GoldieBlox: Nailing the Product Launch

GoldieBloxA few weeks ago, we shared the secrets to Soma Water’s successful product launch. The Soma team did a fantastic job in hacking the Kickstarter process to raise their $100K goal in 10 days.

Now, however, we have a new favorite product launch because it tracks more closely to our children’s toy aspirations. GoldieBlox, Inc. raised $150K on Kickstarter in four days last September for a combination storybook/construction toy set targeted at young girls. Founder Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineering graduate herself, explains that her product is her attempt to address the fact that only about 20% of engineering graduates and 11% of engineers in the United States are women. Sterling’s solution takes aim at the root cause of the problem: a lack of building and spacial-visualization toys aimed at little girls’ propensity for verbal learning contributes to their being steered away from and losing interest in engineering early in life. Sterling describes her product and its mission better than I can in her Kickstarter video, which later went seriously viral when uploaded to–stimulating extensive post-Kickstarter sales. Check it out:

Since hitting their Kickstarter home run, the GoldieBlox team has built on their momentum and grown its run rate to $300K/month. Keep in mind it’s only been six months since the campaign ended! They are now in the process of rolling out brick-and-mortar retail distribution and developing new storybooks/construction sets to grow the product line. Tim Ferriss interviewed Sterling on his a blog post from last week (scroll down a bit: GoldieBlox is the second company mentioned), in which she reveals some of the secrets to her success, in particular the depth of GoldieBlox’s PR footprint both prior to and after the Kickstarter launch.

Sterling reveals more about her two-plus-year journey in this 17-minute speech at last month’s TEDxPSU conference. She hits on a lot of the themes from the Kickstarter video above, but also talks about some of the setbacks she encountered along the way, most memorably from all-boys clubs at a Silicon Valley tech accelerator (Y Combinator? Tech Stars?) and at the February 2012 NYC Toy Fair. It’s worth watching, so here you go:

There are a lot of great tactical take-aways from both the Ferriss interview and the TEDxPSU talk that I will certainly attempt to apply to my toy product launch in the near future. But there are also some higher-level lessons for anyone launching a new product:

  • From what I can tell, Sterling went “all-in” by quitting her full-time marketing agency job (after the discouraging NYC Toy Fair) and investing her life savings in the project–such was the depth of her passion
  • Sterling conducted extensive prototyping and product trials with around 100 young girls and their parents as she iterated from the original concept towards product-market fit
  • Sterling persisted and stayed true to her vision despite powerful negative feedback that approached humiliation at the tech accelerator and the NYC Toy Fair
  • Sterling and her team blogged for about a year and a half before launching the Kickstarter campaign, mainly to keep friends and family apprised of their progress. While perhaps not their intention, the blog led to some good luck when friends of friends in the press (from The Atlantic and TechCrunch) became interested in the emerging story and ultimately helped trigger the successful Kickstarter launch. (Hopefully this blog has the same result!)
  • Ideas tend to develop a lot more forcefully in groups rather than from lone wolf inventors working alone. In her blog, Sterling mentions a group that meets periodically for brunch and appears to have been instrumental in helping her idea grow into a product and, ultimately, a company
  • The Kickstarter video is a tour-de-force of the genre: it tells a tight, compelling, and personal story and connects with the viewer on a deeply emotional level. It convinced me right away: I clicked out to and bought a set for my soon-to-be-four-years-old niece
  • More on the video: it had nice production value without coming off too “slick,” further adding to its personal appeal
  • The PR blitz seems to have been the result of some luck emanating from a lot of hustle in terms of finding good mentors, putting the product out there early via the blog, tenaciously recruiting collaborators, and networking effectively
  • Sterling has capitalized on the buzz the GoldieBlox launch produced through new speaking engagements such as SOCAP and TEDxPSU, which have further broadened her overall profile, online footprint, and search engine results

Well done, Team GoldieBlox! We are rooting for you, and hope to apply the valuable lessons you have taught us through your expert product launch.

Photo credit: GoldieBlox, Inc.

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