstarter deadline approaching this week we asked the founders, Lester Mapp, Jeremy Foster, and Steve Dash, about how they got started, how they developed their first prototype, what it’s like to develop a physical product.
The company was founded in November 2012 – what has the past three months been like?
It’s been unbelievable. It’s amazing to watch your idea come to life in the way that AL13 has. Of course there was the initial excitement as we were starting the company and developing the prototype for our first product, but it is nothing compared to excitement we feel at how well AL13 is being received. We’re close to quadrupling our funding target on Kickstarter. It’s one thing to have a concept, but when it becomes something real and people actually love it, there’s nothing like it.
How did the idea for the bumper come into being?
For many people who buy an iPhone, the last thing they want to do is cover it up with a bulky case that will change the silhouette they fell in love with in the first place. AL13 is so subtle it looks like it came with the phone. It’s the successful culmination of hours of research, trouble shooting, design testing and brainstorming, the perfect combination of design and functionality. It protects your iPhone without changing its look.
How did you take the idea and turn it into your prototype?
Well, we started by listing all things we wanted in an iPhone bumper, and then all the things we didn’t want. We knew we wanted a minimal design that blended with the look of the phone. We knew we wanted a simple installation process, no bits and pieces and screws and tools. We knew we wanted a premium finish, but we didn’t want the price to be exorbitant.
Our designer team started sketching until we had a rough design and we started our search for materials and manufacturers. This was a key component for us we were determined to keep the cost down, the average premium aluminium bumper is around $159, but we didn’t want that. We wanted to make AL13 affordable.
What has the kickstarter process been like?
Wow, so many words to describe this process – nerve-wracking, exciting, humbling. We thought Kickstarter would be the perfect place to seek funding for our project. There are no power meetings or hidden agendas; you just take the product to the people and if they like it, they will support it. There also lies your greatest worry; you are definitely putting yourself out there for judgement and it can be pretty scary.
Luckily for us the response on Kickstarter has been phenomenal, and not just from the perspective of gaining pledges. The support that we have received from backers has been so encouraging. They have really gotten involved in the process and we feel like our team has gotten so much larger. Right now they are helping us chose the next color for AL13. We’ve reached our first stretch goal of $75,000 and are able to offer AL13 in an additional color.
If we reach our second stretch goal of $100,000 we’ll be able to do two new colors.
The iPhone is recognised for its build quality and design, how does your bumper compliment these?
Extreme care was taken to ensure that AL13 would be of a quality that would enhance the iPhone, not take away from it. AL13 is crafted from premium aerospace aluminium, an alloy that is extremely lightweight and resistant to heat and fracture. It has an anodized finish with chamfered edges that perfectly matches the iPhone and a specially designed simple slide cover that eliminates the need for screws and tools for installation.
AL13 has a dual purpose foam lining for extra protection and to make sure your phone isn’t scratched as you move AL13 off and on. We paid extra attention to detail. We want our users to have the same feeling they get when the open an Apple package when they open our box and see our product.
We cover many start-ups but few that produce physical objects; do you think there is a difference between start-ups that produce software and start-ups, like yourselves, that produce physical objects?
Getting a company going is challenging regardless of what you are product or service you are developing. Any start-up requires equal measures of creative thinking, innovation, hard work, determination and sheer belief in what you are doing. We’re both producing a product. Ours may be tangible but both will affect the user, hopefully in a positive way.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs that want to make actual products?
Don’t just think products, think people. How will your product add to your customer’s life? Will it excite them, provide a solution for them or beautify some aspect of their life? It’s about people.
What’s next for you?
Well, we have two products on the table right now, but they are both still in the development stage. I can say though that we are committed to using design as a tool to make people’s lives better and for one of the products we are looking at making a contribution to helping the environment, not only through the use of non-toxic, environmentally safe materials, but through the donation of a large portion of the proceeds to earth friendly charities.
It’s exciting and you can expect to hear more about it within the next two months.
What’s next for the bumper?
Our Kickstarter campaign ends on February 13th and we immediately go into production. It’s important to us to meet our April delivery date and we have everything lined up and ready to go to achieve this. We’ve done something special with the package and we can’t wait to see our backers’ response.