Media Fusion had the opportunity recently to sit down and chat with CEO and Founder of Sunthetic, Gerardo Di Giuseppe, to gain some insights about his journey to funding his remarkable product, Sunthetic.
You might remember Sunthetic, as it was featured on our Media Bytes Facebook Live show, which aired on March 24, 2017. During our What The Tech segment, we introduced the European tech startup and their current crowdfunding campaign for their solar-powered phone charger. Notably made for the iPhone 6 and 7, Sunthetic has overcame the obstacles of combining design with practical use, all with a vision for sustainability and educating consumers.
With a six-hour time zone difference, Gerardo and I exchanged great conversation about what it took to bring Sunthetic to this point, and where the startup's vision is looking to go in the future.
I found it important to point out how Gerardo and his team were able to identify the problem and deliver a solution that was both sellable and practical. For an idea of a solar-powered phone case, I knew there was a suggestion to a higher cause.
His reply was simple: "I'm also concerned about the environmental aspects of what we do."
But of course, there is more to the story. As mentioned in my recent post , What You'll Need To Run a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign, the Sunthetic product emerged from an idea and revised through possibly dozens of design concepts and models before the finished product we're looking forward to seeing in our markets. Therefore, once the product was finalized, it needed validation that it was a sellable product. As seen in the video above, it both solved a problem consumers already know they have, as well as one they didn't know they had: environmental impact.
That is, the environmental impact that emerging technology has on the environment. It was very clear, then that creating sustainable phone cases was the means to an end for bigger, more innovative products for the future. Read more from our interview below.
GDG: "So I wanted to combine these two things. Initially, I wanted to build a laptop that was completely free from electricity, but this was too much ... A challenging project for one person. So, I started to look around at ... how to shrink my project, to still start something that was useful for people. Also, I realized that there is still a misconception about solar energy, and people still don't trust that much, and 'what if' and 'what if'. The things that we have nowadays in our hands are the smartphones. Then the question was 'which smartphones'? Since we want to combine the design - the beautiful design - with the kind of premium product, we started to target iPhone users."
AA: So, you mentioned that there was a little bit of a difference between the technological aspect and the marketing. What were some of the marketing tactics that you used to be able to really gain traction as far as peoples' interest in a product like this.
GDG: "iPhone is more a marketing strategy. From a technology point of view, it's more difficult to work with Apple, honestly. It's much easier to build something with the standard elements and components that you find on the market. But, working with Apple ... If you want to comply with their standards, you need to buy from them. And that's what we are doing. That's why we are saying we use Apple components. So you can safely plug your iPhone into the case without anything wrong happening to you or to the phone. Which makes the process a little bit complex, but [Apple product certification] is something that we want to comply with. We don't want to risk it ... We are putting a lot of our emphasis on the quality of the product.
AA: Okay, absolutely. Okay. So we do have a few questions from some of our Facebook fans and followers. One of the questions was about the product in terms of the solar power. They were curious to know, would it still be able to absorb energy from the sun even on a rainy or overcast day?
GDG: I will say that if there is sun, there is energy. If there light, there is energy. It's not only getting from cloudy weather, but getting also from artificial light. Of course, the most efficient set-up would be under direct sunlight. But any light will provide additional energy.
AA: In our Media Bytes video, we talked about the durability ... I know that you commented, or someone from your page commented, about the durability of the solar panel, so tell us a little bit about that.
GDG: That would be more of a question for the supplier. We do have a supplier for that, but he has confident in his product. We are not building this ourself. There is a 25 year guarantee.
With a 25-year guarantee on the life of the solar panels, Sunthetic may be able to capture the attention and pockets of competitors' customers such as Otterbox, Speck, and even Mophie.
GDG (cont.): We are quite new as a company and as a project. As a project it's almost two years, we were public only November last year to Web Summit, where we presented the product for the first time. Then at the same time the idea of being at Web Summit was to talk with investors. To start production, you need a fixed amount of money that you cannot leave without. It's not like a software project that you can start from almost zero, just with your own knowledge. After Web Summit, we just informed our crowd about what we were doing. Then after Christmas we decided to go crowdfunding, because the investors - they were not coming as fast as we expected. Basically, our marketing strategy was all-around crowdfunding. Six weeks before the campaign, we started our pre-launch phase. We did a lot of Facebook advertising, with content management, a nice picture, a design, conveying the message of a nice product, useful, that can help you out. We started to collect emails just before the launch.
GDG: Of course, obviously I was looking with my team at these two platforms, and we did the big evaluation and we come up with the conclusion that it was better for us on Indiegogo. But, of course, if we don't reach the amount we need, we may think of switching platforms or doing some other technique to ... Even other less-known crowdfunding platforms in other countries, because it can be a world-wide product. Anywhere there is an iPhone, we can ship the product. Obviously the US market is probably the biggest one, or maybe China is the biggest one now I don't know. But we didn't consider China at all, because of language barrier and maybe they are not accustomed much to crowdfunding culture.
AA: That was actually going to be my next questions. Do you feel confident in the ability to break into the US market?
GDG: "We are doing everything online. From the stage where we are now, we have a product ready for production, people are showing interest on buying it, and we will just ship. Our specification for electronics in our lab ... It's not our lab, but it's a lab that's here ... So we will have specifications for the European market and the US market. I think that it's okay for a first step. The next step will be in touch with retailers or with distributors to be [delivered] to shops. But until then, we will pursue the online and e-commerce strategy, because it's the easiest and cheapest for us right now."
There's simply no doubt that the Sunthetic team has developed a product that can be both disruptive technology for its market, as well as innovative in its approach to educating consumers about their own environmental impact. With solar panels making their way into the hands of the multitudes of iPhone users, Gerardo may just very well develop his initial idea of being a flagship consumer electronics startup with sustainability in mind.
At present, Sunthetic is in its Prototype stage, and continues to bring in funding from investors through their Indiegogo campaign. Interested investors can make contributions based on tiered donations to their campaign and receive discounts on their very own Sunthetic phone case. The campaign ends May 2017.