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The Bird Buddy story, raising over $2m on Kickstarter, and growing an IoT company :: with Franci Zidar and Kyle Buzzard

In this episode of Ventures, my guests Franci Zidar (https://mybirdbuddy.com) and Kyle Buzzard (https://protaventures.com) discuss the Bird Buddy story from an idea to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Bird Buddy is a smart bird feeder that notifies users of visiting birds with a live stream and AI-assisted photo capturing features. We discuss many aspects of the story to date, including early validation work, design interactions, and the incorporation of feedback from interested customers. We also dive into practical advice for aspiring hardware/IoT entrepreneurs considering a Kickstarter campaign as part of their marketing strategy.

You can watch this episode below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts (search for “Ventures”).

In this episode we cover the following:  

1:40 - Franci intro, path as a technical entrepreneur leading up to him co-founding Bird Buddy

2:32 - Kyle’s intro, path as an industrial designer, Bay Area to Chicago, to being a partner at Prota Ventures working with the Bird Buddy team.

3:27 - Introduction to Bird Buddy. Where did the idea come from?

7:23 - At what point did the team get serious about testing the validity of Bird Buddy as a business? What did those tests look like?

11:24 - Kyle’s advice for founders building hardware/IoT startups; how to best validate an idea in the early stages, using Bird Buddy as an example.

13:24 - Where did the Bird Buddy and Prota Ventures stories converge?  (Shout out to Danny and Daniel from https://ioterra.com/ for the intro)

17:09 - For hardware entrepreneurs trying to figure out next steps - once they are serious about taking their business to the next level - what advice does Kyle have?

18:55 - Comments on “Hardware is Hard” in the VC/Angel community.

21:31 - What information was Franci looking for when he was Googling around and found Ioterra and Prota?

23:55 - What is the history of the design of Bird Buddy?

27:16 - Product details of Bird Buddy. What was the rationale for the features?

31:26 - Product materials and industrial design in light of the brand strategy; i.e. the balance between fun/playful and tech-focused.

35:02 - How is the Bird Buddy powered?

36:17 - What is the vision for the software, data, and AI features moving forward?

41:27 - What questions are bird experts/scientists/conservationists (ornithologists) asking?

45:25 - Kickstarter strategy advice for hardware entrepreneurs, building community, and the evolving purpose of Kickstarter from “incubator to accelerator.”

50:33 - How has the Bird Buddy team been communicating with their audience? Check out: https://www.facebook.com/mybirdbuddy 

55:30 - Community development: groups on social media/slack vs. direct email and facebook pages. “Bird of the Day” and steady blog content.

58:10 - How did/does the Bird Buddy team think about Public Relations leading up to (and through) the Kickstarter campaign?

1:02:00 - Final words of encouragement and advice for entrepreneurs.

1:04:50 - How can people follow up with Franci and Kyle? https://www.linkedin.com/in/franci-zidar/ and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kyle-buzzard/