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.

Forbes - - Entrepreneurs - By ROBB Man­del­baum

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-

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