We spoke with the Los Anegeles team behind the world’s thinnest iPad wall mount, the Magbak, and their experience founding a hardware startup in LA.
Magbak is the world’s thinnest mount for iPad. It’s so thin, no one would ever guess it’s a mount. It inherently mounts to most metal surfaces without adding any significant bulk or thickness. For non-metal surfaces, you can use MagStick, a narrow pencil sized piece that you put on your wall. Overall, it’s a beautiful minimalist mounting solution.
How did you come up with the idea?
We were using iPads a lot but felt that all the cases and mounts were relatively thick and bulky. I often use my iPad to create as opposed to just consume, and there were times that I would want to create and then consume, but do so handsfree. So we thought about ways that we could put it on the wall, but do so effortlessly and without having to carry a case around all the time. We both had smart covers so we thought about putting something on the back so that the smartcover doesn’t flop around. We figured we could solve both problems by putting magnets in there to mount on surfaces. The issue with magnets is that they pull in but also slide out from surfaces. So magnetically mounting with a high friction surface gives you both the pull force and friction force so it doesn’t slide off. We played around with a few prototypes and looked at how we can make it really thin. We studied the profile of the iPad and felt that it needed to be designed in a way that you didn’t know there were magnets in there. So that the Magbak now allows you to stick your iPad on any metal surface. But there are times that you will want to stick it on a non-metal surface. So we also designed the MagStick. This is a narrow pencil sized piece that you put on your wall that you can mount your Magbak to.
What was your experience like founding a hardware startup?
With a software company there’s obviously a lot of support and there are many ecosystems to plug into. But hardware is a little tougher and it takes a little longer. A lot of our work is getting on the phone or online with vendors to get prototypes made. With software you can code something, make the change, and see the results quickly. But with hardware, you design something and it can take months until you see the results. They have much longer cycle times, which slow things down and increases costs. You have to hit your mark right off the bat because you can’t just issue an over-the-air update to fix things, as you can with software.
What support is there in LA’s startup ecosystem for a hardware startup?
We found it to be a little difficult because all the events we went to were heavily focused on startups. Hardware is tough because it’s investment heavy and has long turnaround times. The good news though is that there have been some large buyouts recently, like Google buying Nest, which will hopefully get more people into this space. I also wish that in LA we had more hardware specific incubators or techshops with tools you can use. Hopefully we’ll see more of those here soon.
Is your distribution plan purely online or also brick and mortar?
This has changed over time. Initially we were thinking to only pursue an online direct to consumer strategy, but we’re starting to look further towards brick and mortar. Most people are buying their iPhone or iPad covers in stores, since the covers are right there when people buy their devices. Also, a lot of hardware startups are seeing the majority of sales in brick and mortar. You have to be there to move large quantities. Look at Pebble with their Best Buy deal. That’s where their sales are happening and so the retail stores can’t be ignored.
What have you learned from the Kickstarter campaign?
One thing we took for granted was the work that’s required to get the word out. You can have a great product, a great video, but unless people are coming to your Kickstarter page, you won’t get backers. So sometimes it gets difficult balancing your energies between focusing on getting your product made and focusing on getting backers. You have to do a lot of legwork to get people to your page.