This is a follow up story for Mobile Pixels. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Jack Yao, along with my co-founder Stephen, we are the founders of Mobile Pixels Inc. We are in the business of designing and manufacturing novel portable laptop monitors.
Our flagship product is the Trio monitors. These monitors can be paired with any laptop, simply slide the monitor out and connect the cable, and it is on. We have also recently completed a Kickstarter campaign for the Duex Series monitor, which raised more than $1MM in presale revenue.
We finished last year with around $13.6MM in sales, up from the $4.2MM from the year before. We hope to end with $24MM in sales this year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we spoke last time, our revenue tripled last year and is on track to double again this year. I think with the pandemic and the shift to WFH, our product is more relevant than ever. Initially, I had thought that the end of traveling will translate into a downturn for our business, but it turned out to be the opposite. Our monitor freed people from being chained to their desks, now they can work in their backyard, living room, or anywhere. Essentially transforming any space in their home into a workroom.
Oftentimes you need to experiment with a big adset against a good number of audiences before you can find the sweet spot. So within one's abilities, be generous in the ad spend.
There are 3 ways of increasing revenue for us.
1. Sell more of the same things in existing channels.
- We doubled our ad budget
- Initiated multiple influencer campaigns and reviews
- Implemented an in-depth SEO process to increase organic traffic
- Enrolled in 3 new affiliate marketing channels
2. Sell new products
- We launched 2 new products, the Duex Lite and Duex Plus in March.
- We plan on launching a new desktop monitor in September
- We plan on launching a slew of accessories later this year.
3. Sell in new channels
- We are now selling in Staples
- Signed distribution deals with D&H and Petra
In terms of headcount, we grew from 3 people to 13 over the course of the year. Given the pandemic, we expanded our supply chain management team in China and are now dual sourcing between two factories.
Additionally, we launched 2 new products, the Duex Lite and the Duex Plus which raised over $1MM in presale revenue on Kickstarter. These products are much thinner, lighter and more efficient than the previous generation, we think they will do very well in the marketplace.
We also started to market using Pinterest. Pinterest is a great channel for discovery, we think it will generate a lot of brand awareness for us. We will then use FB and google to retarget those customers. Speaking of ads, FB ad cost has doubled from last year. Ever since the heat of the presidential election starting last September, and though the Q4 shopping season until now, FB CPMs have been about $27, up from $15 before September. We think this trend will continue since there has been increased participation in ECommerce activities from China.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
I have always admired Facebook’s motto of “Move fast and break things". Obviously, it is inferring to discovering and rectifying mistakes quickly. This year I have discovered that some things are not easily fixed. For one, in the haste of growth, I should have spent more time on the hiring process. Potential employees must have motivation and aspirations that are in line with the companies mission and vision.
This year has been a rollercoaster rider in terms of supply chain management. There have been global shortages in LCD panels and IC chips. One of the best decisions I have made is buying up these components early in the year in anticipation of this shortage. Now we have enough supply on hand for the remainder of this year.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We plan on launching 3 more products next year, along with annual product refreshes. In addition to our mainstream products, we will be launching a slew of Mobile Pixels branded accessories such as webcams, keyboards, speakers, and mouse.
We hope to be able to double our revenue again next year to $50MM, accomplish $10MM of that from our website. We hope that the Mobile Pixels brand will become synonymous with productivity and mobility.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I just finished Facebook: An Inside Story by Steven Levy. The big takeaway for me is that some of the greatest companies are born out of personal necessity. Zuckerburg wanted a network that can help build a better college community and wanted an easier method for one to keep track of their friends. Entrepreneurship is a winding journey with stomach-churning downs and euphoric ups. Only founders who are truly passionate about their mission can withstand these challenges and see the elusive light at the end of this tunnel.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
In terms of growth, I encourage people to be generous when experimenting with digital ads. I know all of us would feel more comfortable if we know what type of return we will get before the investment, but digital marketing is different.
I hear other founders talk about how little they spend, and when they see a poor return they decide to stop the advertising. Oftentimes you need to experiment with a big adset against a good number of audiences before you can find the sweet spot. So within one's abilities, be generous in the ad spend.
Where can we go to learn more?
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