Hitch Co-founders, Sky Gilbar & David Silverander
Inspired by the inconvenience of carrying a water bottle and a reusable coffee cup, serial entrepreneurs Sky Gilbar and David Silverander, Co-founders of Remaker Labs, have invented a cool, modern take on the cup and bottle combo – Hitch.
Hitch is a full-size water bottle with a removable barista approved cup hidden inside. When you need a free hand, the bottle has a built in cup holder on top, so you can carry your bottle and cup in one hand.
Sky and David launched Hitch on Kickstarter in late April of 2020, generating $1.2 million in pre-order pledges from over 15,000 backers representing over 70 countries. Impressive results, in the best of times – unprecedented in the headwinds of the Corona virus.
Hitch’s product market fit is made clear in Remaker Lab’s humorous video, which has generated over 5 million views across Kickstarter, YouTube and other social media channels.
(S)ingle (U)se (C)ups SUC
Note: Sky and David’s remarks have been lightly edited for brevity and readability.
John Greathouse: Sky and David – thanks for taking the time to connect. What compelled you to found Remaker Labs and what led to the creation of Hitch?
Sky Gilbar: It’s funny, it started with my frustration carrying both a reusable bottle and cup. I was always juggling them in my hands, along with my phone. I’d often just leave my cup at home and use paper cups. I figured that someone must have made a better way to carry reusables, but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t sacrifice something important, like the volume of water and coffee I wanted, or having a leak-proof lid, stuff like that.
So, I had the idea of stashing a removable cup inside a reusable bottle in a way that didn’t take up extra space. Turns out there was nothing like it, so we got a utility patent, and then it kind of grew from there. David and I were friends, and we were both excited to collaborate on it.
David Silverander: Yeah, we were also motivated by the opportunity to help people go zero waste. Single-use paper cups are almost impossible to recycle because of their plastic lining, meaning 100 million trees are logged every year just to make new ones and 300 billion cups end up in the landfill. But, despite the environmental cost, 80% of people who carry reusable water bottles told us they won’t carry a reusable cup because it’s just too hard to carry both. So, we knew we could help people switch by making it easy to carry a bottle and cup together.
Greathouse: Numbers like 100 million and 300 billion are overwhelming – future generations will no doubt shake their heads when they read about the single-use era in their history books…
Marketing guru Jonah Berger has said that, “If something is built to show, it’s built to grow.” Hitch seems to meet this criteria nicely, as it’s a product typically used in a public setting. To what extent was the product explicitly designed to spark word-of-mouth conversations?
Gilbar: While we didn’t explicitly design it to spark conversation, early on we started to understand that an object hidden inside something in an unexpected way is inherently interesting to show off. When we shared early prototypes with people, a lot of them commented that they couldn’t wait to show their friends, so we knew that was going to be a big part of it. When it came time to do our video, we played up this notion a lot, by having the character tease the reveal and then make a big deal of showing it to someone.
Greathouse: Speaking of your video, I’ve written about successful crowdsourced campaigns in the past, including Shine, CLIQ and Final Straw and. In the first two videos, the companies focused on features and benefits while Final Straw relied on humor to demonstrate their functionality while capturing their brand’s voice. You likewise created a funny, yet effective video.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs regarding creating marketing collateral for their crowd campaigns – clearly, it’s not one size fits all…
Silverander: Agreed, it’s really product dependent. We were advised early on to stick with the tried and true formula of only showing features and benefits in our video. But, when it comes to low-tech products for daily life, humor has been proven to work incredibly well. In our case, the way people carry reusables is inherently funny, full of people dropping stuff — it’s just ripe for humor, and we knew that it would contrast well with our solution.
Gilbar: We spent a lot of time on writing our video treatment so it balanced humor with the need to showcase our product and address sustainability. When it comes to balance, lead with humor by making fun of how people do things now and then show how your product solves that, and end on a lighthearted and empowering note. On sustainability, so many brands use a negative tone, like, “buy our product or the world will end.” We wanted to speak in a more uplifting way and bring some levity to that conversation that was inviting and fun.
Greathouse: Well, your video certainly worked, well done.
I encourage emerging entrepreneurs to identify reference brands which they can look to for inspiration. Are there any such brands that you feel have a complimentary voice and a similar brand identity? How should a startup go about identifying such corollary brands?
Gilbar: Get a great feel for your brand’s core principles and voice first. That way, when you start to look for references, you’ll know what feels right. For example, Hitch is all about simple, minimal, and sustainable products, yet our brand voice is casual, playful, and inviting.
By understanding our brand first, it was easy to find corollary brands with a similar set of principles and voice, like Allbirds, Blume, and w&p. Also, just as important, look for brands that have similar principles but a different voice, or a similar voice but different principles. It’ll help you understand your brand position even better.
Greathouse: Good advice. Did you encounter any issues related to Hitch’s launched that will impact (your) future launches? Any lessons learned that my readers can benefit from?
Silverander: Everything went pretty smoothly, but there are a few things that we learned. One is the importance of the pre-launch campaign. While we ran pre-launch ads on Facebook and Instagram to collect emails to build demand for Hitch, we’d have done even more next time, as the CAC is quite low. Plus, you get more people backing your project on the first day, which drives conversations and sharing online.
Greathouse: To what extent are you concerned about the “new normal” working conditions, post-COVID-19, in which fewer people will be commuting to work every day? Will this suppress the need for a reusable bottle/cup outside of the home?
Gilbar: Reusables are actually selling better than ever, driven by the economic and health challenges we’re facing. For instance, more commuters are bringing food and drink from home in reusables rather than going out to eat or visiting coffee shops, because it saves money and it’s safer.
For those working from home, reusables are still essential to move through life — reusable bottles, cups and food storage are useful when for excursions, exercise, or are out with kids, and such. On the health front, reusables feel safer to people than single-use takeout containers or coffee cups that others have touched.
Silverander: Speaking of that, coffee shops are adopting protocols to accept reusable cups. The “contactless pour” is where you set your reusable cup on the counter, and the barista pours your drink into it directly from an urn or a carafe without ever touching it. It’s safer than a single-use cup that the barista has touched. Also, there’s bigger changes happening, like single-use surcharges and bans rolling out around the world, and cafes that are going zero waste. More people are being pushed towards reusables, and that’s only going to grow.
Greathouse: Lots of companies say the right things when it comes to being environmentally sensitive, but you guys have put your words into action. Do I have it right that you have, or will, plant over 15,000 trees via a portion of Hitch’s proceeds?.
Gilbar: While our products help consumers choose reusables over single-use, which is good for the environment, we were determined to use our business model to help fight climate change as well. In addition to being carbon neutral, we donate to organizations that help protect and restore ecosystems that have been damaged by single-use. So with every order, we plant a tree to combat the 100 million trees logged annually for single-use paper cups, and remove 100 bottles from the ocean to combat the billions of tons of single-use plastic bottle waste that ends up there every year.
Greathouse: Nice and a great fit with your brand promise.
The Hitch bottle/cup combo is novel and clearly (has) achieved product / market fit, but I know that you don’t plan on being a one-product company for long. What can you share with us regarding your product roadmap and how will these future products fulfill the company’s mission?
Gilbar: We’re all about lightening the load for everyone who carries food and drink on-the-go. In other words, we want to make it easier to deal with multiple reusables. While we started with the bottle and cup, when you look at the other things we carry, like food, cutlery, napkins, etc., you need a dedicated bag just to carry it all, and that’s a lot to lug around. So, we’ve got some clever solutions for carrying drinks and food. Also, we’ll be releasing other sizes of the Hitch bottle/cup that carry more water and coffee.
You can follow John on Twitter: @johngreathouse.