Side by Side founder Antoine D’Haussy tells how he launched his travel gear startup, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter and Indigogo that won 9,500 backers.
Founded in April 2017 by travel bag industry expert Antoine D’Haussy, Side by Side was launched with one goal in mind: to make travelling easier. “I moved to Hong Kong seven years ago, thanks to a relocation in a previous job,” says Antoine. “I was asking for a challenge and, when nothing came up, I said, ‘I’m young and full of energy. Let’s create a challenge on my own.” With experience in the travel bag sector, he looked to travel accessories, developing his first product, the Power Packer, a small oblong-shaped case designed to keep all your chargers, wires and memory cards safe while you’re on the go. With several products now under his belt, he sat down us at the Hive Kennedy Town to share his story of how he achieved the startup dream with a simple idea and a successful crowdfunding campaign.
“I was based in Hong Kong, but I was constantly going to Dong Guan, Guangzhou and Nanjing to visit factories,” he explains of how he came up with his first idea. “Bringing my charger, power bank and all the rest, when I’d change my bags, I’d always forget something. It was annoying.” His solution was the Power Packer. “Now, I have one pouch for everything and I don’t need to worry too much. There were some products on the market already, but I wanted to do something more fashionable and I felt that in this category, there was still room to do something different,” says Antoine.
Shaped like an oblong charger pouch, the Power Packer doesn’t look anything but sleek and minimalist from the outside. It’s on the inside, though, where its functionality really shines. Unzip it and you’ll find three different compartments with elastic straps of varying sizes to accommodate anything of any size from your laptop charger down to a microSD card. For Antoine, though, the most important factor to consider was making it unique. “It’s well designed to stretch and fit to whatever you put inside it. Sometimes you go for a two-hour meeting and sometimes it’s a two-month trip. The idea is to be versatile in terms of loading capacity.”
One of the reasons Side by Side has gone through such a successful early phase is thanks to Antoine’s crowdfunding strategy, albeit one born out of necessity. “I was out of cash, so it was time to try and see how it went. You’ve got to be willing to do the first push up yourself. No one will do it for you.” Raking in over HKD 2.4 million on Indiegogo and HKD 1.38 million on Kickstarter, he crushed his initial goal of only HKD 50,000, giving his business a brilliant first push and winning others round to his idea. “The marketing agency I’d tried to convince to help me never responded. But, when I started doing a good job on my own, they were the ones to email me!” he laughs.
With crowdfunding such a central part of his own success story, Antoine has plenty of tips for those looking for the same start. “Even if the goal is supposed to be 100K, you should actually set it a bit lower. We know that at some point, we’re going to hit this goal, but the key is to hit it within 24 hours. If you do this, you have a chance of being featured on the homepage or on the newsletter. The crowd brings the crowd. You just need to build the momentum first by yourself and then the journalists and media will want to join in on the success,” he advises. Then, he’s adamant that people seek feedback and interaction from the get-go. “First, you need to set up a community around your product and brand. Then, feedback from pre-users is incredibly important. You should start to approach Youtubers or journalists for feedback, too and have them lined up to post their review when you release the product,” he explains. And, once you’ve launched, learn everything you possibly can about what is and isn’t flying. “Knowing the market helps you match the market. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the colour. If it sells the most, it’s right for the market.”
For Antoine, it’s a process that has worked wonders. “Even some of my friends who said, ‘I don’t need that,’ come to me now and admit that they actually like it.” Next, he’s expanding his product range with new releases such as the Travel Packer, a bigger, briefcase-shaped bag that has smaller waterproof cubes within it that can be taken out. It’s designed for anything from toiletries to drones and has been fashioned with a minimalist look, balanced against its intense attention to detail with small, hidden pockets and straps designed to accommodate any style of use. And, as he looks towards broader distribution and yet more categories, he plans to gear it up via crowdfunding again. “Right now, we are focusing on distribution expansion, especially in Europe and Asia,” Antoine explains. “That being said, there are some new products on the horizon. Side by Side is working on new travel gear to be launched on Kickstarter, of course. But it’s a surprise till the launching day!”