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By Oliver Milman
StudioProper, dubs itself “Australia’s first home-grown tech accessory design studio”.
The newly-formed business is behind popular iPad accessories The Wallee – which allows users to fit their iPad or iPad 2 against the wall – and Pix and Stix, a set of special drumsticks that are used to “play” the drums on the Apple tablet.
Alon Tamir, the entrepreneurial and design brains behind the business, says: “The technology accessory industry is currently a bland copy-cat game, with success usually judged by how quickly a company can get a new case out for the latest iPhone or iPad.”
“There is very little innovation happening. StudioProper brings something different to the table.”
“We’re not in the rat race. We create beautiful accessories that are fun and something genuinely different from anything you’ll see on the market.”
Tamir talks to StartupSmart about the progress of the business.
What were you doing prior to starting up?
I was working in web development for a long time and I was getting a bit bored with it. It was a bit two dimensional and I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled.
I was in New York when the iPad was launched I was very inspired by the reaction it. The iPad was initially quite hefty and uncomfortable to use in certain positions. I realised I could do something based on the iPad, so I just dived right in and jumped on a plan to China.
How did you fund the business?
I used a crowd funding model. I let people know about the concept and asked for funds for the development. I raised $20,000, which was very successful. It speaks to what happens when people like a brand a lot.
I am open to being approached by an investor, but I’ve been thankful that I’ve been self-sufficient up until now. It has ensured that we’ve been successful while being in control of the development.
What did you do next?
I had an idea what functionality I wanted to have with the accessories, so I consulted an industrial designer to finesse the product.
We were very aggressive with our plans from the get-go. I realised that we’d have to get the product our quickly as everyone would be looking to launch iPad-based businesses. The market would be saturated.
Within a month and a half from being in a café in New York thinking up the idea, I was back in Melbourne getting the product off the ground.
Competition was still pretty fierce – there’s one business in the US and one in Europe that is similar to us.
How did you go about getting it made?
I had no background in that kind of thing – I just didn’t know the language, of manufacturing or Chinese!
Once I got on the ground in China, I realised there was no way I could do it all remotely, but it was very challenging. Eventually, I managed to get to the right manufacturer.
What about the price and marketing?
We defined the price internally, based on the value of the case and the lifespan of the functionality. The product represents quality and we’ve not found any challenges in terms of price.
We were very lucky in that two weeks after we launched our website with the concept, TechCrunch picked us up. It really took off then – hundreds of other sites picked it up.
We were able to provide the product on a pre-order basis and it’s only now that we are thinking up a more formalised way of doing it.
How have people taken to the products?
Very well. We’ve sold 10,000 to Walmart already, since July 2010, when we came up with the first product, Wallee.
Initially, the iPad was too heavy to use in certain ways, but now it is used in a million different environments – retailers use it as a point-of-sale tool, for example, or people in wheelchairs use it on a head rest.
People only have to buy one case – they can then get accessories such as stands on top of that. People like that.
We’ve got eight to 10 major projects on the go in the next 12 months. I’m full-time, while three others are part-time.
We are working on a product to be used in public spaces called Wallee Lock – which locks the button and secures the iPad, so that it can be used in a museum, for example, and not be stolen.
It would’ve cost us millions of dollars to get a patent, so we realised the best way to protect your market share is get out there first and do it better than everyone else.
I think, these days, there is no real protection. Anything can be copied. The only way to safeguard your product is through service, innovation and quality.
I’m confident that we will do as well or better than everyone else. If we focus on growth, innovation will follow.
It’s too early to be setting goals, but we will need a major expansion in distribution in the US and Europe – that’s the growth strategy. But, for now, the goal is to get the products in as many hands as possible.
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