Building A Global Brand: A Graphene X Story by Jorge Barros
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? I’m sure most of you have, but for those that haven’t, the butterfly effect is defined as “the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state”. The reason for starting the first article of this blog with this is because we can strongly correlate the existence of Graphene-X with a series of events and decisions I made without having a clue they would lead to the birth of this venture. They will be covered in a series of articles that will follow this pilot.
The idea of this blog is to share the “behind the scenes” of Graphene-X, the roads we are taking to build a global brand, the lessons we learn in the process, the successes and the failures, the challenges we face, and just about everything that we do in this venture with brutal honesty and transparency. We will also be talking about Materials Science and how this empowers our products and how Graphene will most probably change the world as we know it today.
Brands are built by their users. Apple is what it is because of the millions of people that are willing to camp outside their stores to get the new iPhone. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter among others would be absolutely senseless without the people using them. Peak Design wouldn’t be the same without the loyal vibe-sharing community that stands with them. Having great products is the standard in today’s world, and in every champion brand, we see that their users are the pumping heart of their system.
We define ourselves as a “backer-centric” brand and we are aiming to take this claim to a whole new level because it just makes total sense. Think about it. When you have a business idea, the two main roads that can help to bring that idea to life are:
- You have enough money in your bank account and the right connections in that industry — giving you the opportunity to “bet” on the idea and see how it goes.
- You raise capital through venture capitalists which can also connect you with the right persons/markets to see that idea bloom.
While I will not stop at the former possibility, I will stop for a while in the second just to further analyze our method (which is none of these two by the way). I’m not saying that building a successful business with money and connections of your own is not interesting, but it’s just less frequent, and also it was not our case, so we have little to talk about it.
On the other hand, when you get investment from VC’s you are tied to accomplish THEIR expectations (which may totally differ from your original vision). You are demanded to put financial results as your main priority. When you start getting investment from VC’s the ideals you may have are threatened. Basically, you lose a big asset which is an unrestricted vision. However, as bad as it sounds in the lines above it’s a necessary “evil” sometimes. Without them, many world-changing ideas would have never been born, and many brilliant people would have only dreamed of bringing those ideas to life.
In our case, we decided to crowdfund our idea through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a platform where people can back projects which are not yet produced (in most of the cases) for the compensation of getting that product before anyone else, for a better price and for the sole intention of helping someone to bring an idea/vision they believe in as well to life.
Why it made sense to us to do it this way?
Because we didn’t have the money to mass produce our product, because we had never worked in the apparel industry and didn’t have the contacts to reach a bunch of people who would be willing to buy/sell our product, because through a fraction of the traditional investment to activate an idea like this, we could make sure that our vision was shared with enough people so this whole thing made sense. Finally, we didn’t want to expose our vision to investors.
The most amazing part of this is that your obligation remains with them, with your backers. Instead of reporting to traditional venture capitalists you need to report to them and in 99,99% of the cases they demand quality products, great delivery, and an “open-book” communication that’s fully transparent on the emerging challenges and that the brand is ready to kill to fulfil the promises made. All this SHOULD be in line with your original vision, making things much easier.
In our Graphene-X Alpha Series Jacket campaign (which will be fully covered in a 3-part future article reviewing the pre-launch phase, the live campaign phase, and the post-campaign phase) we were backed by nearly 2.000 supporters from over 70 countries. Can you imagine how many talented people there are among that bunch?
Also see, these folks were willing to put money in our pockets 7 months before getting anything and only knowing us briefly from a 3-minute video and a landing page we prepared for our campaign. The reason they did that was because they saw sense in our ideas. They agreed with us on the fact that there are very few options when thinking of truly all-round apparel. These people already share a vision with us, so why not making them part of the brand? What if we asked them to do the marketing with us through user-generated content? What if we made them participate in the important decisions we make as a brand? Even further, what if we develop a board of directors composed of backers of the brand so we can empower the brand with their talent and build a company as it has never been done before?
Well, I guess we will soon find out. At the time of writing this (September 2020), we have no idea if this will work or not, but surely has better chances of doing so if you are part of it.
On October 6th 2020 we will be launching our second Kickstarter campaign. This time, we asked our original backers what they wanted next and an overwhelming 80% said pants. The OMEGA pants are the fruit of really hard work, heavy R&D, and all the values/ideas commented on this article put together. Hope to see you all there.
Founder and CEO of Graphene-X
PS. If you would like to read my thoughts on a particular topic don’t be shy and let me know in the comments thread.