Earlier this summer, a cool new ergonomically designed laptop stand called The Roost hit Kickstarter, with a modest funding goal of $9,300. Today, just two months later, the innovative stand has raised $190,000. Fortunately for us, James Olander — who designed, created and launched The Roost — also happens to be a former product manager at oDesk. We caught up with him to hear all about The Roost and its amazing success (sneak peek: it involved oDesk freelancers!), and to find out why ergonomics are so critical to remote work success.
Hi James! Thanks for chatting with us. First things first: What is The Roost and why is it different from other laptop stands?
Hi Jenna, thanks for the interview, excited to talk with oDesk! The Roost is an ultra-portable device that lifts your laptop screen up to eye level, preventing you from hunching over your laptop. You will significantly increase your comfort level at your laptop, allowing you to work longer and be more productive. You will have greatly improved "computer posture" which goes a long way to reducing your susceptibility of developing a Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) (these include Carpal Tunnel, Cubital Tunnel, tendonitis, etc).
What sets The Roost apart is its design and material selection. It has an innovative way of attaching to your laptop that is incredibly stable but also allows The Roost to fold up into a tiny package. And The Roost is made from carbon fiber, so it is extremely lightweight and strong. It also lifts your screen higher than any other stand, which is critical for good computer posture. All this matters because it creates a product that you will actually want to use and take with you everywhere you go!
You've said that The Roost was born out of your own personal ergonomic issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I'm 29 years old, and the hand doctor and physical therapists told me that it was just a matter of time until my bad computer posture finally caught up with me — and that my problem was not uncommon. Things got
worse when I transitioned from a more ergonomic desktop workstation to a laptop. It turns out laptops are just about the worse ergonomic offenders. The screen is attached to the top of the keyboard, which forces you to hunch.
You decided to launch the project on Kickstarter. Why? What has that experience been like?
People I showed The Roost to were very supportive of the project. Many wanted to purchase the prototypes off me! Being in the Bay Area, I was often advised to "Kickstarter" the project, as we have so many great Kickstarters that come from here. I was fortunate to get guidance from many successful Kickstarter creators.
Crowdfunding is an absolute game-changer for people launching new projects. The funds from Kickstarter backers have allowed me to purchase the raw materials and production equipment required to build the first Roosts.
The experience has been amazing. The part I savor most is that so many backers have realized the product will help them as much as it has helped me.
You've now raised almost $200K, more than 20X your original Kickstarter goal! Congrats! Did you expect that kind of response? Why do you think it took off so dramatically?
I believe The Roost solves a real problem that a lot of people have, and it solves it in a great way. When positive exposure came from TechCrunch and Tested.com, things really really took off. I'm still in awe.
We've been talking a lot recently about how the barriers to entry for entrepreneurship are lower than ever, as we now have on-demand access to everything from server space to talent. Have you found that to be true, in your entrepreneurial experience?
Absolutely, and I think Kickstarter takes it up even another notch, really solving the "how to do I get money to make this thing happen" problem. The variety of projects funded on KS is incredible. And many people do second, third, fourth, etc. Kickstarter campaigns, so it is definitely viable!
You used to work at oDesk! Did any of your oDesk experiences prove useful as you launched this business?
I did, and I do miss you guys and oDesk! (Editor’s Note: We miss you too!) I was on the team that is making the oDesk marketplace easier to navigate, helping clients and freelancers connect faster and more successfully. The experience from oDesk has been invaluable. The work people are doing via the oDesk platform truly is the future, and I was fortunate enough to pick up on a lot of the innovative ways people get things done (too many to list!).
Did you use any oDeskers to help you with The Roost? Are you planning to hire through oDesk for anything else as the business grows?
I did! I found a great graphic designer who specializes in stick figure art — a freelancer from Serbia named Tivadar — and hired him to create a marketing poster. In my job post, I stated that I needed a talented graphic designer with experience in stick figure art, asked the applicants to provide a link to their portfolio/related work, and attached my terribly drawn concept art to the job post. Tivadar was exceptionally responsive and we worked together on a couple of ideas until we had the winning solution. So far it has been the most effective piece of communication I have had. I also had transcription of handwritten email addresses performed via oDesk, and I am currently starting to work with a 3D rendering artist. I am also looking to bring on a virtual assistant soon — it's starting to get a bit too hectic for just one person!
Having the right posture while you're working remotely is huge, as you learned from oDesk's work-from-home days. What should people keep in mind as they set up their home office?
There are many things and everyone is a bit different; I like to point people to this website. It’s the best resource I’ve found. And if you already have pain or tingling anywhere, the correct thing to do is consult your doctor or an occupational therapist.
What about the occasional work-from-home folks — anything they should keep in mind with more informal laptop arrangements?
I'd first say 'Get a Roost!' (Editor’s Note: You can pre-order your very own Roost here!) And then it really comes down to not overdoing it. If things are getting sore or achy, you're already doing too much.
Anything else you want to add?
Keep doing what you're doing oDesk!
To learn more about The Roost, check out the video below!