Crowd funding the future

By: Anna Bruno, Kayak Session, Paddle World and Sup World Mag editor.

Trak kayaks and the future of product development

The process of designing, creating, and manufacturing a new product is costly and time consuming. Finding investors who believe in you or fundraising the costs can be a challenge, no matter the product you are creating or how well established your company may be.
This could be about to change. Thanks to the advent of the Internet, online pay-systems, and crowd-funding sites like KickStarter or IndieGoGo, new opportunities are available to companies to share their vision and find individuals who believe in their products.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the success story of Trak Kayaks, a company from northern Canada.Trak has been manufacturing portable performance kayaks since 2006. Their goal:“Build awesome kayaks that transform paddling adventures.”With the building and development of their Trak 2.0 Ultimate Touring Kayak, Trak may be transforming more than paddling adventures.They are changing the ways companies interact with the market.

To develop their Trak 2.0 Touring Kayak the company went directly to the consumer. First, they asked the paddling community what they think would make the ultimate touring kayak. The answers? Durability, versatility, quality materials, and light enough to carry on planes, trains and automobiles.
“We received responses from more than 1,600 paddlers to our extensive questions rela- ting to sea kayaking, paddling and other outdoor activities and how these fit into their lives. The amount of data we received was stunning.We learned what paddlers are looking for in a kayak and what they are hesitant to accept; they are hungry for something portable but skeptical of something fragile; they want something that is beautiful and of high quality but also seaworthy and robust and; as importantly, they are not just paddlers – they are campers, hikers, tourers and adventurers, ” says Nicholas Jonas,Trak’s Marketing support.

Trak then took the feedback into a period of serious R&D, spending more than two years developing and testing new designs.“We received in-depth feedback from TRAK paddlers and owners, then reached out further. We created TRAK’s 20/20 Team to critique our pro- duct designs, contribute to outreach within the paddling community, and provide TRAK with unique and creative contributions from their unique skillsets.” (Trak).

As they updated each phase of the design,Trak launched seven different test expeditions in Canada, USA, Spain, France, Israel, UK, Korea, and the Philippines. Tests and feedback resulted in re-designed carbon fiber ribs, bow and stern frames, hydraulic jacks, the seat, back band, gear/floatation bags, the deck lashing systems, and even the skin design and storage and travel bag system.After a couple iterations of the carbon fiber frames,Trak rea- lized that they were going to have to invent a new process that would allow them to make all of the changes necessary to create the “ultimate” kayak in a way that wasn’t going to absolutely destroy their budget.
Hence, the idea of crowd-funding. In early 2017,TRAK consulted with their media and mar- keting teams, and were told that a crowd-funding campaign wasn’t a good idea.“Everyone we talked to in the industry smiled at us, wished us luck, and privately shook their heads and whispered that we were absolutely crazy,” laughs owner Noelin Veillard. “But we’re used to being different, and doing things that no one else thinks will work.”Trak went ahead with their crowd-funding plan, launching the campaign on Kickstarter on May 23rd, 2017.

The results were astounding.Trak pre-sold almost $500,000 USD of kayaks in 30 days, and have currently sold out the first run of production, raising over $900,000. Over 300 kayaks have been pre-sold for delivery in 2018.The company has started selling into the second production run – before the first run has even started coming out of the factory.
“We set out with the belief that the success of this project would hinge on TRAK drawing from the collective experience and insight of real, avid paddlers,” says Trak. Clearly, they were right.

The question remains, is this a viable option for all companies? Clearly, while the customer has always driven the market, now they have far more influence, and the ability to vocalize their desires than ever before. By allowing consumers to directly impact the market and production, who knows what the future will look like. One thing is certain.Through opening the door to crowd-funding,Trak has left it wide open for more innovations then ever before.

By: Anna Bruno, Kayak Session, Paddle World and Sup World Mag editor