For a side project that started with a sketch and some experiments with 3D printing by Ljubljana-based startup Equa and local design studio Desnahemisfera two years ago, Goat Story is quite the crowdfunding hit. We are not talking about a high-tech gadget or a life-hack app here. Far from that. The object of desire coveted by tens of thousands of crowdfunders is a coffee mug resembling a goat’s horn, which comes with a leather holder that turns into a stand and a set of straps to be carried around.
Made of eco-friendly materials, harmful BPA-free and 100% leak-proof, the mug’s certainly got a few arguments for itself, yet has a distinctive design that makes people either love it or hate it right away. As such, the project was a marketing bet that Anže Miklavec and his young team developing sustainable products at Equa since 2009 dared to make last December, aiming to raise 25,000 dollars.
Goat Story isn’t Anže’s first strike. As self-made entrepreneur who dropped out of the University of Ljubljana, giving Economics studies up to venture into marketing and product design, he founded several startups such as fitness drinks Ushakes and video production company Out Box. Although he’s involved in all the aspects of the project – from visuals to sales, he stresses that Goat Story is definitely not a one-man band but a collective adventure that started with a vision.
Design with a story
We don’t aim to please everybody anyway, what matters to us is the story behind it.
Born from the desire to create something to shake up the dull market of coffee tumblers, the Goat Mug represents a fashion statement that the designers wouldn’t compromise about. “We are well aware that our product design doesn’t please everybody,” Anže says, “we don’t aim to please everybody anyway, what matters to us is the story behind it.”
Indeed, the choice of the horn shape is not some random reminiscence of Viking coolness but is actually a tribute to the way coffee’s fantastic properties were discovered by a shepherd observing his goats chewing on coffee berries (as told by Equa here, freely inspired by the fanciful Ethiopian legend of Kaldi). A story that Anže insisted on including in the promotional video to let people know what motivated their design decisions.
All-time design enthusiast, Anže stresses the importance that a meaningful design bears to his eyes, saying that too many products on the market don’t have a story, making them dull, average items. In his approach, a bold, original object is likely, if not destined, to be appreciated by only a small crowd. “If it’s for everyone, it’s for no one,” he adds. Yet the whole project is not all trendy smoke and hip mirrors. When discussing sustainability and his involvement with Equa glass bottles, Anže gets jumpy. “The whole concept of water in disposable bottles is a marketing scam,” he states. “Those bottles contain some chemical components that are harmful for the body and represent considerable polluting waste as well,” he says, explaining that Equa seeks to develop healthy alternative solutions matching modern ways of nomad consumption, coffee included.
Targeting Kickstarter users
Founder Anže Miklavec; Photo credit: Goat Story
Anže’s plan was to craft a product not for the masses but for design enthusiasts online, who would appreciate the work behind the object and have the means to support the project. “We didn’t check the competitors or submit the product to the public’s feedback before launching it; it was so niche that we didn’t have to.”
A very niche product indeed, designed for a specific target group embodied in their video by a beardy, fixie-riding and caffeine-addicted young professional. If the hipster archetype might make you smirk, the general idea was to address the generation on-the-go, fashion-conscious, familiar with the take-away coffee culture while caring about the environment (no more paper cups and plastic lids wasted) and supportive of crowdfunding initiatives.
“It was trendy two years ago, but we weren’t sure it would still take off nowadays,” Anže explains, adding that for this reason Goat Story would be carried on Kickstarter only, as a simple side project. The team had no plan B: Either crowdfunding worked, or the product would simply be wiped off the table. Thus, Equa opted for a marketing strategy tailored to the platform with special attention given to visuals and details. To emphasise the human dimension of the whole enterprise, Anže decided to appear personally on the promotional video instead of doing a voiceover. “People pledge money for something that doesn’t exist yet, you have to give them something personal for them to trust you,” he says.
People pledge money for something that doesn’t exist yet, you have to give them something personal for them to trust you.
Luckily for Equa, freelancing and coworking spaces lacking good coffee became even more common in the meantime, and geeks with a sweet tooth for design proved to be many more than originally expected by the Slovenian startup. Once highlighted as Kickstarter staff’s pick, the hype machine took off: The goal was met within three days and the product was featured on numerous design blogs, buzzing even further. Pledges kept pouring in until the very last day of the campaign, eventually hauling in 458,071 dollars (396,220 euros).
Amassing over 18 times its initial target amount, Goat Story rightfully entered the Slovenian Kickstarter legends pantheon, right behind FlyKly (701k) and ahead of Chipolo (293k) and Red Pitaya (256k).Overwhelmed with orders, the company is currently setting up a new website to handle the numerous requests of latecomers keen on purchasing mugs although the campaign is over.
Regarding the success of the project, Anže reveals that roughly 70% of the orders come from the US and Canada, followed by Asia and Europe. The warm response from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea in particular is an outcome the team didn’t foresee at the time. “The Year of the Goat coming up might have pushed the sales in that region,” he reckons.
In the meantime, “a dozen of projects are cooking,” says Anže. “Some will be tested on Kickstarter, others will never see the light… But we won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.”