How a high-tech wallet went from idea to best-selling product
In 2013, 13.1 million Americans were victims of identity theft, according to Javelin Strategy and Research’s annual Identity Fraud Report. One of them was Andrew Royce Bauer, CEO of Royce Leather in Secaucus, New Jersey. A thief stole not only Bauer’s wallet but his identity and $3,000, as well.
Looking to help others dealing with similar challenges, last summer Bauer set out to develop a luxury leather wallet with GPS tracking and RFID-blocking technology. Today, after just three months on the market, the Freedom Wallet is Royce Leather’s top seller.
Here, Bauer shares the steps of his nine-month journey from big idea to best-selling product.
1. Scope out the competition.
The first step to bringing your idea to life, says Bauer, is to look for others doing something similar. Use the Internet, but think outside the box instead of just scoping out your known competitors. For Bauer, that meant scouring websites such as Etsy, Kickstarter and Indiegogo—“places that are full of bootstrapping entrepreneurs with great ideas,” he says. “Established companies don’t necessarily have a reason to innovate because what they’re doing already works.”
While Bauer’s research showed him that the Freedom Wallet would be the world’s first such product, don’t be discouraged if other companies have similar versions of your big idea. “Don’t worry about being the first or getting the patent,” he says. “Just perfect your product and your customer experience.”
2. Build partnerships.
Depending on the product or service you want to launch, you may not be able to go it alone. If you’re seeking a partner, “the most important thing is reliability,” Bauer says. “When you establish a partnership and you have to trust someone else, you put yourself at risk.”
To develop the Freedom Wallet, Bauer needed help from a mobile technology firm experienced in GPS tracking. He found it in Silicon Valley, hiring the team after multiple interviews and a close review of its experience and customer feedback.
After Bauer contracted a technology firm, he reached out to Royce Leather’s existing customers, including Sharper Image, Brookstone and Kohl’s, to pitch the product and gauge their interest. “You have to prove it’s going to be worth it to them,” he says. He tackled that hurdle by presenting not only the product specifications but also information on wallet theft and identity fraud to prove the product had a wide appeal.
Before bringing the Freedom Wallet to market, Bauer ordered 1,000 samples, which he distributed to reporters, customers and Royce Leather employees, asking them to use the wallet and share ideas for improving it. For example, numerous testers reported that the wallet’s alarm, which sounds an alert on the user’s phone when the wallet is more than 150 feet away, was too loud and activated too often. So Bauer worked with the mobile technology team to tone it down. Seeking the input of diverse testers “really perfected the product,” he says.