Interview: FluxMob Co-Founder Alan Tran Takes Charge: Kickstarting and Partnering with eBay’s Innovators Collective

fluxmobWith an increasing number of start-ups launching with crowdfunding platforms, eBay has turned into a logical “step two” for entrepreneurs like FluxMob’s cofounders who are looking to expand their product’s reach.  Alan Tran and his childhood friend Justin Zito swiftly raised $90,253 in initial funds for their tech gadget company, FluxMob, through Kickstarter, overfunding with the help of 1,790 backers. Looking to grow more quickly, the duo partnered with eBay and saw a significant jump in demand for their first product, FluxMob BOLT, a portable USB battery backup with built in wall charger.  Currently shipping globally, FluxMob has outgrown Zito’s garage and began their warehouse space hunt in Southern California.
 
ebay_marketplaces_logoOver 60% of US technology-enabled commercial sellers survive their first five years, according eBay’s Commerce 3.0 research.  eBay works with start-ups like FluxMob to help them survive the next five years and beyond with programs like the Innovators Collective. This pilot project showcases small businesses as well as well-known brands that are “pushing the edge of innovation,” according to David Ramadge, eBay’s Director of Entrepreneurship and Venture Outreach.

fluxmobWhen eBay’s Innovators Collective team reached out to FluxMob, Tran and Zito promptly agreed to join forces.  FluxMob sees itself as the “quintessential” Innovators Collective seller; not only tech-related with its sleek design and functionality, Fluxmob is also a small business that is both new to eBay and eager to grow. The Innovators Collective helps eBay build storefronts specifically for the startup’s needs and promotes FluxMob in the collective both on eBay’s home page, across SEO and on advertisements across social platforms.

 

I recently caught up with Alan Tran via phone and email to discuss how FluxMob has maintained its momentum after crowdfunding and about its nascent relationship with eBay’s Innovators Collective.  Our interview follows:

Erin: Why did you choose Kickstarter over Indiegogo, Tilt or Self-Crowdfunding?

alan tranAlan: We chose Kickstarter initially because we liked the control panel and the vetting process. To us it seemed like a more reputable platform at the time.

Erin: Bolt successfully kickstarted and swiftly overfunded, raising $90,253 with the help of 1,790 backers.  What was your experience crowdfunding?

Alan: Our crowdfunding experience was amazing. Being new to it all, we didn’t know what to expect, but in the end, the long days and nights paid off. The experience and knowledge we gained was invaluable. We were overwhelmed by the support from people all around the world that believed in us and our idea. Because of their support, our project was a huge success, we will never forget that.

Erin: What recommendations would you give for aspiring hardware crowdfunders?

Kickstarter Logo BlackAlan: We recommend that you make sure your product can be made before you post it. We cannot stress this enough. We’ve seen too often that others seem to think their idea is pretty straightforward only to be stuck in limbo after a campaign because of a manufacturing oversight that could have been avoided. Shop around for manufacturers before your campaign goes live and secure a detailed plan and estimated pricing. Don’t be afraid to get multiple estimates and opinions on your process.

Erin: How did you manage production of the product? 

money dollars 100s benjamin franklinAlan: Justin and I work very closely night and day with our manufacturer and project manager, who is overseas throughout the whole process. We communicated through the usual: emails, Skype, and WeChat. During production, we also visited the factory in China to ensure our standards were met. We did this all without outside help.

Erin: Will you do an equity crowdfunding round? Who are your investors in Fluxmob?

Alan: No. We have only received funding through our Kickstarter campaign.

Erin: Describe your startup’s beginnings.  When you met Co-founder Justin Zito in first grade, did you ever think that BOLT was in your future? Describe your symbiotic work relationship.

boltAlan: For as long as we could remember, we’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit. We’ve been cooking up ideas and have worked together on many different projects over the years. Most of them never panned out, until now. We never thought BOLT specifically was in our future, but we knew that if we kept working hard and stayed persistent, one of our ideas would finally stick.

Our personalities are pretty different, but that’s what makes us work great together. I’m more outspoken and optimistic and Justin is more on the quieter side and is more of a pessimist, but I think that’s a good balance. We’re both very focused and we work fast and efficiently, which we both feel are very important in terms of work ethic. It doesn’t really feel like we “work” together; to be honest, it’s more like we’re both just hanging out like we usually do, only now it’s hanging out and running a business.

bolt

Erin: What engendered BOLT?  How do you see the company evolving over time?

Alan: There are always going to be competitors, the key is being able to stay one step ahead and produce the best products that you can while being able to deliver at your target retail price. That’s the biggest challenge that we face.

Erin: Are there many opportunities for partnership?

Alan: Absolutely. There are opportunities for partnerships everywhere from manufacturing to marketing. It’s all about finding like-minded and trustworthy partners who can help create a symbiotic relationship.

fluxmob

Erin: Please describe your partnership with eBay.  How role does its Innovators Collective play in promoting disruption and innovation?  

Alan: Our partnership with eBay is excellent. The eBay team always make sure we are equipped with all the tools and information we need to successfully run a store on eBay. Now with the Innovators Collective and the fresh new look, it’s attracting new faces and traffic because people are gravitating to the new products the collective is offering. Many people are tired of seeing the same generic products that you see a million versions of. Innovators Collective is disrupting this by offering these curated products that are actually unique and innovative.

Erin: The Bolt is currently selling on eBay.  How and why did you connect with eBay and Brian Greenhagen, Manager of eBay’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Outreach?

Brian GreenhagenAlan: The eBay team came across our product and reached out to us because our company was a perfect fit for the Innovators Collective. As soon as we talked and were filled in on the Innovators Collective, we were pumped. To be given the opportunity to be one of the first companies to join this new venture was awesome. Not to mention we were already planning on selling on eBay. It was perfect timing.

Erin: What’s been your experience as a startup working with a behemoth like eBay?  Describe what makes this partnership beneficial for both.

The Earth Globe WorldAlan: Our experience working with eBay has been nothing but great. eBay has made setting up a store and selling a product very speedy and effortless. We were up and running within a few hours. As a start-up, working with a pioneer like eBay allows us to reach a far greater audience because their impact and reach around the globe. In return, eBay gets to partner with up and coming start-ups that are creating the innovative products people are looking for. The industry has changed and the larger companies are no longer the only players in the game. Now smaller companies such as ours are able to start and scale quickly thanks to crowdfunding platforms and sales channels such as eBay.

Fluxmob bolt and breaking bad actorErin: Stay tuned for an upcoming product release from FluxMob… 

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