After a turbulent few years, product design company Ventrify is "absolutely ecstatic" about a client's successful crowdfunding campaign for a dog treat dispenser that it helped bring into the world.
A Kickstarter for EZ Treat, a one-hand-operated dispenser that delivers a single serving for your pup, ended on April 15 with 1,627 backers pledging $69,724. That far exceeded the $7,600 goal set by the creator, Felix Yim of Tails Designs.
"We were all blown away," Ventrify co-founder Riyaz Khair said. "I think this is just simple enough, just relatable enough to really have gained that bigger traction."
The Edmonton-born Ventrify, which now has an office in Vancouver as well, helps entrepreneurs and small businesses turn ideas into objects. It spearheads product design from discovery to concept development and prototyping to detailed design and then supervises the manufacturing process for inventors like Yim.
He had an idea but didn't have the time, energy, or skills to turn it into reality. Ventrify did, and its team "helped bring the project to life and to the point that I had something solid in my hand that I could test with and make further improvements on," he said.
Ventrify has seen a lot of change over the past four years. Khair's co-founders stepped away from the business, and he took on a marketing role. One-time client David Kennedy became CEO in March 2020, and Humam Shwaikh joined as the chief technical officer in May of that year.
"There's a lot of growing pains," Shwaikh said. "If you were to compare the company then (when he started) and the company now, you wouldn't recognize it."
Restructuring the company and improving processes is hard enough at the best times, but throw in a global pandemic, especially when much of the manufacturing happens in Taiwan and China, and you've got a real challenge on your hands.
"Last year, shipping containers went from $1,000 to $25,000 in the span of less than a month," Shwaikh said, noting that Ventrify is now looking to move more of its manufacturing to Canada. "It's just like a wake-up call — you have no control over what happens over there."
Crowdfunding wasn't part of Ventrify's process early on, with products such as the TieMaster. But the EZ Treat experience shows it's a great way to both validate and fund ideas.
"The beauty of a crowdfunding campaign is you can see whether people love the idea and will buy it before you do the mass manufacture," Khair said. "The reason (the product) is so cheap is because you mass-manufacture it, but you haven't mass-manufactured it yet, so you haven't spent that money on the inventory."
The Kickstarter's success "feels amazing," Yim said. "The risk was definitely more outsized than anything I've done before, and it's a tremendous feeling seeing the fans I've already garnered."
It's a thrill for Ventrify, too, as it prepares to coordinate the manufacturing of the EZ Treat to ensure that everything happens as smoothly as possible, with fulfilment targeted for August. "We're able to win as our clients win," Khair said. "We've set it up so that our long-term goals align."
A Ventrify client in Edmonton is about to launch a Kickstarter for the Salus Roller, a heated vibration foam roller. Ventrify also has some Internet of Things devices in the works, such as a device that plugs into commercial coffee machines and sends data back to a web app.
"Pretty simple stuff, but it's bringing older hardware into the modern age," Khair said. "So we're really excited about that."
Over time, they'd like to work on even more sophisticated products, perhaps some that they've come up with themselves. "We're engineers at heart. We're inventors, and we want to see more complex products," Khair said.