‘An­i­ma­tive’ back­pack startup raises $150,000 on Kick­starter

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY DARIA SHULZHENKO SHULZHENKO@KYIVPOST.COM

Few peo­ple, if any, have dreamed of be­ing able to play the game of Tetris on their own back­packs.

But Kyiv-based com­pany Pix wants peo­ple to do just that — they are about to pro­duce a back­pack with a built-in dig­i­tal dis­play. The dis­play on the back­pack will be suit­able for play­ing sim­ple games, show­ing an­i­mated de­signs, im­ages, and even scrolling mes­sages.

The back­pack al­ready looks to be a hit.

Start­ing their cam­paign on the U.S.-based crowd-fund­ing plat­form Kick­starter in Au­gust, Pix planned to raise only $35,000 to pro­duce an ini­tial batch of what they call “an­i­ma­tive” back­packs.

How­ever, the com­pany raised over $150,000 from al­most 600 back­ers from all over the world, and has al­ready cre­ated a buzz in­ter­na­tion­ally.

The com­pany’s co-founder Sergii Iez­drin, 26, says that the main idea be­hind what Pix calls its “an­i­ma­tive” back­pack is to give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to share their emo­tions, feel­ings and pref­er­ences in real life, with the help of the same tools used for on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions, such as Emo­jis and other sym­bols.

“The orig­i­nal goal was to give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to do off­line the same things as they do on so­cial net­works — to share some­thing they like, and to stand out from the crowd,” Iez­drin says.

How it works

The back­pack’s dis­play has 320 pix­els. For com­par­i­son, an iPhone screen has over 1 mil­lion. But the num­ber is enough to create 16.5 mil­lion com­bi­na­tions in var­i­ous col­ors.

The back­pack is pow­ered by a recharge­able bat­tery that can keep the dis­play go­ing for up to 12 hours con­tin­u­ously, is well pro­vided with se­cure in­te­rior pouches for lap­tops and tablet com­put­ers. It comes in gray, yel­low, pur­ple and blue.

Us­ing a smart­phone app for IOS or An­droid linked via Blue­tooth to the Pix, users can choose from a li­brary of an­i­mated pic­tures and im­ages, or de­sign their own im­ages, and dis­play them on their back­pack. They can also cus­tom de­sign an im­age with the app, in­clud­ing a scrolling mes­sage. In fu­ture, cy­clists will be able to use a spe­cial wid­get within the app to dis­play turn­ing and stop­ping in­di­ca­tions on their back­pack as they cy­cle.

The an­i­ma­tive back­pack from Pix has now de­vel­oped into a sleek-look­ing prod­uct, light­weight and water­proof, which at first ap­pears to be a stylish if min­i­mal­is­tic ac­ces­sory — un­til the user switches on its screen.

“We took an or­di­nary back­pack and placed a screen in it, to make it look com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what peo­ple are used to see­ing,” Iez­drin says.

The be­gin­ning

Al­though Pix was es­tab­lished in Jan­uary, the idea of cre­at­ing an an­i­ma­tive back­pack orig­i­nated two years ago, when the com­pany’s founders all had dif­fer­ent jobs.

“We were elab­o­rat­ing this idea for about a year, spend­ing all our free time on de­vel­op­ing the elec­tron­ics and do­ing re­search work. It was mostly like a part-time job,” Iez­drin says.

The first pro­to­type of the an­i­ma­tive back­pack was cre­ated in 2016, and looked com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the cur­rent one: the screen was made up of eight small mono­chrome dis­plays glued to back­pack’s front pocket.

“It looked ugly and fun at the same time,” Iez­drin laughs.

The com­pany’s co-founder Mar­garet Rimek, 25, says the first pro­to­type was de­signed in 36 hours to be pre­sented dur­ing the 2016 Lviv Maker Fair, an an­nual fes­ti­val for in­ven­tors, engi­neers, star­tups and artists held in Lviv, a city 540 kilo­me­ters west of Kyiv.

The com­pany’s founders then spent two years re­fin­ing their idea, cre­ated around 15 pro­to­type ver­sions, be­fore set­tling on the cur­rent an­i­ma­tive back­pack. De­velop ex­penses came mainly from their own pock­ets.

“Now we’ve al­ready reached the point that we have a full-fledged dis­play in­side a back­pack, cre­ated to match all our needs per­fectly. How­ever, at the be­gin­ning it was all handcrafted and held on glue,” Iez­drin ex­plains.

“It has evolved so much.”

Rais­ing money

Since the be­gin­ning of the year, Pix has pro­duced over 40 an­i­ma­tive back­packs: not for sale, but to get some pub­lic­ity, send­ing sam­ples to var­i­ous YouTube blog­gers and news out­lets and ex­plain­ing what an­i­ma­tive back­packs are.

In or­der to start mass pro­duc­tion, the com­pany launched a 45-day Kick­starter cam­paign on Aug. 22, aim­ing to raise $35,000.

How­ever, on Oct. 6, with or­ders from 597 back­ers, Pix suc­cess­fully fin­ished its cam­paign, hav­ing raised $150,000 or four times more than the com­pany had aimed for.

“Dur­ing the Kick­starter cam­paign we had no idea what re­sults to ex­pect, but we worked a lot try­ing to make the back­pack bet­ter and telling peo­ple about the project,” says Rimek.

The com­pany ex­pects to have about 800 or­ders placed via Kick­starter from all over the world, mainly from the United States and Ja­pan, and will start mass pro­duc­tion of their an­i­ma­tive back­packs in Jan­uary 2019.

The an­i­ma­tive back­pack from Pix costs $260, with a fixed price of Hr 6,500 for Ukraini­ans, which makes it quite an ex­pen­sive prod­uct for the do­mes­tic mar­ket.

How­ever, Rimek says that there are peo­ple from Ukraine who are in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing an­i­ma­tive back­packs, even de­spite its price.

“Those peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in Pix back­packs in Ukraine see that they can be used in com­pletely dif­fer­ent ways: some will take it to var­i­ous ex­hi­bi­tions or events, in or­der to stand out from the crowd, and oth­ers want to create their own lo­gos, or dis­play the lo­gos of their com­pa­nies and there­fore use a back­pack to ad­ver­tise,” Rimek says.

The only prob­lem with such an orig­i­nal prod­uct is how to ex­plain to po­ten­tial cus­tomers what they are and how they can be used, Rimek says.

“This is the first an­i­ma­tive back­pack in the whole world — that’s why peo­ple don’t un­der­stand what it is,” she says.

“The Pix back­pack is not an or­di­nary back­pack, as its owner can al­ways change the way it looks. Our idea was to help peo­ple ex­press them­selves all the time, show­ing their mood, emo­tions and thoughts, by chang­ing the im­age on a screen. Pix gives you the op­por­tu­nity to create some­thing new, ev­ery day.”

Sergii Iez­drin and Mar­garet Rimek, the co-founders of Pix, show off their an­i­ma­tive back­packs dur­ing an in­ter­view with the Kyiv Post in Kyiv on Oct. 9, 2018. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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