The team behind BOLD Gadgets transplanted themselves to Tartu, Estonia to manufacture and market stylish tech
Lama Mansour and Ismat Tuffaha were students at An-Najah National University in Nablus in the Palestinian territories. Despite living in a difficult region, they were inspired by crowdfunding campaigns on Indiegogo and Kickstarter to dream big. One day, they had an idea for a product.
Most people can relate to the problem of running out of smartphone battery in the middle of the day, but not being near an outlet for long enough to recharge. That’s why many people carry power banks around with them, but these are bulky and heavy.
“We thought, let’s create something small and portable that has enough juice for 2-3 hours. It feels warm, it’s not plastic or glass, and it’s a keychain so you’ll never forget to carry it with you.”
Lama, a business student, and Tuffaha, an engineering student, came up with the BOLD Knot. With four days left in its Indiegogo campaign, it has more quadrupled its original funding goal of $15,000, with $66,038 currently raised.
The BOLD Knot is a power source for your smartphone that is smaller, more stylish and twice as fast as your typical power bank.
“We control the power flow from the laptop to the phone, optimizing the power flow without harming the battery,” Mansour told Geektime.
It does this by blocking the data transfer between the PC and phone, allowing the phone to charge faster. It is compatible with iPhones, Android and Windows phones and gives you an average of three extra hours using your phone. It is available for pre-order for $39 on Indiegogo.
Barriers to adoption
But the path was not smooth at first for Mansour and Tuffaha. When they started the company a year ago, they found it very hard to get the PCB assembled.
“In Palestine, we don’t have all the small batteries and small components that are needed for the product. So we have to bring them from outside and you have to go through the borders and when you ship anything that’s electronic, they keep it for several weeks on the borders for inspection.”
Geektime asked an Israeli expert on border controls about the situation and she agreed that Mansour’s description sounded plausible. She said that “dual-use” components, items that can be used for civilian and military purposes, are detained by the Israeli military and that all electronic imports have to undergo both Israeli and Palestinian Authority safety inspections, leading to further delay.
As a result of these obstacles, says Mansour, it would take a month to do an iteration and develop a minimum viable product. This made it difficult to get funding or apply to an accelerator. But even if they had, there are no hardware accelerators in Palestine, she says.
‘There are probably four software ones but no hardware ones. The ecosystem has not really improved in Palestine.”
But then the pair applied to the Buildit hardware accelerator in Estonia and got accepted.
All of a sudden, their luck changed.
“Suddenly the international doors opened for us,” says Mansour, who is 23.
“We could travel freely, we could go to any conferences, we found customers from all over the world.”
In a very short period of time, Bold Gadgets had their minimum viable product, a video, and a campaign page. They have sold over 1,400 keychains via Indiegogo and connected with retail distributors throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Mansour says she and her partners are now applying for residence permits in Estonia so they can continue to expand the business.
“We don’t want this to be a one-product company. We have three other products in R&D. They are all gadgets and smartphone accessories that integrate new technologies into gadgets in a friendly, cute, and fashionable way.”
But asked whether she wants to take this business back to her homeland, Mansour says she prefers to stay in Europe for now.
“I think it’s impossible to run a hardware startup from inside Palestine. You can’t manufacture the product.”
Besides, from a practical point of view, her company’s main markets are in Europe and the U.S.
“We should be closer to those markets. Being in Europe, we’re in the center of all the action. We travel easily to meet customers and potential distributors.”
In five years, believes Mansour, ”We’d like to try to grow the company. Our aim is to be in the biggest electronics stores in the United States. Hopefully within five years, we can have an exit.”