We've been using the "lock & unlock your door with an app on your phone" solution from Lockitron for two years now. In fact, here's a blog I wrote in 2010 with a video showing how it works. As early adopters, Paul, one of the Lockitron founders, was great about coming by our office to fix the early version of Lockitron whenever it had trouble. We were happy users of Lockitron version 1.0.
And that's all I heard about Lockitron for two years. But it turns out Paul, Cameron & team have been super busy. Today they launched a new version of Lockitron in a really smart way. It's so impressive that I'm going to spend a few minutes dissecting it, because we can all learn from what they've done. I'd also like to invite anyone from Lockitron to give more detail on my observations in the comments section below.
The first and most obvious thing they did was use a Kickstarter-type approach to their launch. When you visit www.Lockitron.com you see what I've taken a screenshot of above. (I'd be curious to know if they're using a while-labeled Kickstarter-type service, or more likely, just taking the best from Kickstarter's approach and doing it in-house).
As I've outlined in the screenshot, they set a goal which (purposefully or not) is now massively oversubscribed. It makes you feel like you have to get in on the action.
The value prop and call to action are also very clear, and they've used Amazon Payments to collect payments, which makes the purchasing process virtually seamless for most users.
As you scroll down on the site, you'll see a very easy-to-follow building of value with features clearly outlined and another call-to-action button at the bottom.
The video at top is very well done. It's short, well produced and understandable. It outlines the various benefits of Lockitron, including refernces to AirBnb, not having to take keys with you when you go running, and even the ability for the door to lock & unlock based on your proximity to it.
At the core of it, Paul & Cameron have come up with what looks to be a really great upgrade to their original product (which itself was very good and forward-thinking). And that's the biggest lesson of all. All the marketing they're doing around the launch would be useless if the actual product wasn't any good.
While the very early Lockitron system was great -- we still use it today-- this new version looks to be absolutely phenomenal. They've figured out how to use Lockitron over an existing door lock, which should spur a good amount of adoption, along with other great features which you can watch in their video.
Incredible work, guys. I'd love to hear more about how you came up with the idea of using a Kickstarter-like approach for this launch, and how you feel it's working out.
The second version doesn't have English spoken dialogue. We got a surprising amount of international traffic from our original launch video last year - we thought this was in part because the shots were self explanatory and worked across any language. On a lark, we cut this version to see if that was the correct hypothesis. We also made it a lot shorter so it would be more embed-friendly.
Overall I think the second video was weaker or at least empirically was not performing as well so we stopped promoting it. We'll see if it gets more international attention as the statistics start updating.
Another thing: During our last launch we self hosted the video on our home page and gave youtube embed links everywhere else. I think we lost out on half our view count this way. Hosting on YouTube seems to be the way to go. Those engineers have done a lot of work to make the experience seamless from any viewing device.
Paul, thanks for the comments! Was I right -- did you self-host the Kickstarter-like approach? Or did you use a white-label Kickstarter-like service?
What else has worked well or not so well in this launch?
And congrats on the massive interest! Did you intentionally put a lower threshold than you thought you could reach to achieve this? Or was 1,000 units really your bare minimum to make the economics work?
Part of what went terribly was our servers initial ability to cope with the load. We had some "shark processes" lurking just beneath the surface that did not make themselves apparent until we were TechCrunched. They were throttling our database and we got bit hard. CloudFlare played a big part in not making this a total disaster. We managed to get a lot of the issues straightened out by noon. Next time we'll load test.
Kickstarter is a fantastic platform for supporting the arts. Part of what makes it so great is that everyone's incentives are aligned. Warhol quips aside, Art isn't usually done for financial reasons (speaking very broadly here.)
Design on the other hand walks this weird line between wanting to create something well and wanting to fuel an entity that's capable of creating something *better*.
We had to scrape together the resources to create the first version of Lockitron. Once we had it out there though, it was the *product* that enabled us pool together what we needed to create this new iteration.
With Kickstarter's current approach the funds are released to the backer before the product ships. I don't think this kills project's quality standards, but it certainly adds some pressure to "hang onto" as much of those funds as possible, especially when you are running the project *like a business* - especially as a first time business. It also increases the stress level for the participants where they are paying for the idea but take the risk of receiving a poor likeness.
Our guess was that we could mostly resolve this conundrum for our particular situation by changing the funding model. We created our crowd-funding service from scratch that collects payment information from backers but *does not charge them* until all the development obstacles have been overcome and the unit is ready to ship. This drives us to make the best product possible (so our backers follow through on their reservation), it qualifies our backers (non-spam), and gives us a much better idea of how many units to make. The absolute minimum number of units we had to hit where we could make this work was 1,000 (a lot of electronic component price breaks only start at 1,000) so we aimed for that. We built it quickly and on short notice, but if this experiment is a success, we would love to open source it.
It's like the the prisoner's dilemma right? In one-off interactions most people would choose to defect. In recurring trials though, the better strategy is to collaborate. We believe the value is in creating an entity that creates great things. Our business simply can not operate without trust - we literally have no choice but to collaborate. Our only chance for success is to commit to the long term. This may sound blindly obvious to any business owner, but sometimes as a consumer it's not always apparent, especially when "random" strangers on the internet are asking you for money.
Very cool feedback. Love the initiative to open-source the design.
Have you toyed around with letting people pay some smaller amount than $149 to be involved? For example, could I pay $10/month to "rent" a Lockitron unit, instead of paying $149 up front? Or maybe pay $20 for a shirt (kind of like Kickstarter's tiers). I'm just wondering if you've kicked around ideas that would create a lower initial price point for those that balk at $149.
On the flip side, you're probably better off with the clean message you currently have... and the $149 price point seems to be pretty popular as-is.
We toyed with the idea, but nothing jumped out as an obviously correct approach. Details like these struck us as optimizations and flourishes. To my knowledge, we are only the second, big project to go outside the bounds of Kickstarter independently (Dalton Caldwell's App.net being the first) and the first one to do it like this. There was so much uncertainty in the core premise that we opted for simplicity where we could.
can someone hook me up so I can get a lockitron before 2013?
Hey Paul, are you really back-ordered through 2013?!
Robby, out of curiosity -- would you be willing to pay more than $149 for a Lockitron? I'm wondering if Lockitron could/should do what Tesla did and introduce a "signature" version priced higher which is delivered first. It's probably too late to do that now that they've launched, but it would be an interesting exercise to know if you'd be willing to pay more to "skip the line".
I would be willing to pay anything to have it overnighted as soon as the plastic cooled
We just moved into SOMAcentral, which is a hot startup space in SoMa for 40 startups, most with private offices. The fine folks over there offered us a sweet way to lock & unlock our office door - a new YCombinator-funded startup called Lockitron (no info on their public website yet).
They have an alpha product that connects an iPhone app up to the door lock, allowing us to lock & unlock our office door from anywhere in the world.
It's pretty amazing and it's brand new; you won't find anything on the 'net about it yet, but it's real and we are using it!
Below is a video of Lockitron in action. If you're interested in getting this set up for your home or office just contact me and I'll introduce you to one of the founders.
I didn't know Cameron well, but I was asked to photograph him toward the end of his days. He and I had met before, and he seemed aimiable and very friendly in passing, but working with him closely in this photo session I realized, even in our short time together, how special he was, and what a great friend he was to those who knew him well. Cameron's life embodied the phrase, "You lucky dog!" He was truly blessed to have Bonnie as his human mom and Tamara as his human aunt.
I am very sad not to have known Cameron better. It was an honor to photograph Cameron, and I only wish I had been able to photograph him before his illness as well as in the throes of it.
Cameron will always be with those who knew and loved him.
Here are a few images of Cameron.