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