Junior Entrepreneurship and Marketing double major at Bradley University. Founder of AttachBack.
Can a brand new startup forever change the way we use our phones? I think I know the answer. In this post, I’ll share the story of my fledgling startup that aims to do just that.
For one of my entrepreneurship classes at Bradley University, I had to work with a team on building a startup. The end goal for this class was to compete in the annual Big Idea Competition, and hopefully win the $8,000 first place prize.
Once the teams were assigned, each member had to come up with an idea for a startup to work on. Then, the team would pick just one idea to pursue. The idea I brought – and the one my team decided to go with – was a line of interchangeable phone attachments.
How would it work? You’d have a single “base” piece, and then each individual phone attachment would be able to connect and disconnect from that base. This would make it possible to use multiple different phone attachments without needing to buy a bunch of different phone cases to attach each one to.
I only came up with this idea the night before class. I was struggling to come up with anything, so I called my family to see if they had any ideas. One of my sisters talked about how it would be nice to have a phone attachment that you could take off and put back on. She wanted something to mount her phone to a window or wall to help with photography. But, she didn’t want it to be permanently stuck to the back of her phone. After talking it over, we realized this idea could be applied to any phone attachment, and would make it possible to use many different attachments interchangeably.
My team worked on the idea – which we named “AttachBack” – for several months, and were one of 29 teams accepted into the Big Idea Competition. The culmination of our work was a 23-page business plan outlining exactly what we needed to do to bring our product to market.
But then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Big Idea Competition was postponed till the Fall 2020 semester. As far as the class was concerned, our work was pretty much over. But my co-founder and I weren’t ready to give up on AttachBack just yet, since we believed it had real potential.
At the beginning of summer break, I was all “gung-ho” about AttachBack and wanted to move forward with it as quickly as possible. But the more we worked on it, the more problems we discovered with the idea. We somehow had to design and get prototypes made for every single different attachment we wanted to make. Think card holders, phone wallets, ring kickstands, car mounts, belt clips, armbands, and even our own version of a PopSocket. We would be competing with every phone attachment company, and risked patent infringements. Somehow, our versions of each attachment would have to be good enough that people would want to buy ours over the original. The more we thought about it, the more we came to realize it was a losing proposition and a terrible idea.
This was a difficult, but critical moment. It was obvious we needed to pivot, and it suddenly became obvious how. Hidden underneath my grandiose and complicated idea was an idea so simple and perfect, yet strangely elusive considering nothing like it exists.
Instead of making our own version of every attachment on the market, why not simply make a product that would allow interchangeability between existing phone attachments? That way, we wouldn’t be competing with every attachment manufacturer. Instead, we’d actually be helping them since our product would make it possible for people to use more than one phone attachment!
This new direction for AttachBack means our product only consists of two components: A base that permanently attaches to the back of a phone or phone case, and plates that can connect and disconnect from the base. Instead of sticking your new phone attachment to the back of your phone case, you can simply stick it to an AttachBack plate. If you stick all your attachments to AttachBack plates, you now have the freedom to use whichever phone attachment you want, whenever you want.
Our next step was to design a prototype. Even though I have no engineering experience, I decided the best way to go about this would be to teach myself CAD. After all, it was summer break and I figured it would be a useful skill to have. I gave myself a week to learn Fusion360 and design prototypes of the base and plate. But it only took me two days, thanks to a series of tutorials I found on YouTube.
With the prototype design complete, it was time to have a physical prototype made. I submitted the files to a 3D printing service, and had the prototype in hand within a couple of weeks. The prototype did not turn out perfectly, as I underestimated the rigidity of the material. But I suppose that was to be expected, considering most products require multiple prototypes before they are perfected.
With the Fall semester now underway at Bradley, I am taking another entrepreneurship class in which I am working on AttachBack with a couple classmates helping out (my aforementioned co-founder moved on to new things). For this particular class, one of the assignments was to create a landing page for our startup and attempt to reach a certain number of pre-orders or email signups. I have experience building websites, so I was able to throw together https://attachback.com/ in a couple of hours.
After my teammates and I promoted the site on various social media platforms, a total of three people signed up to receive our emails. Our goal was 1,787, but the entire point of the assignment was that we’d fail. That assignment aside, failing only fires me up to work even harder – and my vision for AttachBack extends beyond classes, college, and the upcoming Big Idea Competition. I think AttachBack can forever change the way we use our phones, and make phone attachments even more mainstream and accessible than they are now.
AttachBack is still in the very early stages as a startup. I believe this is just the beginning. Looking ahead, I need to have more prototypes made (while on a college student’s budget!). But more importantly, and in order to take AttachBack to the next level, I’ll need to start pitching investors and seeking angels.
Thank you for reading my startup story. It has been a blast to work on AttachBack, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead on this journey. If you have any thoughts, questions, or you otherwise want to get in touch, you can reach me at hello[at]attachback.com.
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