$1.5M per month Smart Wallets, Accessories, Bags, and Accessories Brand – Olivier Momma of Ekster
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 51:57)
Sponsors & Partners
Olivier Momma, Founder of Ekster, shares how he came to the US as a Fulbright scholar and decided to create a trackable wallet brand after meeting his co-founder in business school. Olivier shares his experiences launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, challenges with marketing and customer acquisition, and goal of building a global smart travel gear brand.
Olivier Momma,” Olivier M, the founder and head of marketing at Ekster, shares his business journey from studying in the US on a full scholarship to observing the shift to digital payments and noticing the persistence of traditional wallets in the Western World. Inspired by this observation, he and his co-founder started Ekster, initially creating a trackable wallet with a built-in tracking device to help users locate lost wallets. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, they decided to sell the tracker and wallet separately, giving Ekster a five-year head start on market rivals like Apple’s AirTag. Later, they partnered with Apple to create a credit card-sized AirTag tracker with a built-in solar panel and expanded their product offerings to include wallets, bags, cases, and accessories made with modern, sustainable materials. In response to Apple’s AirTag, the business had to adapt by collaborating with Apple to create a more compact tracker. They also changed their strategy by offering a range of eco-friendly, high-quality products and expanding their networking efforts to provide a worldwide tracking system. The entrepreneurs behind Ekster emphasized the importance of seeking out design agencies that are supportive of small startups and taking risks on new ideas, as well as having a good product-market fit, effective ads, and a strong commitment to sustainability in both supply chain and internal practices. They grew their team from 15 to 50 people and followed a remote-first work policy. Despite the challenges of increasing advertising costs and the need to constantly acquire new customers, the entrepreneurs aimed to grow their company to hit at least $100 million in revenue within the next two years and become a leading smart travel gear brand worldwide. Olivier also advocated for learning from successful companies and entrepreneurs to inform business strategies
- 00:00:00 In this section of Trep Talks, entrepreneur Sushant interviews Olivier M, the founder and head of marketing at Ekster, a company that aims to simplify daily life with intuitive products. Olivier shares his background, including studying in the US on a full Bright scholarship and meeting his co-founder in business school. During an internship in Hong Kong, he noticed the shift to digital payments and was surprised by the persistent use of traditional wallets in the Western World. Inspired by this observation, Oliver and his co-founder started Ekster, originally creating a trackable wallet with a built-in tracking device to help users locate lost wallets. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, they decided to sell the tracker and wallet separately, giving Ekster a five-year head start on market rivals like Apple’s AirTag
- 00:05:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the speaker discusses how their business had to adapt when Apple released the AirTag. To stay competitive, they partnered with Apple to create a credit card-sized AirTag tracker with a built-in solar panel. The tracker connects to an app, allowing users to monitor the wallet’s location, with a range of about 100 meters using Bluetooth technology. For next year, the business aims to expand their network, “Fmy Network,” to provide a worldwide tracking system. When considering starting a business, the entrepreneur decided to enter the wallet business instead of just the tracking device business because people showed more interest in wallets. Olivier Momma offers a range of products, including wallets, bags, cases, and accessories made with modern, sustainable materials, designed to help people efficiently move from place to place
- 00:10:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the founders discuss their innovative business and the challenges they faced while creating their first product. They came up with the idea as students without much experience or funds and opted to find a local prototyping partner to help them build the first prototype. The process was lengthy, and they approached multiple design agencies, but only one was willing to work with them on a decent budget. Despite being doubted by many, they managed to create the first sample and launch a successful Kickstarter campaign. The entrepreneurs looking to bring new and innovative products to market should seek out design agencies that are supportive of small startups and willing to take risks on new ideas. It’s not necessary to work with the biggest design agency but rather one that is willing to invest in the development of the first prototype
- 00:15:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the speaker discusses the importance of finding a trustworthy partner for business growth and shares his experience with Kickstarter. He emphasizes the value of learning from successful partners and negotiating for a fee basis. Moving on, the speaker talks about the launch of his business on Kickstarter a few years ago when the platform was less competitive. He shared that benchmarking other campaigns and seeking advice from successful campaigns helped him create a successful campaign. The speaker also emphasizes the importance of hitting the target goal within the first 24 hours to get on the popular page, increasing engagement, and utilizing different strategies to boost visibility on the platform. After the successful launch on Kickstarter, the speaker also invested in marketing efforts outside of the platform to drive traffic to his campaign
- 00:20:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the speaker discusses how they collaborated with an agency to run Facebook ads for their Kickstarter campaign, despite initially not having the budget. The ads proved successful, tripling the campaign’s revenue towards the end. The speaker emphasizes that having a good product-market fit and effective ads are crucial for growing a business. They also highlight their unique product offering, being the first with a tracker and easy access feature, as a significant factor in their success. The speaker acknowledges the existence of competition but dismisses the threat posed by blatant copycats. Instead, they identify more established wallet and EDC brands, such as Belroy or Ridge, as their main competitors. The speaker also mentions that the industry is still growing, enabling all brands to grow alongside it
- 00:25:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the speaker discusses the challenges of growing a business due to increasing advertising costs and the need to constantly acquire new customers. He mentions that his target audience is mostly male, tech-savvy young professionals in North America, particularly in the US. The audience is not super premium but appreciates high-quality products at reasonable prices. The speaker explains that they have tried offering female-oriented designs but have seen less demand due to their male-focused branding. Their biggest markets are North America and Europe, and they have grown significantly in recent years, expanding their team from 15 to 50 people, all based in Europe
- 00:30:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the speaker discusses his company’s distributed team of 50 employees, with the majority based in Amsterdam and the rest working remotely from different countries. The team follows a remote-first work policy, with quarterly on-site events for connection. The company, which focuses on sustainability, started implementing eco-friendly practices back in 2015, partnering with factories holding the highest certifications and designing products sustainably from the ground up. Recently joining the B Corp organization took three years and required a strong commitment to sustainability in both supply chain and internal practices. The speaker emphasizes the significant internal benefits in building a strong culture, alongside the external approval and consumers recognition
- 00:35:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the founder discusses the importance of sustainable business practices and the role of warehousing and fulfillment in this regard. He mentions working primarily with third-party logistics (3PL) companies in different regions, including the US, Canada, and the UK, with plans to expand to Europe. The business has simplified its operations by consolidating warehouses and implementing an ERP system for inventory management. Marketing efforts have evolved from relying mainly on PR, influencers, and email marketing to a significant investment in performance marketing and a large team dedicated to this channel, with a presence on multiple social media platforms
- 00:40:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the co-founders discuss their business strategy, which focuses primarily on Performance Marketing and involves bringing people into their funnel through various channels, though performance marketing is the main revenue driver. There are three co-founders: two handle marketing and product development, while the third is in charge of the website and finance. The founders continue to be actively involved in the day-to-day operations, working alongside their team rather than delegating tasks extensively. They have grown the team significantly and are still managing it well, although they acknowledge that more delegation might be beneficial. When asked about their future plans, the founders express their commitment to continuing to grow the brand. They do not mention any intentions of exiting the business
- 00:45:00 In this section of the YouTube video titled “Olivier Momma,” the entrepreneur discusses his business goals and a past failure. He aims to grow his company to hit at least $100 million in revenue within the next two years and become a leading smart travel gear brand worldwide. However, he shares a major setback in which a product batch with insecure buttons slipped through quality control and caused significant damage to the brand’s reputation. The entrepreneur learned a valuable lesson to never trust partners too much and always maintain a strong focus on quality control. He recommends the book “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller for entrepreneurs, shares enthusiasm for the potential of a vertical takeoff aircraft called EV Vault, and mentions Todoist as a productivity tool that has greatly helped him manage his tasks
- 00:50:00 In this section of the interview with Olivier, he shares his admiration for Ronnie Fieg and the influential impact he has had on modern fashion, including his role as a founder of Kith. When asked for business advice for entrepreneurs, Olivier advocates for benchmarking against successful companies and learning from their strategies, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel on one’s own. He emphasizes that there is value in learning from those who have come before, and that Kith continues to prioritize this approach every day by examining the top direct-to-consumer brands and adapting their best practices for their own business. Olivier also expresses appreciation for the interviewer’s questions and encourages listeners to check out Kith’s web shop at ek.com for product purchases
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
Book: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Olivier Momma of Ekster
|[00:00:08] Introduction to Trep Talks with Sushant Misra
|[00:00:24] Welcoming Olivier Momma of Ekster: Company Overview
|[00:01:06] Olivier’s Background and the Fulbright Scholarship
|[00:02:00] Inspiration Behind Ekster’s Beginnings
|[00:03:00] Creating the Trackable Wallet
|[00:04:21] Integrating Tracking Devices and Apple’s Influence
|[00:05:58] Technology Behind Ekster’s Tracking Devices
|[00:07:34] Ekster’s Shift: Wallets vs. Tracking Devices
|[00:12:36] Prototyping Challenges & Finding the Right Partner
|[00:13:47] Advice for Entrepreneurs on Product Prototyping
|[00:15:31] Partnering Arrangements & Equity vs. Fee Basis
|[00:16:21] Insights into a Successful Kickstarter Launch
|[00:18:00] Strategies for Kickstarter Success & Campaign Goals
|[00:19:39] Engaging the Audience & Crowdfunding Rules
|[00:20:55] Leveraging Facebook Ads During a Kickstarter Campaign
|[00:21:56] Factors Contributing to Market Resonance & Competition Insights
|[00:27:18] Gender-Centric Branding & Market Dynamics
|[00:29:14] Global Market Presence & Team Expansion
|[00:30:10] Geographical Team Distribution & Remote Work Culture
|[00:31:00] Emphasis on Sustainability in Business Practices
|[00:33:18] The Process of Becoming a B Corp & Its Impact
|[00:35:39] Warehousing, Fulfillment, and Shipping Strategies
|[00:37:00] Inventory Management & ERP Implementation
|[00:38:18] Evolution of Marketing Strategies & Performance Focus
|[00:40:33] Influencer and Affiliate Marketing Strategies
|[00:41:25] Roles of Co-founders & Daily Responsibilities
|[00:45:11] Vision for the Future: Growth and Brand Expansion
|[00:46:51] Lesson Learned: Quality Control & Partner Trust
|[00:48:19] Rapid Fire Segment: Book Recommendations for Entrepreneurs
|[00:49:18] Tools, Innovations, and Inspirational Businesses
|[00:50:00] Role Model and Valuable Business Advice
|[00:51:33] Closing: Where to Purchase Ekster Products
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Olivier Momma of Ekster
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: eVTOL)
- A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend/Productivity Tip. (Response: Todoist)
- A startup or business (in ecommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things. (Response: Minus True Classis)
- A peer entrepreneur or businessperson whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Ronnie Fieg American Shoe Designer)
- One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships.
- Best business advice you ever received (Response: Consistently benchmark successful campaigns of top DTC brands, leveraging their strategies to inform and enhance one’s own business approach.)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to TrepTalks. This is the show where I interview successful e commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.
And today I’m really excited to welcome Olivier Momma to the show. Olivier is the founder and head of marketing at Ekster. Ekster is in the business of making people’s daily life. easier through intuitive everyday products that reflect the needs of a modern world. They restarted by, they started by re imagining the traditional wallet, making it easier to use and harder to lose.
Now, they are also re imagining other daily carry essentials, including bags, wallets, and key cases. And today I’m going to ask Oliver a few questions about his entrepreneurial journey. And some of the strategies and tactics that he has used to [00:01:00] start and grow his business. So Olivier, thank you so much for joining me today.
I really, really appreciate your time.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Appreciate it. So you have an interesting background. I was doing a little bit of research and I saw that you came to the US to study on a Fulbright scholarship. And, and then that’s where you kind of got the idea. So can you share? I mean, that’s, first of all, that’s quite impressive.
You were on Fulbright. Excuse me. Can you share a little bit about your background and, you know, how did you get the idea for
Olivier Momma of Ekster: this business? Yeah, for sure. So, um, I studied in the U. S. for a year on a full blind scholarship, uh, because I was quite young when I finished my high school. I was 17 years old, didn’t really know what to do.
Or where to study, um, I have an international background, so I moved around about every five years, [00:02:00] uh, from Japan to, uh, to Milan, to Barcelona, to Hong Kong, so I, I knew I wanted to do something global, something, uh, that would involve different cultures and, and different countries, uh, and so when I moved to the U.
S., I fell in love with the business school that I was studying at and realized that business was something very, that I was very interested in. And after that, uh, at this business school, actually, I met my future co founder, Rick Skarneff. He’s, he was also a Dutch guy at that university. He was also doing a Fulbright scholarship and he’s one of the only Dutch people at this entire school.
So we were instantly drawn to each other and, uh, and became friends early on. After that, we both moved to Rotterdam and started studying there. And in my second year, I did an internship in Hong Kong for a, uh, commodity trading [00:03:00] firm, which taught me that I did never want to be, never wanted to be in finance in the future.
So I realized I, uh, yeah, I wanted to do something for myself. And when I was living in Hong Kong, I noticed. People were paying with their phones on QR codes at the market on the streets, which to me was completely new because in Holland, people are still using cash in the U S people are still using checks.
Uh, and I realized that Asia was 10 steps ahead when it came to payments. Um, and so we started asking ourselves, why are people still using these old ancient by fold wallets? In the Western world, while all of Asia is already paying with their phones. So we decided that we wanted to make the next generation wallet and started off with the first ever trackable wallet.
Um, because we knew that based on our research, the number one [00:04:00] issue with wallets was that people lose them all the time. Uh, and that’s how this whole story
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: began. When you say trackable, is there some tracking device built into the wallet itself, or is it that it has some like little pouch where people can put like, you know, Apple, uh, Apple tag and, and, or other tracking kind of
Olivier Momma of Ekster: devices.
So when we started this, there was no such thing as an air tag and we did actually build the tracker into the wallet. So it was integrated. We very quickly realized, um, after this Kickstarter campaign was a success that. It would make more sense, more commercial sense for the business to split the two products up.
So to start selling a tracker and a wallet separate from each other, but the tracker is built in a way so that it easily hides or slides into your wallet. So it’s like a credit card size tracker. And, um, that was, we had like a five year headstart on Apple’s AirTag with tracking [00:05:00] devices. So we had a, yeah, we had a fair share of regular customers by the time the AirTag came out.
And then the AirTag did come out and we knew that we had to do something to change our business. And we decided to reach out to Apple to partner up. And
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: did you partner up with them? Yeah.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So we’re currently finalizing our AirTag credit card tracker. So it’s pretty much an AirTag, but it is the size of a credit card.
And it has our signature solar panel on it, so you don’t need to recharge it or replace the battery.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So this tracker, um, does it have an accompanying app that a person kind of Installs on their phone and so they can at all times know where the wallet is. And is there like some range or you know, what is the technology that it’s kind of built on?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So as [00:06:00] of next year, we will be working on the find my network, which means that it’s pretty much a worldwide network where you can use the find my app. Uh, for anyone who’s using Android, we will still be on the old network, uh, that we used, which is a, it’s like a crowd sourcing network. So, uh, when it’s close, uh, range, you use a Bluetooth network, but it’s Bluetooth 4.
0. So the ranges. Quite decent. It’s about a hundred meters. And when you go outside of that range, you enter this pool of other Bluetooth users, similar to what Apple does with find my, you can find your product through other people’s networks. And so, uh, you’re using other iPhones or other. Androids to find your wallet.
Um, and so the, the, the close range, which I would say is about a hundred meters with Bluetooth.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So that, that brings me to my next [00:07:00] question. Um, as, as an entrepreneur, when you’re thinking about like different ideas to start a business, um, you said that you were kind of ahead of Apple in this tracking technology.
So. Why not just go and commercialize this tracking technology and, and just use that as your business, because, you know, Apple now has a huge business with their AirTag. Um, so, so why go into the wallet business as opposed to the tracking devices business?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So we did split up the tracker and the wallet to see what would happen to the demand of this tracker.
And strangely enough, we realized that people actually came to us for wallets as opposed to the tracker. The tracker was more of an add on for people that wanted this extra feature. Um, and the whole beauty of Apple’s network is the fact that they have millions and millions of iPhones out there [00:08:00] already.
Actively sending out network, which allows you to find your air tag very easily. And that’s what makes it so much difficult for a smaller organization. Like us, you need millions of users to make this network work seamlessly. And by my is definitely superior network to the network that we were on because of their huge range of devices.
And by the time, before you reach that level, you’d need to become a multi multinational. And so enough trackers to increase that network.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So can you talk a little bit about your products now? So you have, um, a range of wallets, you have bags and cases, you have some accessories like key case and, um, you know, key holders, tool card and so forth.
Um, how do you, how do you kind of, can you talk a little bit about your product? And then maybe, uh, I’ll ask you afterwards, how do you kind of. [00:09:00] Describe your business or what is your value proposition? Is it, do you consider it yourself, you know, as a design business? Do you consider yourself as, um, you know, uh, the everyday carry kind of product business?
Um, what is kind of your value proposition?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: We make better gear for life on the go. So. With the better gear, we mean gear that’s modernized as opposed to what existed before, which is what we did with the wallet. We did it with the key case. We recently did it with the backpack as well. Um, and with better, we also mean better for the environment.
So sustainable, sustainably sourced. It’s built with only sustainable materials and sustainably certified materials, um, and gear for on the go means anything that helps you get from A to B in a more efficient way. That’s how we’ve worked from the very beginning. The [00:10:00] tracker and the wallet were really built to speed up your day and that mentality and that thought process has gone into the design of each product thereafter.
I would say we are in the business of innovation because all of our products. Have something innovative as opposed to what exists on the market. Uh, and with that, we always try to keep it in that same, uh, yeah, in the same direction of making better gear for life on the go, helping you from A to B in a better way.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: initially when you came together with your business partner, you know, you met him in your school and, you know, you kind of brainstormed the different ideas and you came to this idea. Um, I’m assuming that your major in university was business. Um, like what was your next thing? You know, of course, creating some of these items, you know, you need to have a prototype.
You need to, of course, you know, innovating on, on, you know, design and technology at that point. Um, [00:11:00] did you kind of do everything on your own? Did you get other people’s help? Can you talk through that process of creating that first, uh, product and what was the thought process, you know, and how do you do it?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So we, uh, decided that, you know, we were both students, both 22 years old. We didn’t have much experience or any funds. So we decided we wanted to keep it close to home and we wanted to find a partner in the Netherlands to help us build the prototype process was lengthy. We, we didn’t really have a final product before our Kickstarter went live.
All you had was one prototype and this prototype, uh, to find the partner that was going to build this. We reached out to 15 different prototyping agencies in the Netherlands. There’s quite a lot of design houses. Uh, yeah, around the capital here. And we reached out to 15 different [00:12:00] ones. We had interviews with each of them.
And funnily enough, the only partner that actually wanted to work with us for a decent price. Uh, is the one that ended up building this prototype and ended up creating the first sample that we ever had for extra, um, all the other companies told us that we were crazy with this idea, which is what makes it even more funny because of the successful campaign that followed after.
Uh, but there was only one partner that wanted to move
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: forward with us. And they thought that this idea was crazy because, you know, they think that this is, you’re getting into a commodity business. Is that kind of what was the thought process?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: I just remember that they saw two young students without any experience, and they just didn’t really believe that we had what it took to build this.
And, um, I guess there was [00:13:00] the only the only partner that that said yes, they were based in the very north of Holland. They were called Pazy, uh, and they helped us build this first prototype and it was by no means even close to what we wanted to produce. But it helped us create this first Kickstarter video and build our campaign from there.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And any entrepreneurs who are kind of, you know, going through this process of creating a new product, you know, they have this idea of a product that is, uh, more innovative or, you know, that’s a better product than what’s the incumbent is in the market. What would your advice be for them in terms of, you know, given that you’ve gone through this process, how would you.
advise them on creating the product prototype or the product designing process and then bringing that product to market. What do you know now that that can benefit newer entrepreneurs?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah. So I, I [00:14:00] would always opt to, um, find a, find a partner that is interested in helping small startups or early inventions to become a reality because There are so many design agencies out there that have smaller departments that are purely focused on innovation.
And they’re willing to make the leap sometimes if they believe in an idea. And that’s exactly what happened to us. So I would say don’t necessarily go for the biggest design agency, but go for the ones that are willing to take the leap on helping you create this first prototype. You’re not going to be able to design it yourself.
You’re not going to be able to go to China to build this prototype because prototyping in China. If you have zero experience, it’s going to be extremely difficult, both with communication, but also with trust. And, uh, and it’s going to take a long time because you’re not there. You’d have to fly there and pretty much live there.[00:15:00]
Um, so I would say go local, find, find a partner that trusts in your idea and, um, build on their expertise because we learned everything we know now by, by working with serious partners.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And they do it on a fee basis or would they. Ask, you know, can you also partner them on kind of, uh, equity kind of a situation, which I, I don’t think like for a founder, that’s probably not the best kind of a deal, right?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah. Uh, I do remember they, they, they suggested it at some point and we just negotiated hard and, and went for a few bases and that’s definitely the best decision we ever made because. We wouldn’t want them to have equity now seeing the growth of the company
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: for sure. Um, you mentioned kickstarter um And of course you started your business a few years ago.
So kickstarter, I think [00:16:00] still um Probably was easier to, to launch than I’m sure now it’s a lot more, uh, competitive. Uh, can you talk through the process of launching on Kickstarter? Was that a successful launch and what do you think was the ingredient that kind of made it a success?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Kickstarter was, was a huge adventure.
And I think the, the, the main, yeah, the main lesson that I learned from Kickstarter is that benchmarking. Other campaigns and other companies can get you a long way. We had no business experience. No, we didn’t know how to To build a campaign. We weren’t graphic designers or videographers, but with, uh, our contacts, I, for example, reached out to my sister, she’s in video editing to help us create a video for the campaign.
Uh, we looked at the top 20 best performing Kickstarter campaigns and [00:17:00] dissected their campaigns from beginning to end to see which structure they use. Uh, we reached out to a lot of successful campaigns to ask them if they wanted to. Hop on a call for tips, which taught us so much, uh, about building. Like they gave us like the main pitfalls of what to watch out for.
Uh, and then there’s also a few basic rules of crowdfunding that are important to keep in mind. So when you’re launching a campaign, the goal is to get funded or at least hit your target goal. In the first 24 hours, because that’s going to help you propel the campaign onto the popular page. The whole value of the Kickstarter platform is that they have millions of visitors that can potentially see your campaign, which you wouldn’t get access to if you would launch it on your own web shop.
So the fact that you hit your target within 24 hours and get onto the popular page, that’s going to help you reach a whole new level of [00:18:00] success on Kickstarter because you’ll have all that traffic. Seeing your campaign and more chances of converting people, uh, with that, go
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: ahead. So that means that you, uh, basically you’re the goal that you set is, it’s probably more strategic to set it a little bit lower so that you can hit that threshold.
And so, you know, you can be propelled to the main page, uh, and that can probably help you get a lot further than, you know, if you set it up really high and that kind of makes it more risky, I guess.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Exactly. Exactly. A hundred percent. So that’s something to keep in mind. Uh, with that, there’s a bunch of rules that help work with the algorithm, you know, you want to make sure that you get as much engagement on your campaign.
So, uh, you can send out updates to your customers and ask them to leave comments for specific competitions or even feedback on the products. You are trying to [00:19:00] get as much engagement with other campaigns as well. So you can reach out to other campaigns and do cross promotions in your updates, which allows you to get traffic from their campaigns to your page.
Um, there’s smaller tricks like creating a super low AOV product that people can buy in order to get more orders. So the more orders, the more views, the more comments, the larger, the chances of you getting high on the popular page. So you’re trying to increase your engagement through different, different tricks and different strategies, uh, which is the main point of, of, you know, getting on Kickstarter.
After that, obviously you can start getting traffic from outside of the platform through ads and PR and other channels. And did
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: you do that? Did you also. Um, put some money towards your own marketing, towards driving your own traffic and did that, was that successful?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah. So about [00:20:00] halfway through the campaign, we decided to turn on Facebook ads.
We didn’t have the budget before and we also didn’t have the money at that point, but we worked together with an agency that, that paid the budget Facebook ad budget for us. And we would pay it back with interest. So as soon as we went live with these guys, we instantly felt new traction and. They actually tripled our campaign’s top line revenue in the last quarter of the campaign.
So it was quite insane. I think the last week of the campaign, the revenue, the overall, uh, funding tripled just because of Facebook ads. So that’s not an extremely usual thing to happen, but if there’s a good product market fit, and if the ads work, then yeah, that’s going to help you really grow your campaign.
I think it’s not def, it’s not necessary to do it from the [00:21:00] very beginning. Um, you can, but it’s going to cost you a lot of money because Kickstarter is really bad tracking when it comes to Facebook. But, uh, I would say at least halfway through the campaign you start running ads.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, I mean, you did a lot of strategic thing and that definitely helps, but I think the meat of any campaign or any business is, you know, the product has to perform or there has to be a product market fit because, you know, the, if a person comes on your page and they don’t see any value in it, they wouldn’t, you know, they will just leave.
What do you think, uh, resonated with the audience in terms of, you know, the product, the prototype that you had created? Because now I think, would you say that in the market now you are still very differentiated? Because I think, I think there are, there’s probably a lot other brands that are creating similar kinds of products with similar kinds of value propositions.
So what was it at that point that kind of resonated with the market and, [00:22:00] and maybe then we can talk a little bit about competition.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah, for sure. So we were the first trackable wallet. There is a bunch of smaller brands that just, just like us, just it’s starting out brands that tried it, but didn’t get enough funding or weren’t able to deliver.
So we were the first company that was successfully funded and delivered within six months. And that was the main unique proposition is because there was no one else doing it. I would say the combination of the tracker and the easy access feature where you click the cards and they pop up. No one had that either.
And it’s actually been a few years with us being the only one in the market offering that. So that has helped us grow. Um, and I guess it’s when we survey our customers that we ask them, why did you buy our product? And the funny part is the [00:23:00] majority, 70 percent says they buy it for the design. So I guess the design itself was already unique value proposition.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, and now, I mean, a few years down the road, what do you see in terms of competition? I mean, the big issue with products like this is, you know, um, when I talk to other entrepreneurs is that. you know, people in China, they can easily duplicate and start selling it. And, and, and I think now probably there are other brands also, which are, you know, some are more focused towards wallet.
Some are most more focused towards backpacks and so forth. Some are more towards, you know, the everyday carry category. But I’m sure there’s, there’s other products and brands out there that are doing similar things at your, at your products. Um, what do you think about competition now? And, uh, has it made it any difficult for you to kind of, uh, continue growing your business?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: The, I would say the Chinese [00:24:00] copies. So like the blatant copycats, those don’t really hurt the business that much because that’s a totally different audience. When they do copy it, they sell it for 20 bucks, 10 bucks. That’s never going to be our audience, so it doesn’t hurt us as much. I would say the other competition around is the bigger wallet brands and the bigger EDC brands, uh, like Bellroy or Ridge.
Those are the ones that do take up a huge chunk of, uh, of the market. And those are the ones that we are competing against when it comes to bidding with ads or PR or anything that we do with marketing. Um, the industry is still growing, so we are growing with the industry. I think the other bigger brands are also paving the way for us because they’re creating a category that people are interested in and we’re able to [00:25:00] target that category.
Uh, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to grow simply because paid advertising is becoming more expensive and, uh, CPM certainly increasing. Uh, and, and you need to keep building top of anal top of funnel ads and, and marketing to be able to fill that lake. And make sure there’s enough customers out there that, uh, that are interested in your brand.
So it’s, it’s definitely a battle, but, uh, we’re still able to grow.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Um, I definitely want to talk more about marketing, but before I go that, you know, you mentioned a little bit about your audience, you are kind of catering to a little bit more of the high end, uh, kind of customer, uh, not, not going for the, uh, you know, the value, um, person who’s looking for a value wallet.
Can you talk a little bit about your audience, your market? Um, I mean, you’re [00:26:00] obviously based out of Europe, but. You know, which, which are your biggest markets and who’s kind of your ideal
Olivier Momma of Ekster: customer? Yeah. So our audience is, uh, mostly males in North America. I would say the majority in the U S generally tech savvy, young working professionals.
We have quite a generic target market, which is great because the bigger the target market, the more potential for growth and customers. We, uh, we, we mainly target males. And when we do have females buying a product, it’s usually as a gift for males, for their boyfriends or husbands or fathers. And, um, I wouldn’t say that we’re in a super premium audience.
We, we definitely have people that like premium products in our target market, but we also have people that just love their everyday carry stuff. And our pricing is not that [00:27:00] premium. Our, most of our wallets are under a hundred dollars. And we just have that premium quality. So the look and the design is premium pricing.
If you compare it to our costs, our competitors, we definitely sell for cheaper than, than they do.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: You know, so I was, I was, um, uh, you know, I’ve been looking at your products on your website and, and I noticed that, yes, it is a very male, you know, the products are, you know, the, everything looks very male, uh, centric.
Um, Why exclude the, in the female market, ? Um, uh, do you have any plans of including like more pink wallets or, you know, more colorful designs, uh, in the future? Because you’re kind of almost letting go half of, of the half of the population.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Yeah. So we have tried pink, we’ve tried white, we’ve tried every single female color out there.
Um, where do you want to call it? Female or, [00:28:00] um, unisex. We still sell them. So they’re still on the product pages of our best selling products. However, we just noticed that there’s way less demand for it because I guess our content and our brand and our way of marketing is very male focused. So it just attracts less females and female target audiences on Facebook don’t work as well for us.
So, um, we like to keep our options open and we do have those colors available, the females, but. If we would pivot our entire brand or we would go like 50, 50, then you’re also going to lose a large chunk, large chunk of people that follow us for the brand. It’s you need to stay true to your identity and you can’t cater to everyone out there.
So I’d prefer to be the brand that we are and then also have female colors available for those that want it rather than splitting up the brand and two and changing the [00:29:00] messaging.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: No, I think I think that makes a lot of sense. Um, and your biggest market, um, you’re I’m assuming North America, Europe. Are you also selling in Australia?
We are. Yes,
Olivier Momma of Ekster: we are selling in Australia. It is. Difficult because we don’t have a warehouse there. So it takes a while to ship and often they have to buy, they have to pay duties, but we
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: do sell there. How big is your team right now? How quickly have you grown, um, in the last few years?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So the team, I would, uh, I think three years ago, we were, we had about 15 people in the team and today our team marks 50 people.
Wow. So the team is quite substantial right now.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Wow. That’s huge. That’s huge. Um, and, and everybody is located in the Europe. Can [00:30:00] you share a little bit about, you know, how your team is distributed? What, uh, you know, um, what is the biggest department, uh, in your team?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So the majority of our team is Located in Amsterdam, that’s where our headquarters are, that’s where I’m calling from now.
We have, uh, 50 people in total, of which, I would say 30 people are based in the Netherlands, and the rest are based in different countries worldwide, because we have a remote… First, uh, way of working. And, um, we fly in everyone every quarter for onsite events to kind of connect face to face, but we don’t necessarily need anyone to be in the U S or need anyone to be in the Netherlands specifically, uh, because everything seems to work very
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: well online.
That’s, that’s awesome. That’s great to hear. Um, a big focus on your website and your brand is [00:31:00] around sustainability. Can you talk a little bit about what the thought process was around focusing sustainability? Of course, you know, sustainable business practices are becoming more and more, um, important for the consumer now and consumer, I think is supporting more sustainable brands.
Um, what are some of the things that you do to make your business brand sustainable and. How is sustainability integrated into manufacturing processes?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So, sustainability actually started for us at the very beginning from, yeah, back in 2015 when we went up to our first factory. We knew that, you know, there’s, there’s a few options.
I think we had like five factory options and ranging from expensive to extremely affordable. However, just walking through those different factories, you could feel the difference in how they were managed. How clean [00:32:00] they were, uh, what the working conditions were like for people and also which brands they were working with.
And we thought from the very beginning, uh, that we wanted to build a good foundation. So we decided to work with factories that worked with only big trusted multinationals who all had. Uh, the highest necessary certifications, the ISO, the LWG certifications, anything that, uh, you know, made it more legitimate for us to feel like we were building a strong foundation.
And that has translated into how we build our products as well. So whenever we design a product, we build it sustainably from the ground up. So we look at which materials we’re using. Is there a sustainable alternative and is it, uh, what are the costs and can we use that for this product? So at the moment, uh, we recently became B Corp and that took us three years to [00:33:00] become, and that the only way you’re going to achieve that is by really building a sustainable supply chain from the ground up and a sustainable practice at the company itself.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: And, and these factories are that you’re mentioning they’re in China or a different place?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: China and India.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Uh, are there, I mean, I’ve heard that B Corp, becoming a B Corp is a significant time commitment. I mean, uh, or commitment and, you know, putting together different things. Um, is there any business benefit to becoming a B Corp?
Does the general consumer… Uh, look at that logo and recognize what it stands for. Um, like does it actually add anything to the bottom line or, you know, top line? And yeah, I mean, or is it really just about, you know, just having that, you know, stamp of approval, [00:34:00]
Olivier Momma of Ekster: I would say, uh, B Corp has, has really helped us streamline our Policies in house and you need that to create a strong culture and a happy team.
So I think that’s the first step. It really helps internally to build a strong culture. And next to that, the stamp of approval is it’s, it’s huge for, for our brand. And it’s, it’s also a nice, I would say. They help give you direction in what it is to be a sustainable company. And maybe you as a company think that you’re doing a good job, aren’t doing a great job at all.
Uh, so once we got into the process, we realized that there are so many rules, restrictions, and also guidelines on how to become a sustainable company. And B Corp really helped us in that journey. And the, [00:35:00] the badge of approval is a big part of that, but it’s also. Your own future as a business, because you’re not going to be able to get around it.
Like in a few years, unsustainable businesses are going to be canceled or customers will just not be interested. So it’s also a long term move for the
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: business. Can you talk a little bit about your warehousing, uh, fulfillment, shipping policy? Um, I see you also have free returns, uh, on your website. Um, given that you’re fulfilling in different countries, how have you set up your warehousing and fulfillment?
Are you primarily working with third party logistics company, uh, in different
Olivier Momma of Ekster: regions? Yeah, so we have, um, a, we have multiple 3PLs. Mostly based in the U. S. So a few different warehouses spread across the U. S. We have one in Canada and one in the U. K. [00:36:00] And planning on opening one in Europe this coming year with that we’re able to deliver worldwide in some countries.
It’s quicker than others. Europe, for example, we are not able to offer free shipping yet because everything comes from the U. S. But in the U S we can offer next day shipping with free shipping and free returns. So, um, it’s been a step by step process. We used to have multiple warehouses all over the place.
So we had Asia, we had Europe, but we were just too small to manage that and to take care of the stock splits between countries. And so we realized that we needed to simplify things and decided to really bring it back to basics. That helped us lay out a good foundation for the future. And from there on, we’ve been building country by country or continent by
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: continent.
And, and by now you probably have a very good system set up where, you know, factories can ship directly to, to these three [00:37:00] PLs and so forth. So you don’t necessarily have to get too involved with that. Um, what do you do in terms of like inventory management and so forth? Like, uh, Is it all set up automatically or automated or do you have like different team members who make sure that uh, inventory is managed properly?
How does that work?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: That was one of our biggest pain points in the early years and in the past two or three years that’s probably gonna, that’s probably been the the least stressful part of the business because it’s been going really well. We have always been in stock and have stocked up on time. We have enough people in the team to manage that.
Implemented an ERP system, which, uh, is called fulfill. io. It’s a great platform and it integrates with Shopify and with your fulfillment partner, and it allows you to forecast seamlessly for each SKU. And, um, [00:38:00] we no longer have those issues that we had in the early years. Because of these ERP,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: can you talk about your marketing and how has it evolved over the last, you know, since you’ve launched, uh, I mean, you did mention paid advertising as being important for your business.
Is that kind of the primary driver still as new customer acquisition? And, um, are you working, um, with channel channel partners, influencers? Um, on new customer acquisition. And then what do you do when you have that customer? Like, how do you kind of keep them coming back for more? Yeah. So
Olivier Momma of Ekster: I would say when, when we were doing one to 10 million, we focused mainly on.
influencers, crowdfunding, email marketing, and a little bit of performance marketing. But once we hit that 10 million, we, we truly realized [00:39:00] how important performance marketing was and how much of a game changer it could have been for us. Uh, and we realized we should have started way earlier. Um, so over the past three years, performance has helped us double growth and.
It’s been the main investment by far. So I would say the largest part of our team is focused on performance marketing. We are doing every single social channel out there. So. Ranging from Meta to Pinterest, to TikTok, to Reddit, to Source Knowledge, and even Taboola and Outbrain and all those types of performance channels that are potentially going to bring us more customers we are active on.
With that comes a huge creative team that constantly creates new iterations on possible winning creators, uh, to be able to [00:40:00] find new customers and prospects. Uh, potential, uh, customers in different areas. And with that, we try to get as many people into our funnel, get them to our website, either purchase something or sign up for email.
And we have a huge retention flow after that to try to convert these people once they get to the website. So there’s so many more channels to it. It’s a, it’s probably, yeah, quite extensive story, but this is the gist of it. Uh, it’s mostly performance marketing for
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: us and you don’t do any sort of like affiliate or influencer or any, any like third party kind
Olivier Momma of Ekster: of channels we do.
And they’re all supporting channels. So affiliate, I would say is maybe 10 percent of the revenue, same for partnerships with creators. So we do work with big YouTubers, Instagram, uh, creators, TikTok creators. Uh, but I think, yeah, they’re, [00:41:00] they’re supporting channels and they help get people into our funnel.
Uh, but in the end, performance is really what brings it home for
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: us. So you are two co founders and, you know, of course, both of you were Fulbright scholars, so that kind of signifies both of you are pretty smart. Um, Can you share a little bit about what you are, you know, what is, what are you responsible for?
Of course, you know, I think you’re the chief marketing officer. What is the other co founder responsible for? And what are the things, you know, at this stage, um, in your business, uh, what are the things, what are the daily things that you focus on or where, where are you spending your time and your co founder, uh, in terms of, um, Are you mostly focused on new products?
Are you focused on marketing, scaling your business? You know, what are the things that you kind of think about on a daily basis and how many hours actually do you work on your business?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So, uh, there’s actually three co [00:42:00] founders. The third guy, Richard, he, um, He is more in charge of it and the website. Okay.
Uh, my other co founder also provides scholar, Rick, he is head of product and I’m currently the creative director. Uh, and then we have a managing director, which is Tom who later joined the company, but also is a partner of ours. So he also has equity in the company. Okay. Um, we, from the very beginning, we had a very even split, very fair, like.
Natural split in what each of us wanted to do. Richard had experience in coding, building websites and IT, so he was always going to be responsible for that. Uh, I, from the very beginning was involved in the marketing and the brand and how the brand was perceived by customers. So naturally I took the marketing role on my plate and then Rick, uh, was always obsessed with the small details of the products.
And so naturally took that [00:43:00] direction. Um, Tom, uh, very smart guy joined the company later, more as a finance head of finance, but we realized that he would be a great managing director to lead the team. So that’s been his role. I would say for me, my day to day, I’m definitely still very much in the day to day of the business.
So where we are also trying to be leaders for the company. We all spend all day behind our computers, working, getting stuff done. Uh, I’m still very much involved with anything revolving around content or web design or email marketing and, uh, ad content, um, leading the team in marketing meetings. Uh, Rick is still very much involved in all the product design and I also help with the product design.
So we usually make decisions together there. But I would say like the unique thing [00:44:00] about us at Exeter and as founders at Exeter is that we were on the work floor with our team and we’re not just leading the team, we’re literally sitting beside them and doing the work. Uh, I’m not sure if that’s the best approach.
I feel like sometimes we could maybe be delegating more and doing less ourselves, but so far that’s how it’s gone. We’ve grown the team and we’re still able to manage it and it’s going great. So, uh, yeah, very much in the trenches is what we, what we say ourselves is we’re still doing the day to day stuff.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I mean, the reason I’m asking this is, you know, you look, I mean, you’re still pretty young and I don’t know if you, if you’ve even hit your 30, but, uh, What is, uh, uh, and, and, you know, you’re reasonably successful now. So what do you see yourself, your, your future? Like, um, do you, do you see yourself just continuing to grow this brand or at a certain point you see [00:45:00] yourself kind of exiting and, you know, starting another business or doing something different?
Um, uh, yeah. What, where do you see yourself, uh, in the next five, 10 years?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So, um, I would say in terms of business. We definitely see the company hitting at least a hundred million in revenue in the next two years. Uh, that’s what we’re working towards. We aim to become a leading smart travel gear brand worldwide.
And, uh, the first step we took was building or launching the backpack. And after that, we, um, started. Designing new products that are also going to be in the travel category, which are launching later this year and next year for me personally, uh, I’ve recently made the step to becoming a creative director as opposed to a head of marketing.
So I really want to develop myself in the world of branding and learn what it is to make a world renowned [00:46:00] brand. Uh, that has brand equity that will never die. Um, I do think I want to keep learning. I mean, my main goal is to keep learning and becoming a better leader at the company and learning to, uh, grow a company to such size and potentially opening shops.
Uh, and, and all of that will come with its own learning curve. Uh, but I think we, we have huge ambitions for excellent. Um,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: One big failure or learning experience and what did you learn? What can other people or entrepreneurs learn from your failure?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: I would say, um, one big failure.
Yeah, I guess the one that comes to mind first is. We [00:47:00] had a product batch early on, I think in our second year, which we call button gate. So it’s, uh, it was a batch that came from the factory where old buttons of the wallets were not as secure as they were supposed to be. And, um, somehow they made it through quality control and somehow we ship them all out to customers.
And this brought with it huge brand damage, uh, a lot of costs of us were getting the products back, sending it back to the factory, but especially the damage to the brand online and reviews was just detrimental. And I guess we got too comfortable with the factory. And trust them too much, let them really do their thing and didn’t really keep renewing our quality control processes.
So the main lesson we learned there is, is never get too comfortable with your partners and always [00:48:00] keep them sharp and make sure that processes are refreshed and realigned and that you’re on top of quality
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: control. Great advice for sure. Now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire segment. In this segment, I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them maybe in a word or two or a sentence.
So one book recommendation for entrepreneurs and why
Olivier Momma of Ekster: building a story brand by Donald Miller, uh, gives great insight into the foundation of building a long
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: lasting brand. An innovative product or idea in the current e commerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: So there’s this, uh, aircraft called E Volt, I think, or E VTOL.
Uh, and it’s supposed to be the next best way of commuting to the airport. So it’s like a vertical… Takeoff aircraft, which works similar to helicopter, but it’s [00:49:00] easier to, to fly. And I feel like that’s going to be the next best way to get from A to B. And I think, uh, that sounds super cool. It will be amazing to fly that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Very interesting. Uh, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: tip? The one that really has helped me lately is Todoist. It changed the way that I work and allows me to plan my entire week. From Monday on super quick, uh, and easy to,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: uh, another startup or business and e commerce retail or tech that you think is currently doing great things.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Well, let’s stop a minus true classic, a clothing brand that is really killing it. It’s a DTC brand that is just despite the economic downturn has been growing dramatically and is a thought leader when it comes to online marketing.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who [00:50:00] inspires you?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: I’ve always looked up to Ronnie Feig. He’s one of the most influential designers in modern age fashion and accessories He’s the founder of kit And has done some really cool collaborations awesome,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: um final question um One business advice for entrepreneur, you know What is the best business advice that you have ever received, or you would give to other entrepreneurs?
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Business advice in general, I would say benchmark like the thing that will always stick with me is how we had no experience and benchmark the best campaigns out there and we’re able to build a, uh, a successful company out of it. We still do the same every day. So we look at what are the top DTC brands out there doing?
Uh, how can we benchmark what they’re doing successfully and translate it into our own business? I think they’re
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: saying something like, [00:51:00] um, the best artists steal or something like that. You know, you have to, you have to, of course, you know, you have to learn from others. Uh, you know,
Olivier Momma of Ekster: there’s no point in reinventing the wheel yourself and someone has done it before you.
So you might as well learn from them.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: For sure. Well, Oliver, those were all the questions that I had really, uh, enjoyed speaking with you. Uh, I think you guys are doing a really great job in terms of building your business, uh, with a focus on sustainability. So, uh, thank you so much again for your time and really appreciate, um, you sharing your story.
Uh, if anyone wants to, um, uh, buy your products, what is the best way to do that? Uh,
Olivier Momma of Ekster: our webshop, ekster. com. So E K S T E R. com.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Thank you, Olivier, again and wish you all the very best in your business and personal journey.
Olivier Momma of Ekster: Thank you, too.
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