InnovationRCA Start-Up is Most Successful Asian Crowdfunding Campaign
A design group within the Royal College of Art’s business incubator, InnovationRCA, has raised more than $1m for its all-terrain long-board, Stair Rover – making it the most successful Asian crowd-funding campaign to date.
The Stair Rover team, comprising Design Products graduate Po-Chih Lai, Quake Hsu and Ard Heynike, raised $1.07m since launching Stair Rover on Asian crowdfunding platform ZecZec at the end of August. Stair Rover, a longboard featuring an eight-wheel chassis design that allows to glide down stairs and across rough terrains, has been developed from Po-Chih Lai’s 2012 ‘truck and wheel invention’ work, begun at the RCA.
According to Stair Rover co-founder Quake Hsu, the ZecZec campaign has been particularly successful after a series of refinements to the design and a period of intense user testing, which helped Stair Rover identify a new target market.
‘We’ve worked hard to revise the product, and produce better marketing elements like photography. Re-evaluating the price has also helped our success – we’ve found that pitching Stair Rover at $200 is working much better,’ said Hsu. ‘Doing a survey before the product launch also helped us discover that the key market for the product is actually older than we thought – it’s the 25–40-year-old age group that don’t want to risk injury with all the usual skateboard tricks,’ he adds.
The group had previously began marketing Stair Rover to an extreme sport audience, but with the survey findings, realised that the longboard should be positioning around ‘stability through all terrains’. ‘The tricks are cool, but not everyone is aiming for that. We’re providing a more accessible experience,’ added Hsu.
Stair Rover has also benefited from a more focused approach to marketing. The team has been working closely with Taiwanese skate shop All Ride to access skate ‘opinion leaders’, harnessing their interest and influence. ‘This has actually worked better than more blanket design media,’ said Hsu. ‘It’s much more targeted and relevant.’
Funds raised will go towards manufacturing costs, product development and marketing, including taking Stair Rover to international trade shows – ISPO in Germany, and Surf Expo in the US. Stair Rover will be manufactured in China by a Taiwanese firm. Hsu said that one of the key advantages is the team's strong Taiwanese links, and as such, knowledge of how Asian manufacturers work. It has helped get Stair Rover prototypes made more quickly.
The Stair Rover team’s vision is to continue to develop its all-terrain technology, applying it to a number of different products and contexts such as scooters. ‘The long-term goal is to partner with big brands. These are the firms that have the capacity to take new products to market. That’s why it’s so important for us to prove Stair Rover’s potential,’ said Hsu.
Nadia Danhash, Director of InnovationRCA, said: ‘InnovationRCA began working with Po-Chih Lai shortly after his graduation and helped him build his start-up team, develop his business proposition and we provided seed funds allowing him to develop the design making the board more versatile and easy to use. It’s been inspiring to see how both co-founders, Po-Chih and Quake have evolved into entrepreneurs with real spirit and passion.’