Friday, January 29, 2021.
Yesterday I was in a meeting and for a minute my thoughts went to what we have actually been doing these last few months. It’s been something that has been on my mind (for the last few months) but a lot seemed to come together in just 60 seconds. Then I reverted my attention back to the conversation at hand, creating better content in order to optimize ad spend.
Future Marc, you can skip to the bullet points below but just remember that you shared this with your mentor, Robert, who told you to write this stuff down, because before you realize it you will have forgotten what you now feel like. Straightforward advice.
In the last four months we’ve been working hard to start a company called Nuwa Technology. There’s a philosophy behind it – but this is for another time. In these last four months, we’ve reached some awesome milestones with the first Nuwa Innovation we call Pen Tips. Just like the advice, it is quite straightforward: digital artists want more grip when they’re working on their digital canvas (aka a tablet), so we designed replaceable tips that offer more grip.
To start the Nuwa adventure, I knew we needed a simple product made for a large market – that most importantly fit the company that will become Nuwa Technology. I also knew I was in a long line of millions of other entrepreneurs around the world who were “waiting” for a similar opportunity to fall out of the sky. Most of these entrepreneurs have most likely been working just as hard as the other, for many years by now.
The moment it happened for me was when I was in a meeting with a fashion brand I was cofounding, and I waived my iPad around in a moment of enthusiasm (like you would a binder or a notebook). The magnets that connected my Apple Pencil to my iPad gave up and the Pencil fell on its tip.
This wasn’t part of the warranty, so I got to cough up another €135 for A PENCIL.
That’s when I thought that the tip needed some protective coating. So in that same week in November 2019, I went to Alibaba. I wondered if there were knock off brands for these tips. By that time I had done some research and figured out there’s quite some technology in these tips, so it wouldn’t be easy to make. I found some suppliers and asked what it would cost to replace the outside with a rubber coating. The offers came back and in any case I would need to purchase at least 50,000 pieces. There might also be an issue with patents and Apple. So I asked for an alternative and they sent me a cone that you could place over the tip and I ordered some of these.
A few weeks later, these silicon covers came in. I tried them out and immediately got frustrated. They ripped through within a minute, kept falling off and my first thought was this was a stupid idea. I wasn’t very happy in those short moments. Then I tried again. Using them, I noticed there was a lot – maybe too much – grip when I used it. This could be cool for editing pictures in Lightroom when you need to be accurate.
Now I knew this product needed improvement, and I needed to test the market. Simultaneously, I went to some friends who drew on the iPad to ask for their feedback, set up a Squarespace website and launched a €10 global ad campaign. The ease. The feedback came in, it needed to be more durable and less grippy. The first customers were engaging with the ads and I started direct messaging them asking why they liked the ad. I went to the manufacturer and asked to add some thickness and a matte coating. The customers indirectly gave ideas as to what I could use in the ad copy. This was April 2020.
In the period from April 2020 until October 2020, I worked 24 hours a week as a Marketer at a software company and working on my Master Thesis. I took that time to prepare to scale. I had done my market research “How many Apple Pencils are there in the world?”, set up the company legally and drew up a plan on a whiteboard.
I told myself that I would see what I could do with €1,000 that I withdrew from my savings (that’s what’s nice about working during your studies). I used this to buy some inventory, purchase packaging, hire someone to help me with some fundamental branding, buy postage stamps (until I had money to buy a printer) and pay for hosting.
In these months, I remember the first purchase from Romania. The tenth from Mauritius and the hundredth from Japan. The product started going around the world and people were loving it. Towards the end of August, I asked my friend Sebastian if he would help me out with logistics and decided that it was time to quit my job.
Following the time line above we arrived to October 1, 2020. I would call this the first day we started operating as a company. Since then, we’ve put in a lot more hours. These are the bullets points of milestones we’ve reached in the last four months, most in the last week, that I spent that minute thinking about during the meeting:
- Planted 9,500 trees
- Profitable from day one
- Passed 10,000 customers
- Sold to 84 countries/islands
- Grew out the team to 8 people
- We received two wholesale requests
- Have our product line up ready for this year
- Requesting funding for the next Nuwa product
- Receiving offers to manufacture our packaging
- Shipped to the iPad Product Development Team
- Custom developing our webshop and shipping system
- The new samples for our next product are on their way
- In total working with 21 people from different companies to make this all happen.
It’s been very exciting, and I’m looking forward to the next four months. But most of all, I’m looking forward to and enjoying this Nuwa adventure.
Thank you Robert for the advice, till the next Friday.
P.S The picture is from when Sebastian and I delivered Pen Tips to a local customer yesterday.