Izhar Gafni’s Bike
One of the best new inventions I’ve run across recently is a cardboard bike. Israeli industrial engineer and inventor Izhar Gafni spent about four years in his workshop designing a bicycle made entirely out of corrugated cardboard and a few other recycled materials. The result is a surprisingly strong and rugged bike, the materials of which cost around US$12. It is expected to sell for between US$60 and US$90. The potential for cheap, high-quality, environmentally sustainable transportation could be a game-changer in many parts of the world. This video helps flesh out the story:
The video attracted international buzz, news coverage, and awards. To capitalize on the attention, Gafni teamed with CEO Nimrod Elmish to form Cardboard Technologies, the company that will bring the bike, and presumably future products made with cardboard, to market. The focal point of their product launch, as it is with so many startup product companies these days, is a crowdfunding campaign. Cardboard Technologies has chosen the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform rather than Kickstarter.
From a marketing perspective, the interesting thing about Cardboard’s approach is that the crowdfunding campaign has yet to start, but they are already energizing their early fans to help them spread the word, and they are using an innovative new tool to do so.
As an early fan myself, I registered my email address on Cardboard’s website and Liked their Facebook page back in February when I first learned about the bike. About ten days ago, I received an email that read:
Thank you for pre-registering for our crowdsourcing campaign. Here are some important updates on what is about to happen over the coming weeks.
Firstly, please note that the crowdsourcing effort will take place in partnership with Indiegogo and not via Kickstarter as previously communicated. We considered long and hard which is the most suitable platform that will allow us to stay true to our ideals and enable us to build the widest community, and Indiegogo felt right to us in so many ways.
Secondly, to say “Thank You” for having pre-registered, 24 hours before the project goes public on Indiegogo, you will receive an email notifying you that you can beat the crowd and join our community by making a contribution, and receive perks in return.
Finally, within the coming days we will be sending you an invitation to become a Cardboard Bike Ambassador. By helping us to spread our message via your social networks, you can be rewarded by receiving “Cardboard Currency” that you can convert into perks such as bikes and other cool stuff on Indiegogo.
Just this morning, I received word that the Indiegogo campaign would begin soon–“within a few days”–as well as the promised invitation to become a “Bike Ambassador” in exchange for “special status” on the IndieGoGo campaign. The “Become an Ambassador” button led me to this page to sign up.
I registered with my Facebook account, and came to a site powered by TrenDemon, an “audience amplification” platform. Here’s TrenDemon’s promotional video on how their service works:
TrenDemon’s ingenious platform helps a brand, such as Cardboard Technologies, take leverage its fans–whether from the mailing list or Facebook Likes–and manage the process of tracking their social shares and giving them perks for doing so. It’s a new way to supercharge sharing of a crowdfunding campaign, above and beyond the targeted, crowdfunding-specific landing pages used effectively by Soma during their Kickstarter campaign. The only catch is the price: a minimum of US$2,000 per month for up to 500 “demons” (fans). At that price the costs may outweigh the benefits for many bootstrapping crowdfunders. But for a crowdfunding campaign with a substantial fan base already established, like the Cardboard Technologies bicycle, TrenDemon could be just the right tool for maximizing viral exposure and Indiegogo backing.
Stay tuned. I can’t wait to see how well the Cardboard campaign fares!