Strawbees is a product that claims to enable people to build huge mechanical objects from standard straws and cardboard. They launched their Kickstarter a few weeks back and it closed last Thursday, pulling in $91 660 from 1 743 different people. I caught up with one of the founders, Gustaf Josefsson.
A prototyping toy for makers of all ages
Strawbees is a construction kit based on one simple unit that lets you connect straws to each other. You stick a Strawbee into the ends of a standard quarter inch (6mm) straw to make struts and then connect them with another Strawbee. Gustaf explains Strawbees: “Just come up with an idea and start building, or simply start building and see where you end up. With the Strawbees you can always modify things as you go, add straws, cut straws, or add new connections to get a stronger, more flexible or bigger construction.”
Gustaf explains the success of the Kickstarter by saying it is such a great project to use crowdfunding on: “This is the kind of project that is just meant to be crowdfunded. It is a simple and visual product idea, it is attractive to the Kickstarter loving maker community and has geek parents as it’s target group. It also works well with the kind of people we have in our personal networks, which enabled us to kickstart our Kickstarter with a lot of early donations.”
Inspired by stuff breaking too easily
Creatables, the company behind Strawbees, consists of three guys, Erik Thorstensson, Petter Danielson and Oscar Ternbom. The company focuses on making products out of industrial surplus materials. One of their products is the bike mud guard, AssSavers, made from the same recyclable polypropylene they use in Strawbees. Other people involved are Gustaf and Simon. Gustaf runs Makerspark, a collaborative makerspace, 3D-print shop and event space in Gamla Stan. Simon is an independent techno artist, who started Skatehack and built magnetically levitating shoes for Nike.
The inspiration to Strawbees came from several different things, Gustaf continues: “It wasn’t a straight road from inspiration to the idea. It kind of incubated while we started our spinoff mudguard company Ass-Savers. Erik was part of a project team aiming to tweak a school in Gothenburg where we showed kids how they could hack their schoolyard with some simple maker skills.”"
They demoed an expensive plastic construction system that was breaking all the time and asked us if we couldn’t come up with something better.
The connector is a result of the combination of the time he had on the bus out to the school, and a meeting at the Science center Universeum in Gothenburg. They demoed an expensive plastic construction system that was breaking all the time and asked us if we couldn’t come up with something better. They already had one of Creatables recycling stations and as a mechanical engineer with some materials science background, and a passion for sustainability Erik saw that the other system had deliberately chosen a weak plastic that suffers from material fatigue and took the challenge.
At the same time Creatables was already working in many projects with this mechanically durable and recycled PP plastic so we started playing around with connector ideas, and our basic tools was a vinyl cutter and a hole punch. The goal was to make the connector as small as possible and after watching structures and breaking them down in to components we all of a sudden had this little strange pacifier shaped plastic piece in our hands. It’s actually feels like it’s pure luck and happenstance that designed it.
Roadmap and distribution
They’ve been working on the product for two years since they had the initial idea, Gustaf explains that it hasnt really been hard to push this project further: “This product kind of just landed in our laps. We didn’t really intend to invent it. Therefore, it’s been really hard for all of us to take the time, money and effort to bring it to market. It’s been almost 2 years since its inception, that’s the time it’s taken for us to get around to setting up production, logistics, creating a brand and start selling. We are finally ready! It feels so good to finally let it out in the wild!”"
They are currently working on getting all the pre-orders out. The majority of backers are from the US, where they already have a distribution network set up. They will, however, do the rest of the distribution from Sweden, close to where the production line in Gothenburg. Since the product was so successful on the US market, Gustaf says that they will continue to focus on that: “A big focus will also be on the US market, trying to get larger distribution deals with public school systems, giving us the opportunity to get our product out to hundreds of thousands of kids at a time. We’ll also put a lot of focus in creating a playful, collaborative online community and encourage sharing of Strawbee ideas, instructions and curricula across the web.”"
Check out their Kickstarter promo video below