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INSIGHTS / MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Enoc Armengol: The design and e-commerce 3.0 star inspired by Inspector Gadget

Spain · Apr 17, 2019· By Amalia González

Copyright: CompassList

Also a serial entrepreneur, the Spaniard has created a trail of celebrated design products and startups from Singapore to Barcelona  

Heard of the Palo Wood sunglasses, Panpaati edible furniture, Origami chairs and MAM Originals wood watches and mobile covers? The brain behind these cult designs is Enoc Armengol, the Spanish industrial designer star, serial entrepreneur and more recently, e-commerce 3.0 specialist.

The Barcelona native has launched Dynamic Growth, a self-described “brand venture builder” that maximizes product marketing through crowdfunding. E-commerce 3.0 refers to offering and marketing product innovation and memorable experiences to customers via online channels, before the product is made available offline – the inverse of traditional marketing.

A Kickstarter ambassador himself, Armengol aims to launch at least two profitable brands a year this way. He is currently crowdfunding, via another platform Indiegogo, his newly created headphones-to-speakers system, Switch. Launched on April 5, 2019, the campaign achieved its target of about €10,000 in just three days. Pledges have since exceeded €17,000.

“We invest a lot in digital marketing, which is the way we promote our brands,” Armengol told CompassList at the recent 4YFN conference. “As today most people are informed online, buyers discover new products that have not yet reached [physical] stores.”

Success in his early 20s

Armengol's childhood dream of becoming an inventor was inspired by Inspector Gadget, Transformers and Sherlock Holmes cartoons. The classic comics are still very much part of him today as he continues to create "meaningful products with a timeless effect.”

Success came early to Armengol when his first university project was commercialized by Metalarte, a platform for emerging designers. The modular and versatile lamp Bailaora is an early example of Armengol's mission to create designs "with an impact on the product, not just its look."  At aged 21, he was named one of the 50 most relevant designers worldwide by Design 360. Sketching and writing down ideas is essential for a creator, said Armengol, who also uses 3D technology to produce prototypes to promote his work.

Around that time, he started his first business venture, in VR and 3D hyper-realism. With design degrees from the University School of Design and Engineering of Barcelona, the Polytechnic of Milan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Armengol has lived in four continents over the last decade, in a career spanning New York, Milan, Bali, Bangkok and more. His clients have included PwC, Vodafone, Sodexo, Harvard University and W Hotels.

In 2010, the media-savvy Armengol made headlines in the design world with his Panpaati or "Eating Design" project. His "sustainable" furniture-making using freshly baked bread quickly became viral, thanks to its "instagrammable" artistic visuals of eating food off the bread chairs. He moved to Thailand and became a product manager for two years at one of Asia's top 10 design firms, P49DEESIGN, in Bangkok.

Algorithms boost growth

It was in Singapore that Armengol got his first taste of entrepreneurial success. The then 24-year-old launched his unique wooden sunglasses online and Palo Wood became a celebrity global brand within six months of its launch in 2011. With stars like Halle Berry and Colin Firth as its celebrity customers, the wooden frames are now sold around the world as a must-have fashion accessory.

Armengol returned to Barcelona and invested in an app startup Jobinow in 2013, where he worked as COO for over two years. In 2014, he co-founded MAM Originals and applied Palo Wood's successful concept to design a new range of products in Europe. MAM Original's world's thinnest wooden watches were featured in Forbes and Vogue and became a multimillion-dollar business by 2017 with more than 35,000 watches sold.  

The restless entrepreneur co-founded Levitat in 2016, with its Kickstarter fundraising campaign for aerial hammocks and tents "floating" in the forest clinching €200,000 pre-sale orders in three days.

Crediting Kickstarter’s algorithms with boosting growth, Armengol said: “We made a small MVP with Levitat, launched the campaign through Kickstarter and saw that the conversion was really much greater than in any e-commerce. We found that the sales multiplier was six to eight. That is, for every invested dollar, we generated between six and eight dollars.”

Give customers/investors meaning

More recently, Armengol invested €90,000 to set up crowdfunding venture builder Dynamic Growth in 2017. Popular crowdfunding platforms and fundraising campaigns can rapidly create "huge noise" for new products over the Internet, allowing engagement with potential customers and investors, he said.

In fact, the crowdfunding investors would feel like they are the product’s co-founders, even when equity isn’t offered. The early adopters are given discounts and other perks as they support the brand throughout its fundraising journey. 

Dynamic Growth's schedule is particularly hectic. To maximize focus and resources, the team deliberately whittles down their preparation time for every crowdfunding campaign to an intense 30–45 days, from four to six months typically, said Armengol.

The products, known as Digital Native Vertical Brands, or DNVBs, are then sold online across several e-commerce platforms, followed by offline sales in physical stores and distributors around the world. 

People don't just buy products or services these days, they buy "meaning," said Armengol. His design philosophy ensures that users' needs are not only satisfied by form and function, but also through experience.

Edited by Suzanne Soh