Stylish, small, and simple. Pins Collective is the world’s first digital pin.
Although wearable tech are the hottest trend of the 21st century, when you hear the phrase “wearable tech”, all people think of are smartwatches. Monitoring your heart rate and keeping record of your physical activities, they are convenient devices that tell you what you need to do.
Pins Collective, on the other hand, is a completely different kind of wearable tech. This is because you are in control of what of it instead of vice versa.
At a glance, it may look like any other normal pin, but once you touch the surface, you realize you able to project an image of your choice. All you have to do is choose a picture or video on your smartphone app linked to the pin for it to show up on the pin’s digital screen.
Pins Collective was founded in Stockholm back in 2014. In March 2016, they successfully raised 103,000 USD on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
We sat down with Pins Collective CEO Olof Sjosted to hear all about his product, his stories of success and hardships.
IoA : Internet of Accessory
—Nice to meet you Olof! Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of Pins Collective?
Olof: I don’t know really, it’s just popped up in my head on my way to work. It was very random, actually.
“If only there was a way to easily express my identity, my passions, my opinions.”
I realized that whether it is for productivity, time management, or healthcare, current wearable tech focuses on the technological functions of the device rather than the person who is using it.
Can you believe it? I used to work as the software development project manager at an investment bank before this.
—I would not be able to guess that you used to have such a career.
Olof: I worked long stressful hours. It was certainly not a job I wanted to spend my entire life doing. That’s why I’ve always had the idea of starting a company somewhere in my mind. I was so exhausted with my job, I quit and went surfing for a month in Indonesia. It was after that I came back from that trip that I restarted my career as an entrepreneur.
However, starting a hardware company was much harder than I had ever imagined. I had no prior knowledge about hardware so it took me a whole 3 months just to organize ideas and study about the materials needed for electronic parts and products.
Not makers of tech, but makers of personalities
—On Kickstarter, it says how Pins Collective transforms the classic round shaped pin into a modern wearable tech to express your personality and voice your opinions. Seems like both a useful device as well as an cool accessory.
Olof: What sets Pins Collective apart from typical wearable devices is that it doesn’t measure your heartbeat, or count your footsteps or calories. I have no intentions of making it a healthcare device. Actually, I don’t think of us as a traditional hardware company, because I want to be perceived as more of an accessory maker.
—So does this mean you don’t have a specific target of customers?
Olof: Exactly, anyone can become a user. Not only as a button to put on your shirt, but also as a necklace, or an accessory on a bag. There are really a lot of ways to use it, like in the picture above, you can even put it on your computer and use to remind you important things. You can send messages from far away through your smartphone by changing the design on the screen. Its usages are highly versatile.
—It looks like you’re creating a community of designers sharing their artwork. What are your intentions for this?
Olof: Yes. We asked some artists and designers to create our ready-made designs. Some people didn’t the idea but others seemed very excited to create this totally new product with us. We wanted to work with positive, creative artists and designers. In order to offer as many designs as possible so that users can find their favorite ones, we are still looking for more designers to join Pins Collective.
There are so many gifted designers in this community, but there aren’t many places they can present their talents. As a startup, I wish to continue to work together with these designers to create a platform they can display their great designs.
The real meaning of crowdfunding.
—You did an amazing job crowdfunding on Kickstarter! Over 1000 backers in just one month!
Olof: I love the idea of crowd funding, you have an idea, you need money, and people buy into your idea. I think it is amazing.
It’s a great way to raise money of course, because you don’t have to give out your equity.
But it’s not just that. You get chance to introduce your new idea to the crowd who are interested in new technology, and who also are keen on evaluating new technologies deciding whether it’s cool or not.
I spent an entire year with our design partner PEOPLE PEOPLE preparing for this Kickstarter campaign. So of course in the case that it fails; if people are not interested in the product you put so much effort into, it would be very painful indeed. But at the same time its also a chance to receive straightforward feedback: whether your product is good enough for the market and whether or not you should continue to put money and effort on this.
—I see. I’ve met some entrepreneurs who are not very fond of crowdfunding. What do you think about this?
Olof: A Kickstarter campaign requires a lot of time and work. A lot more than people think.
But in my opinion, it is extremely good, enjoyable and rewarding. You get so much feedback, attention and evaluation for your product.
We have around a thousand backers, which means there are at least a thousand people who want Pins Collective, who need it and who are willing to give you their feedback.
The power of customer feedback
—I saw that you changed your design after received customer feedback. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Olof: Of course. I was surprised how our Kickstarter backers gave us such straightforward feedback. So we set the fund raising goal to meet their requests.
For example, we established 95,000 USD to produce different pin colors and 115,000 USD to allow customers to choose the back of the pin to be either a needle or magnet.
—That is an interesting approach, to set your funding goals in accordance to the customers needs. Did you face any challenges on the technology side of things?
Olof: We are still at the prototype stage. But we predict the hardest part of will be manufacturing the round screen. The round shape makes it less tech and more accessory-like
There are not a lot of other round display screens like this in this size around the market.
We want to increase the battery power and signal strength of the Bluetooth as well as increase memory space for customers to make the user experience as stress-free as possible.
We also want to make the battery of the pin last for at least 74 hours.
Lastly, our biggest concern is whether or not we can make the actual product as small as we advertised it to be on Kickstarter.
—Do you have any messages or advice you want to give to those who are thinking of starting up?
Olof : This is going to be a long journey for you. You should be well prepared.
Also, make sure to network with as many people as you can.
Personal connections with people will broaden your possibilities in the future.
For example, even this very moment, if I hadn’t launched the Kickstartar campaign, you wouldn’t be interviewing me, right?
—Thank you so much for your time Olof!
Pinback buttons are not seen much around Japan anymore. People are hesitant to make holes in their clothing and even if you planned to wear one, you forget and leave the house without it. In other words, they seem to be obsolete.
What if you could change your pin design according to time, place, and your feelings of that moment? In addition, these pins could help in your supporting causes and political parties that you are involved in.
Pins Collective is currently preparing to ship to their backers by Feburary 2017. New, unique ideas like these are what will change people’s lifestyle, and Pins Collective definitely holds the potential to do so too.