Niki Singlaub travels a lot for work and wanted a water bottle that folded to fit into his pocket while going through airport security. Then he could pop it open and fill it up before boarding. But even after diving deep into the depths of Amazon (there’s things you can’t unsee people) Singlaub couldn’t find what he needed. So being a product designer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart, he made one.

As it turns out, Singlaub was onto something. His collapsible water bottle not only caught the attention of his friends and family, but he’s raised nearly $100,000 thanks to excited Kickstarter backers this month. And the campaign is still going. BendTECH sat down with Singlaub to discuss what goes into designing his collapsible water bottle called the Hydaway, and how he transformed his idea into a successful, nearing six-figure Kickstarter campaign.

Startup: Hydaway
Founded: June 2014
Founder: Niki Singlaub
Location: Bend

What’s wrong with regular water bottles? Well, my complaint actually came from travelling. I was taking all these short flights for work and just bringing a carry-on. I couldn’t find a water bottle that fit into my messenger bag. I really wanted something I could collapse and put into my pocket, but all I could find online were those bladders.

niki bigger
Niki Singlaub, founder of Hydaway.

So you made one? Yep. I’m a product designer. I do freelance product design and product management for a range of outdoor gear, kid and pet product companies. After I had this idea, I went to REI and found two collapsible camp cups and glued them together. Then I used a desk grommet as a lid. That was my proof of concept.

hydaway_niki_large

 

What did it take to transform two, glued camp cups into a product that you could actually use? It was a long process, probably about two years. After I had that first prototype, I showed my family and friends and they couldn’t believe something like it didn’t already exist. I started to refine the idea, sketching out the designs and hiring a firm to help create computer models. Then I found a 3-D printer that could print a silicone-like plastic and we made a sample. During this time I also ran a couple of IP searches to make sure no one else was working on the same idea.

What was your biggest concern? I really wanted to make sure the product was watertight. I mean we were focused on it being collapsible, but if it couldn’t hold water, what’s the point? We really had to laser in on the details such as the seal between the straw and lid, and the thickness of the material.

Fold up your water bottle.

Your Kickstarter campaign is still going strong. Were you surprised by its success? What do you think caused it?  I was a little surprised. I had done a Kickstarter campaign last summer. I’d set a goal of $40,000 and raised $23,000. So technically it failed, but I got 350 backers out of it. That first time I just set up the campaign and hit go, and then starting contacting media and other supporters. This time around I started reaching out to those original backers months beforehand, and really getting people excited about early bird rewards for the first supporters. When we finally launched on April 12, people were ready. We reached our funding goal in 27 hours.

And you got the attention of Kickstarter too? Yes, because we had such a large amount of early support, we were listed as one of the most popular campaigns for the first few days and then we became a Kickstarter Staff Pick. We had a lot of momentum. I realized that it was a lot more about selling the rewards and the product than fundraising. I feel like that first campaign really helped us.

What will you do with the money? Since we funded so early, I was able to place a purchase order with my manufacturer in China right away. We’ll fill our Kickstarter order first and that should be done by August. Then I’ve been talking with many retailers including REI, Amazon, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and local outdoor, kids, and gift shops. I’ll use the rest of the funds to fill retail orders.

Do you anticipate Hydaway becoming your full-time job? I’ll definitely be busy this summer. Then after these first orders, I’ll need to evaluate what to do. There’s a whole beverage container industry here in Central Oregon with Hydroflask and Silipint. I hope Hydaway could be a company like that. I already have a whole product line sketched out that includes things like collapsible luggage and lunch boxes.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley