Today we're featuring a new crowdfunding project known as Kit Lab, a site where you can sell ingredient kits of your home brewing recipes. Kit Lab packs and ships the kits, authors share in the profits. The crowdfunding campaign launches tomorrow, April 2nd (link coming as soon as it's up). Our interview with Kit Lab founder Ryan Sanders is below.
1. Why did you start Kit Lab?
I started Kit Lab because I wanted to solve the headaches I was running into when brewing from recipes I found online. I also felt like I wanted a better way to know when my favorite authors posted new recipes online. What materialized from those needs was Kit Lab, a site where you can follow your favorite recipe authors, receive notifications when they post new recipes, and where when you find a recipe you’d like to try, you can simply “click to brew” and the exact ingredients are on their way to your doorstep. Simple!
2. How did you secure the name Kit Lab? Is it trademarked?
I actually wanted to launch as Kit Hub, which is a bit more of a literal description as well as a reference to GitHub, an open source code community. There was a Kit Hub out of Los Angeles that was none too happy about that idea, so I rebranded as Kit Lab and kept on building my business. I still own kithub.com on which I plan to launch a blog that reviews other beer kits. I am working with LegalZoom and Kit Lab is indeed being trademarked.
3. What’s the vision for your company?
The grand vision for Kit Lab is to grow the platform into a mature ecosystem and then really study and learn from our community. There are so many ways one might interact with a service like Kit Lab, we’re excited to learn what our users think are the most important parts of the site, and what they think needs to get tossed in the trash. We want home brew clubs and nonprofits to help fund their organizations with kit sales. We want breweries to use the platform to get their beers into regions their distribution wont go. We want brewing magazines to list “buy now” links in their print publications. Most importantly, we want to remain open and responsive to our community and to never think that we know best how they want use the site. They’ll let us know where to take it next.
4. Why did you choose to crowdfund on Kickstarter in particular? What is your goal? How did you choose the perks?
We did a lot of research regarding Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo vs. Tilt vs. GoFundMe, etc. We landed on Kickstarter specifically because we felt that we actually appreciated the all-or-nothing approach to receiving funding. By forcing us to really consider what the minimum amount of money we needed to pull off this project, it made us to do a lot of financial planning that we could have avoided on the other platforms. Plus, we felt that there was real value in the fact that when people speak about crowdfunding, they often refer to it as “Kickstarting.” It’s a household brand - a Xerox, or Kleenex. To not have to ever have the “It’s like Kickstarter, but the url is actually…” conversation felt like one heck of a benefit. It was our belief as well that by going with the number one platform out there with the most visibility, we would earn more more pledges and that would offset the higher cost of doing business with Kickstarter.
5. What is your strategy to minimize business risk?
Oh mostly just the basic practices that all businesses should do: A business structure that reduces personal risk, insurance, a strong tie between the web component and the bookkeeping software, and of course, the biggest mitigation to startup risk is being funded via crowdfunding. Especially if you go with Kickstarter and give yourself a realistic financial goal, you’ll either be funded with enough money to actually execute, or you wont get any money at all and you no longer have any risks to worry about.
6. How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
Success for us will certainly involve a happy, healthy online community, and a few long term employees who enjoy coming to work. Financially, if we could afford to employ 5-10 people full time with benefits, we’d feel like we had really made it.
A cool success story in our space is the couple over at Brooklyn Brew Shop - I believe their names are Erica and Stephen. Basically they saw that New Yorkers weren’t brewing much because they lacked space in their small apartments, so the couple identified the need and built a little brewing empire around 1-gallon beer kits for urban brewers. They started out at NY farmers markets and now are distributed all over the US. We definitely look to their company when we’re wondering what a successful company should look like.
7. We see you have measures in place to keep plagiarized recipes from being approved. Why did you choose to do this instead of letting it happen?
This is a really interesting area of our business and I feel confident in saying that we’re not fully baked here yet. That said, we think that that kind of activity is just kind of jerky so we’re interested in discouraging it. The interesting - and thus the difficult - area in this discussion always comes around the idea of how modified does a recipe have to be before it’s “original?” Is 1oz more Crystal Malt enough to make a recipe original? How about 0.5oz more? And on and on. So our filtering will basically look for folks publishing direct copies from commercial publications and high visibility brewers online.
8. How should home brewers protect their recipes? Do you have any recommended methods?
(Note: Use Traklight's free Basic Vault where to upload files containing trade secrets, comprehensive list here)
Well this kind of gets at the previous question. 99% of recipes don’t qualify as trade secrets - they are merely reconfigured combinations of basic brewing ingredients which then have common production practices applied to them. So they’re not really protectable, and thus don’t need protecting. Add that to a very prevalent attitude of “share and share alike” in the brewing community, and this idea of protecting one’s recipes just doesn’t really exist. Heck, even most craft breweries will just give anyone off the street the recipes to their beers. It’s just the way this industry sprang up - in the garages and home-brew shops of America. And so for right now, we all share everything with each other and its an incredibly open and inviting community.
Link to their project page will be here as soon as it's up.
In the meantime, if you are planning on starting a crowdfunding project and campaign, make sure to first identify what you should and should not disclose to the public. For example, many founders don't know that once you disclose enough information publicly and have sold a finished product, you cannot be granted a patent. Go to our Practice Safe Crowdfunding™ page for more information. Start with our Free Business Risk Assessment and then upgrade to the full ID your IP to find out what to do concerning your new business' intellectual property and intangible assets.