Kickstarting A Business Model
Peak Design, a creative maker of outdoor gear, uses crowdfunding not just to fnance its products but also to market them.
Peter Dering and his colleagues at Peak Design, a small camera accessories company that he started in San Francisco in 2010, had reason to celebrate. For the previous two hours wall monitors had ticked down the minutes to the end of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for the company’s new camera/messenger bag. The Everyday Messenger Bag is both functional and swaggeringly stylish, and was shaping up to be the 12th-biggest campaign in Kickstarter’s history. Ten! Nine! Eight! “This is actually cooler than New Year’s!” Dering shouted over the merrymaking on a sweltering Sunday afternoon at Churchill, a bar at the edge of the Castro district. Dering stood in front of a small camera at one end of the bar to mark the campaign’s last moments in a live online broadcast for anybody in the world who cared to watch (127 people did). When time expired, the crowd roared. The fnal tally: 17,029 backers had pledged $4,869,472.
Typically companies tap this resource when they start out, but the Everyday Messenger was Peak Design’s ffth crowdfunding campaign. The company has introduced all of its new products on the site and along the way has honed a sophisticated strategy not just for raising money efciently but also for reaching its most enthusiastic customers. “We essentially consider Kickstarter a third sales channel for us,” says David Anhalt, the company’s fnancial chief, alongside its own website and the more than a thousand retail stores that stock Peak Design products.
Increasingly, venture capitalists see a successful crowdfunding campaign as a mark of validation for a startup. But Peak Design isn’t courting VCS. Outside capital might cramp its style—or lifestyle. For now, Dering runs the company as he sees ft, encouraging employees to come and go as they please and to embrace the active life the company models in its branding. Even with Dering managing the company remotely half the time, sales were expected to triple in 2015, reaching $13 million. Peak Design, he says, made money in its frst year and profts have kept pace with sales ever since.
Built from scratch by Dering and his colleagues in a repurposed can factory, Peak Design’s loft ofce is a model of ingenuity. They devised, for example, a pulley system to hoist their bikes up to the 15-foot ceiling; the ropes are held to the wall with Peak Design’s frst product, a clip that locks a camera on a belt or strap.
Dering conceived the clip while backpacking around Asia and the South Pacifc in 2008 dur-