A quirky cooler is bringing in millions of dollars on Kickstarter, crushing the campaigner’s $50,000 goal with nine days to go. The Coolest Cooler warrants its name by incorporating nearly every gadget you’d want while partying with friends—waterproof speakers, USB charger, built-in ice-crushing blender—but it wasn’t always a sure bet for crowdfunding success.
When Ryan Grepper presented his invention on the site last year, it failed. He went back to work, reshooting his pitch video, improving the rewards for backers and making his product more visually appealing. The new campaign, launched in the cooler-appropriate month of July, has already raised more than $9 million, making it the second most-funded Kickstarter ever.
Grepper makes a good case for learning from your mistakes. FWx chatted with this Portland, Oregon–based entrepreneur and self-described mad scientist to learn a little more about his product, vision and team.
1. Where were you when you had your “cooler” moment?
My two biggest loves are having fun with family and friends and the outdoors. The first iteration was built out of a Weedwacker and an old car stereo, nine years ago (see below). Thanks to recent improvements in technology, I realized I could really up the ante. Last summer, I debuted it to friends at my local park and they just went crazy when they saw it. At that point, I thought I might just be onto something.
2. Why did you choose a 45-day campaign versus the traditional 30 days?
After my first campaign failed, my confidence was very low. I wanted to give myself every chance at success this time. I also thought running the campaign through the end of August would give me more time to connect with potential fans throughout a hot summer, and more of a cushion to hit my $50,000 goal.
3. Did you have any help with the design?
Most of the features were in place on the original version, but I needed the help of some very talented industrial designers to bring the final version to life, and give it the look and feel I was after. We now have a dedicated team of more than a dozen people working to prepare the Coolest for production.
4. What’s one of your favorite features?
For foodies and wine connoisseurs, the Coolest has a partition to separate the cocktail ice from general cooling ice. You can also pull the plug and keep one side of the Coolest cool and dry like your fridge. No more soggy food––my wife loves that one!
5. Are you prepared to fulfill the more than 45,000 orders?
This campaign has exceeded my dreams and I am so grateful. I am laser-focused on delivering the highest quality Coolest on time to my incredible backers. If there are challenges along the way, I will keep my backers updated; but I feel good about where we are right now.
6. Where do you work in Portland?
I split my time between my workshop and a wide variety of Portland coffee shops. I think that flexible lifestyle makes me more creative. As for a team, I am very lucky to have a group of smart people who have supported me from early on. Recently, I’ve been expanding that core group.
7. Portland isn’t really known for its beach-like weather. Where do you plan on taking your first trip with your own Coolest Cooler?
I currently have the only Coolest in the world and I am keeping it busy at the beach, the neighborhood park and on our friend’s boat!
There’s a little more than a week left to add yourself to the almost 50,000-strong funders for Grepper’s Kickstarter. It’s only $185 for early backers, what are you waiting for?
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