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在线翻译:
szdaily -> People
Frenchman’s US$1 million Kickstarter success
     2015-March-20  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Luo Songsong

    songsongluo@126.com

    When Steve Jobs unveiled the first-generation iPhone in 2007, the original device, which essentially removed the physical keyboard, received harsh criticism, but it later turned out to be a milestone in technology history. The same thing happened again last year when Tim Cook released the Apple Watch.

    When French entrepreneur Laurent Le Pen showed a prototype of a standalone smartwatch to business partners he worked with as an original design manufacturing (ODM) manager in the mobile industry in Shenzhen two years ago, he was told that it was too risky to put the product on the market.

    Driven by his sense of the wearable market, Le Pen, CEO of Omate, decided to create his own brand and went to the crowdfunding platform — Kickstarter — to raise US$100,000.

    Le Pen launched Omate True Smart, the first standalone smartwatch with a built-in micro-SIM card, camera and GPS in August 2013. A month later, 4,378 people worldwide poured over US$1 million into his campaign.

    “If we released a similar product of Pebble’s watch, nobody would talk about us,” said Le Pen in his office at High-Tech Park in Nanshan District. “We knew our focus would be on multiple wearable devices, but we couldn’t disclose all our cards back then.”

    Just one year after the launch, IT giants like Samsung, LG, Apple and Huawei have intruded into the market one after another.

    “We are competing with brands like Casio and Swatch rather than large IT companies. We look at H&M, UNIQLO and Forever21 in the fashion industry as role models,” said Le Pen. Instead of cutting-edge technology, Omate’s emphasis is on simplicity and style.

    Therefore, he removed sensors from the True Smart design but retained the functions of time display and notification reminders. The change increased the battery life up to five days and reduced its price to between US$99 and US$149.

    Today, the most important device in a person’s life is the smartphone, but it remains uncertain whether it is necessary to include body sensors to detect one’s heartbeat and other health information, he said.

    “Whether you are a young startup or a renowned global high-tech company, we are all on a learning curve,” said Le Pen.

    Wearables have always been criticized for their geekish appearance. Positioned as a fast-fashion brand, Omate has to act fast and bring variety to the crowded wearable market.

    “Ninety percent of smartwatches on [the] market now are companion watches, meant to be used alongside a smartphone. The rest are geek watches. They are more complex, but they are not very appealing,” said Le Pen.

    Earlier this year, Omate designed a smart watch exclusively for women, called Lutetia. In a report issued last year by NPD Group, a market research firm, a survey of 1,800 Canadians found that 25 percent of the men said they would be interested in buying a smartwatch compared to about 18 percent of women, The New York Times reported Jan 18.

    In addition to seeking breakthroughs in wrist design, Omate wants to transform sales channels. At CES 2015, Omate announced a partnership with Richline Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., to penetrate American markets, which means Omate products will be displayed alongside jewelry instead of electronics.

    To shape Omate like a global fashion brand, Le Pen plans to launch new watch collections by season like traditional luxury brands do. In the ever-changing fashion industry, the faster, the better. “When we started up the business, we aimed at a global presence,” said Le Pen.

    “The Chinese market is very sensitive to price and is too crowded. In China, people want a broad range of gadgetry in their devices while Western markets value the concept of ‘less is more,’” Le Pen explained. At the end of June, Omate will head to Africa to assemble smartwatches in cooperation with a local telecom company.

    “Africa is a small market but has a huge population. I am okay being the first one to explore it,” said Le Pen. His viewpoint, attitude, mindset and vision are the key elements to his startup’s success. After his Kickstarter campaign, many companies tried to launch similar products on the platform but ended up with bleak funding results.

    “The startup companies focused too much on a particular country and lacked a sense of marketing skills,” said Le Pen, who prepared for six months ahead of Omate’s launch on Kickstarter. The preparation work included marketing on foreign social media platforms, contacting technology journalists and making a product introduction video that told the compelling story behind the design.

    The goal behind all of Le Pen’s efforts was to build up the brand. Omate has foreign watch designers but no sales staff. Le Pen explained that they took the advantage of foreign social media to speak for their products and sought partners to distribute their watch collections worldwide.

    When asked by other young entrepreneurs how to raise US$1 million on Kickstarter, Le Pen usually says that people don’t go to Kickstarter to make money but to build up a brand that is recognized by consumers.

    Pebble first made its name known on Kickstarter in 2012, it easily raised US$1 million in 49 minutes for a new watch this year, easily setting a new record, and raised more than US$10 million in two days to become the most-funded project in Kickstarter history.

    Here are several tips that Le Pen likes to share with young entrepreneurs who plan to go to Kickstarter: Learn everything about your industry; get recommendations; set your overall marketing strategy; think about your targeted community of users; and do not offer T-shirts and US$1 Thanks pledges.

    “Your campaign only ends when you ship your last product to your last backer. Crowdfunding is not a tool to make money but to help you build a project through pre-orders and, more importantly, to build brand recognition in your industry,” said Le Pen.

    In June, Le Pen will participate in JCK Las Vegas, the jewelry industry’s premier trade show, for the first time since he co-founded Omate.

    Already Le Pen has turned down acquisition requests from two big companies in Europe and the United States. “We have a long-term strategy and believe there is room for the H&M of the smartwatch industry to grow up. Our mission is to connect the world by offering fashionable, wearable devices at affordable prices,” said Le Pen.

    “Our mission is to connect the world by offering fashionable, wearable devices at affordable prices.”

    — French entrepreneur Laurent Le Pen

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