Crowdfunding is not for every business or project, however the great story on the success of Flow Hives shows how it can be done right.
Flow Hives, based on the North Coast of the Australian state of New South Wales, is a father and son business that has cracked the way for consumers to raise bees and get fresh honey from the hives without having to suit up.
There’s a few notable points in Flow Hives’ story that challenges a lot of the basic wisdom about starts ups and funding we’re hearing at the moment.
Taking the long path
Flow Hives’ founders,Stu and Cedar Anderson, spent ten years getting the basics right. That’s a long time to get a Minimum Viable Product to the market.
On top of that, they were experienced bee keepers, not keen young outsiders looking to ‘disrupt’ what they saw as a staid industry.
Carefully choosing support
Like all good Australian businesses, the Andersons’ first stop was at the government where they found the support programs were too cumbersome and onerous. Another problem they’d have encountered with that path would have been the funds available are trivial compared to the time spent on compliance.
They found a similar thing with the courting of investors being too much of a distraction and, rightly, saw that VC and seed money is actually quite expensive. This made crowdfunding a viable options.
Selecting production methods
While 3D printing worked for prototypes it didn’t scale for production runs. Knowing they’d need injection moulding for their plastic parts, the Andersons chose a local supplier rather than dealing with the lowest cost operator in China so they would have better control over their supply chain.
Coupled with choosing a local supplier for their plastic components the Andersons’ also chose a US supplier for the wooden enclosures based upon the service they received.
Going with trusted suppliers meant they were able to get a good product to market quickly. When a Chinese company attempted a cheap imitation it failed because of the shoddy quality.
The Flow Hive story is a good reminder that the principles of the today’s tech startup culture are only applicable to small group of the businesses in specific sectors.
In a diverse economy, there’s many different other business principles and models that might apply. Trying to shoehorn one type of business into a different model may well be a mistake.