November 2017
STARTUP STORY

How Failing Kickstarter Probably Saved Our Company

written by
Ken Madsen
Co-founder and CEO @ DXTR Labs

Failure isn't something that is often celebrated in our culture, especially not if you're from Denmark where the Jantelov (Law of Jante) is all too alive and well. Because if you are failing it means that you dared to dream big, stand up, and do something, and that's sometimes still in the Danish DNA.

The 10 commandments of Jante

  1. You're not to think that you're anything special
  2. You're not to think you are as good as us
  3. You're not to think you are smarter than us
  4. You're not to convince yourself that you are better than us
  5. You're not to think you know more than us
  6. You're not to think you are more important than us
  7. You're not to think that you are good at anything
  8. You're not to laugh at us
  9. You're not to think anyone cares about you
  10. You're not to think you can teach us anything

It's sad, really, because failure is oftentimes the number one resource for learning; and learning something you maybe didn't know you had to learn. We learned that the hard way.

Back in 2015, we had just closed our 500k US$ Angel round and we were ecstatic to be launching our Kickstarter campaign in November that same year, after having won the Danish Creative Business Cup and reaching a top 5 spot at the International CBC Finals.

We've come a long way, baby. Back in 2014, we were blissfully unaware of the struggles to come. In retrospect, we would do it all again, because it probably saved our company.

We made a cool video with one of the best agencies in Denmark WDP and their breakout agency WDPx who are the minds behind som eof the most memorable campaigns in Danish history. We had been developing our core technology for almost 2 years, and we thought that the heavenly Startup Bliss was just around the corner.

All we had to do now was tell the world what cool thing we were building and how we wanted to change the face of play forever

Boy did we fantastically underestimate how far we still had to go.

We failed spectacularly on Kickstarter, reaching around 10.000 US$ of our public 50.000 US$ target, which internally was probably closer to 250k US$. We've spent a great deal of time on the post-mortem of our campaign, and the list of reasons for our failure seemed endless. All of these reasons are now stars on our shoulders that we have to carry around as the stigma of failure. Dare I say we carry them with pride today. 

More than teaching us a lot about what it actually is that we are building and how to tell the World, failing Kickstarter helped shape our character and culture. It forced us into thinking differently and embracing the route ahead of us – dramatically realizing the scope of what it is that we are building. It forced us to slow down in order to move fast, and it strengthened the bond of the team in ways we could have never imagined.

It's funny how you can think that you have it all figured out, that you're on the right track, that everything will be great, and then get punched in the face by the stark realities of doing hard things, of pushing the needle, breaking stuff, and growing from zero to one.

That punch teaches you an odd form of humility; one where you are proud to buckle down, grunt through every perceivable and unimaginable obstacle, still without a doubt in your heart that what you're working on will positively impact the future of our kids on a global scale, and where you move on with a sober understanding of what you still don't know.

Fail fast, fail often, and fail cheap they say. I totally agree, yet sometimes you need to dig deep into the dirt and drive the hard things forward so you can start that process again. When you're building a category-defining product with a value proposition that is unheard of, and you're pushing manufacturing processes and wireless technologies, some of your failures will inevitably be on the expensive end of the scale in order to get you to the next level where you iterate onwards with a market now coming around to the next adoption curve.

For the last two years, we have been quietly continuing the development of our technology, company, and product to a point where I'm proud to say that 2018 will be the year playDXTR will finally become a reality.

We couldn't do this without the amazing people here at DXTR who're bleeding every single day for this mission we're on, and we certainly couldn't have done it without the people, mentors, and angels that we've surrounded ourselves with, who understand better than any what journey we are on, and who rejoice in our failures together with us, because every single one of those failures gets us closer to where we want to be.

Out of this has grown ten unwritten rules we have, that technically are now written I guess.

The 10 (until now) unwritten commandments of DXTR

  1. What we do is amazingly special
  2. What we do is at least 10x as good
  3. What we do is at least 10x smarter
  4. We are smart, hungry, and learning
  5. We understand how things will be
  6. What we do is of great importance for all kids
  7. We are creating a new benchmark
  8. We will always try to understand you
  9. We care about the future of our kids, not what others think about us
  10. What we do can teach all of us about the value of play

Our building blocks are getting closer and closer to production. Photoshoots are en route!

In closing; had we not failed early on with our Kickstarter, we'd probably have fatally failed later before getting to where we are today. Looking back at all the tough moments, I wouldn't have been without them. Every single headbang against the wall – this entire journey we've been on – has given us so much, that I'd gladly do it again!

We can't wait to share with you the vision we have for play - so stay tuned over the coming months, as we'll share more on what's to come.

Ken Madsen

Kenneth is our CEO and contact point for everything DXTR Tactile. Ken is making sure that everything we do, we put our passion first; our curiosity for play and learning.

Engineer by training, entrepreneur by heart, father for life.

Secret power: Can stick random objects to his forehead.

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