Traveling by air is one of the most amazing, yet frustrating experiences of our lifetime. In an instant, we go from sea level to a mile high in the air, but if our plane is delayed 20 minutes, the whole flight becomes a ‘disaster.’ Maybe not a disaster, but we have high expectations when it comes to our personal travel experience. Getting there is supposed to be half the fun, right? The many rules and regulations and the worries that come along with traveling make every detail of a trip a possible stress point.
One area of frustration while traveling is the wonderful box we cram our clothes and other needed accessories into – the suitcase. I’m confident in saying that all of us have had a rough experience at one time or another with a suitcase or the process of bringing a carry-on bag into the plane just to shove it into a small overhead compartment. Even worse is the possibility of having our luggage lost altogether.
To help solve this, and many other problems associated with the suitcase aspect of travel, a team of young entrepreneurs created Bluesmart – the world’s first smart-connected suitcase. Their first product is a carry-on bag that allows a traveler to charge their phone up to 6 times, check the weight of their luggage using a built in scale, lock the suitcase remotely via a mobile device, and even track where the bag is at any time. While creating the Bluesmart suitcase, the founding team researched FAA, TSA, and other agency policies and guidelines to make sure that every part of their device would be accepted. “We’ve flown with prototypes of the Bluesmart to many countries and we’ve never experienced any problems,” said co-founder Brian Chen. After a year of hard work on the design and research, the startup launched a crowdfunding campaign that put them on the map and provided them with an initial base of funding and customers.
With an initial goal of $50,000, Bluesmart’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign was aimed at bringing in enough funds to launch a basic production run. It quickly became a success as they were able to raise that amount within the first two hours of being live.
Not only did they surpass their initial goal, the campaign ended with over $1.35M in backing from thousands of new customers, and have now raised $1.8M total on Indiegogo. “We couldn’t be happier with the results and we feel validated in the sense that people do want the product that we designed. It’s relieving, exciting – a whole mixed bag of emotions.” Brian knows that the hard work is just beginning now that they have received support and validation of what they’ve created, and they don’t plan on letting the success of a crowdfunding campaign get in the way of delivering on what they promised. “There are a lot of campaigns that have missed deadlines or delivered products that don’t meet the vision that had been promised and sold. We want to over deliver. We want to make the best suitcase that has ever existed.”
Since the conclusion of the campaign in early December, the team has been focusing “100% on manufacturing.” They will be working with their customers and manufacturing partners in China on a daily basis to make sure they will be able to fulfill the orders and the quality of product that they have promised customers. “One of the great things about Indiegogo and crowdfunding is that we get to speak with our community and backers even as we’re developing our product.”
Asked what his advice is to other young entrepreneurs looking to launch a crowdfunding campaign, Brian stressed “the first and most important thing is the product. You have to build a product that people want.” Bluesmart was clearly able to attract a large base of initial customers due to creating a product that people truly want.
Beyond the Suitcase
Brian Chen grew up in an entrepreneurial household in Taiwan. His grandfather was a business owner, and entrepreneurship was encouraged in his family. “I wanted to be an entrepreneur before I could spell the word…I’ve always viewed entrepreneurs as heroes.” Before joining Bluesmart, Brian served as the director of business operations for Daily Secret, a digital media brand, and he also worked with entrepreneurial nonprofit Endeavor and as a portfolio management analyst for Hall Capital Partners. Brian is currently pursuing an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
Q: What drives you on an everyday basis as an entrepreneur?
A: I love the fact that we are bringing into the world a product that has never existed before – that has never been in the hands of travelers.
After successfully delivering on the thousands of Bluesmart suitcases sold through their crowdfunding campaign, Brian said that the possibilities for Bluesmart are “endless and exciting.”
While helping to design a better travel experience for customers, Bluesmart is helping to expand the growing innovation behind everyday consumer and ‘smart’ products. “I think that we are entering an age where everything is going to be connected. Everything is going to be smart, and smart will no longer be a meaningful adjective because it will describe the world around us.” What is meaningful is the innovation that’s behind an otherwise boring product, turning it into a million-dollar suitcase.
Don’t go packing up yet! Listen to the full interview with Brian Chen below!
– “I worked really hard to surround myself with other entrepreneurs and entrepreneurially minded people. For me, having that support network to help council me through the ups and downs of the journey and to help generate ideas has been absolutely critical.”
– “What I would really love for one day is to have built a career, company, and a life that can be inspiring to other aspiring entrepreneurs. That would be a dream (come true) for me.”
– Hear about the founding team of five co-founders and what they bring to the team.
– “Ideas are generated by networks and by having a really diverse exposure to different skills, ideas, and backgrounds.”
Listen to the full interview here: