December 20th, 2011 1:12 pm | by RUTH BROWN Arts & Books | Posted In: Visual Arts

Kickstart my Heart: Portland Man "Embarrasses Apple"

Raises $165,000 in 24 Hours


Kickstart my Heart is a semi-regular blog series on Portland Kickstarter projects we don't hate.

Portland designer Casey Hopkins has just created the fastest-growing Kickstarter project to date: he hit his goal of $75,000 in eight hours, raised $165,350 in 24 hours, and is now sitting at $373,714—and he still has 52 more days of fundraising to go.

His "Elevation Dock" project isn't especially mind blowing. It's an aluminum iPhone dock with a few modifications to address gripes Hopkins, who runs small local product design firm Elevation Lab, had with the current model. But apparently thousands of Apple geeks around the world share his ire. Gizmodo said "I'm Tempted to Buy an iPhone Just So I Can Use the Elevation Dock." Wired declared "Elevation Dock for iPhone Embarrasses Apple." In the past week, it's also been featured on GigaOM, Slashgear, Cult of Mac, Electronista, Uncrate and Digital Trends, among others.

WW caught up with a slightly dazed Hopkins over the phone:

WW: So is so special about your product that it went so nuts online?
Casey Hopkins: Well, Apple makes docks. White plastic ones. And they make one for the iPhone 4, but it doesn’t work with a case on your phone, you have to take the case off, so it doesn’t work with the vast majority of phones. And when you do use it, and you’ve taken the case off, the phone sticks in the dock, you have to use two hands to undock it, which isn’t a very good user experience. There’s a lot of other docks out there and they kind of share similar traits. So I got fed up with it and just did it as a personal project, designing my about own a year ago. Testing designs and making prototypes, and got to a point where we had a good one, but it’s really expensive to manufacture, especially or a small guy like me, so to raise capital we put it on Kickstarter.

Did you seek out all this press or did it just happen?
It just went viral. I had some friends email it, one influential blogger, John Gruber, covered it, and then within about half an hour of it launching, it just exploded. And we hit our funding goal, $75,000, within 8 hours. And then within 24 hours, it got to $165,000. Which is just surreal.

I didn’t sleep or eat for the first few days, I was freaking out. Every single person I know was just refreshing that page, especially for the first few days it just rocketed, like $20,000 per hour. I’ve been talking to the guys and girls at Kickstarter and this has crushed every single other launch by speed and amount of money raised.

Will it be difficult to meet the demand now you have thousands of people who’ve pledged money?
It kind of changes how we’re going to manufacture it. There’s certain things that we can do, we can get special tooling made, that does cost more but you can do it at a higher rate, it’s more cost effective and you can get it faster.

But I think we’re going to have three local machine shops working simultaneously to get the first ones out. We’re sourcing all the electronics right now. One part of the problem with Kickstarter is you don't get any of the money until 15 days after it closes, but people have been really flexible with us. We’re just trying to get things together as fast as humanly possible.

Wouldn't it have been more cost effective just to set up your own site and sell it yourself? Because you have to give Kickstarter a certain percentage don’t you?

Yeah, 5 percent. But this product would never see the light of day if it wasn't for a crowd funding thing, because we’d never have capital. It’s really expensive just to get your first product to market. Plus you want the market to validate it—maybe it will flop, and you’ve spent $100,000 doing all this stuff to get it ready for market, so Kickstarter provides upfront capital. It’s really empowering for a small designer.

After this, will you put it in stores or keep selling it online?
I don’t even know, I haven’t even thought about it. This is only day five or six!

You still have 52 days to get your own dock here.

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