With this blog entry we want to pay tribute to crowdfunding itself. For us it is a method of bringing products to life and a way of communicating our story. It became a fix part of our journey creating fascinating content for us and our supporters.
HORAGE - reborn with Crowdfunding
Originally we have worked on our brand Horage and the first product already in 2007. During Baselworld 2008 we launched the first time, but as we all know by then the financial crisis came into full swing.
As if this wouldn't have been enough we figured out that our original idea to use an existing Swiss movement for our first ever watch called Omnium was likely to be doomed. Because the major supplier planned to stop delivering basic movements to other non group owned companies in the foreseeable future. (Most people who are into watches know about that unique story... because there is only one company which came out of the ashes of the so called Swiss/Japan quartz crisis of the 70s.)
Finding ourselves in the midst of a financial crisis and having no assurance if there will be quality movements for our watches available in the medium and long term, we decided to freeze the HORAGE brand building activities in 2010.
Since our other business of supplying component like cases, dials, hands... to many watch brands in Switzerland might also be endangered due to the expected shortage of movements, we decided to give it a try and embarked on a journey to co-develop a mechanical movement for our watches. A movement which could be produced in an industrial way while offering the benefits of flexibility and choice like a manufacture caliber. In close cooperation with the MomoPlus AG, a company founded and operated by Tzuyu Huang (Co-founder of Horage) the project took shape from 2008 onwards and was named K1...
Besides overcoming all the technical engineering challenges the K1 team also tried to find investors willing to take the risk of setting up a factory for K1, because this was the one thing the team could not do by themselves. Finding a 10 million Swiss francs investment without having proven that K1 is fit for the market comes close to finding the needle in a haystack... potentially impossible;-)
...During the same time the K1 project started another interesting trend was taking shape... Crowdfunding,
...more or less a result from the 2008 financial crisis, became a powerful part of the startup scene. We took notice of this and although we knew it might be hard to raise so much money to fund a whole movement factory, we thought this could be a cool way for our coming-out after having stayed undercover for about 7 years.
Kickstarter HORAGE Nr. 1 - JONAS K1
Jonas the rugby playing watch maker as the main actor in true action.... so much fun and still recognized across the entire industry.
Although we didn't have a real idea of how crowdfunding works, we did our best and learned on the way and during the campaign. We raised 122.000,- British Pounds (Kickstarter at this time was not present in Switzerland yet;-).
People had serious doubts about K1 and if this story is true, because they couldn't believe that someone comes out of the nowhere and claims having developed an industrial level mechanical movement. This hasn't been done in the past 40 years!?
But we proved the doubters wrong... HORAGE and K1 was real! After our campaign got some coverage from Wornandwound New York (read article), people started to trust into what we do and some of them stopped by in Biel to inspect our work with their own eyes. After the campaign goal has been reached, we shipped our watches as projected creating sleepless nights for all of us. Once all the products from this first campaign arrived at our backers doors and only very few complaints came back, we felt great relieve... K1 works! Thanks again to the people who trusted in us early on, because we know it takes a lot to put 1300,- USD on the table into a project run by people nobody knew before. More details about our 1st campaign (click here)
Besides our fascination for making watches, we also got hooked into the idea of crowdfunding and although such a campaign is sucking 24/7 energy out of a team, we got kind of addicted to it. Many campaigns are "one-hit-wonders" which disappear as quick as the success came to them. Since this phenomenon could also be our destiny we decided to do it again just to proof that we can repeat our first success and that we are serious about our business.
We didn't raise as much money as in the first campaign and we ran into a lot of technical issues having to delay shipping. But all in all it was a great campaign with intense backer interaction. This campaign helped us to iron out all the small issues we detected from the watches we shipped after our first campaign. In fact and because of this experience K1 was completely redesigned and optimized taking all the feedback into account. No laboratory test could ever give us such valuable insights!
Since addiction is something which typically is hard to get away from, we launched a 3rd time in Kickstarter with a configurator project showing off the power of the K1 movement and its modular architecture.
Kickstarter has become our favoured companion when it comes to launching something new. But since we are team mixed from different countries and cultures we thought we should learn how crowdfunding works in other countries besides the typical English speaking Kickstarter crowd.
If you can read Chinese...more details about our 4th crowdfunding campaign... (click here or the picture above)
In fact crowdfunding in China is a whole different game. Perhaps one can consider it more like crowd shopping in which you face a very sophisticated and demanding customer base and strict rules to be followed. We guess that too many projects failed causing real trouble to JDcom, just because there are so many people in China who can complain in case things go sour... and as we know newcomers in crowdfunding underestimate the intensity and workload dramatically.
JDcom people in the beginning said it would be impossible to do a campaign with a product as pricey as ours because typically the campaigns being run through the plattform are below 1000,- CHF.
BUT we believed it could work because China with a population of around 1.8 billion population should have some people willing to spend money on a premium product not everybody has and which is worth every penny. It worked... and to our surprise we sold 28 watches to Chinese backers coming from all over China.
And now we will not get political and open the discussion about China and Taiwan... we just talk about Taiwan and our 5th campaign which is at the time I write this blog in full swing.
Unlike JDcom special mainland China crowdfunding formula, the Taiwan version is very similar to Kickstarter. Just tailored to the Taiwan community and the Chinese language. It was founded be young Taiwan entrepreneurs and help to kickstart the Taiwan startup scene. Plattform is called Zeczec and it is the go to place when you want to reach Taiwan's tech savvy clientele.
Again we tried to reach for new heights launching our 10 years anniversary through Zeczec and to our surprise and against concerns if a product in this price level could succeed in Taiwan crowdfunding, our goal was reached even before it was published. There is something like a VIP 24 hour period before the final campaign link is published... a speciality in Zeczec.
Taiwan is not a big country and you can get from North to South via my beloved High-Speed-Rail in just 1.5 hours bridging nearly 400 kilometers. We took advantage of that and during our 3 weeks stay we had the chance to meet with people who support us during the campaign. This experience is giving crowdfunding a new twist and we are sure that crowdfunding will evolve and become something which will trickle down into retail sooner or later. Because although we love the internet and all the convenient stuff we can do with it, but at the end of the day there is nothing better than a face to face chat or just getting a feel on how the metal of a specific watch feels between the finger tips .
Here is what we crowdfunded in Taiwan lately... A 10-years limited edition AUTARK, hand signed by engineers and made of hardened titanium. Dreamwatch I would say... which you can also buy in our shop as long as there are some left. Take me to the shop
In a nutshell... thanks to crowdfunding we exist and hopefully more people will join this somehow democratizing way of building a modern business.