Together with his business partner Jasper Stas, Daan van der Lecq scored a hit on the Kickstarter platform. Even before delivering the product, they are being bothered by illegal copycats.
It is hot, the cicadas grate continuously. Daan van der Lecq (25) lies at the edge of the swimming pool in Benissa, Spain, at the end of July. Pling! Jasper Stas (25), his partner who guards the office in Amsterdam, reports. ‘Daan, have a seat and take a deep breath.’ And then he sends a second message, with a photo of a clip to attach to your waistband. One that is very similar to the Bucqle that he and Jasper developed.
Jasper Stas & Daan van der Lecq, Founders of Bucqle
Daan's mouth falls open. ‘Holy shit’, he shouts through his mobile, ‘Those mother f*ckers have copied our product!’ They have been through a lot in recent months: they have tracked down dozens of crooks who pick their photos to sell so-called Bucqles via their own websites. While they are not even in production ... And then this, real copies. 'Bizarre, man. A physical product!'
Worked on prototypes and patent applications for two years
The Bucqle, the product of the two Amsterdam friends, is a premium accessory to tighten the waistband of pants and skirts to the perfect fit per person, also the modern replacement of the belt. Van der Lecq points to his own pants, a wide model with a pleat. Popular, he says, but only available in S, M or L, so not very accurate in size. ‘I used to mess around with those things, but with a belt it immediately becomes so formal and awkward again.
‘The target amount of € 10,000 was received in two hours. In a week we were on a barrel’
Daan van der Lecq
After two years of hard work on prototypes, applying for the patent and attracting an extra investor, the time has finally come on March 5 this year: Bucqle is launched on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. A great hit. 'The target amount of € 10,000 was received in two hours. In a week we were on a €100K.' In the end, they raised € 223,851 in a month. At the launch event we celebrated.
Private message from a backer
The intention was that the two entrepreneurs would fly to Asia immediately afterwards, on 6 March, to have the Bucqles made at the previously selected manufacturer. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 epidemic threw a held up the entire process and the 'backers', the people who had supported their idea on Kickstarter, still had to be patient. The Kickstarter backers form a community, Van der Lecq explains. They feel very involved with the product and follow Bucqle on Instagram.
In June they receive a private message in their timeline from one of them: 'Hey Bucqle, I think this is you. Is this a collaboration? ' The link below the message leads to a website with photos and a video of a clip that makes clothing two sizes smaller at the waist.
Their photos and their video. Only then without their logo.
Yes, of course they know about copycats. But that fast? ‘You could have seen that coming,’ their legal adviser says soberly. 'With a product that you have made in overseas, where they don't care about copyright, which also has the potential to conquer the world.'
Giant dark web
Stas and Van der Lecq feel very cheated at the sight of this shameless fraud. After all, anyone who orders something never gets anything delivered. They try it themselves too, and indeed, pure scam. They shake it off. Van der Lecq: 'We had not yet been able to have the product made overseas, because of corona. So we thought, as long as we can't get it made, they can't copy it, right? That reassured us. These were worries for later.'
Unfortunately, the number of web shops with the video and photos stolen from Kickstarter is expanding rapidly. Even under their own Bucqle Instagram account, dozens of fake accounts appear after every post offering the thing for sale, all via the same URL. Van der Lecq: 'Those webshops turned out to be located somewhere in China. Apparently there is a gigantic dark web of Chinese behind computers doing nothing but spreading this misery.'
The fakes on Instagram are manually blocked by Stas and Van der Lecq. For the rest of the virtual copycats, they hired an expert who is fully focused on declaring them fake on AliExpress, eBay or Facebook, so they are removed.
Copycats are catching up
Well, and then comes the biggest blow at the end of July, the physical copycat. Van der Lecq shows the fake Bucqle that their agent in China has bought. The thing looks clunky next to their own design, almost twice as thick. ‘Alibaba alone has over a hundred sellers of this thing.’
‘Look, the fake is made of cheap material, zinc. Ours is made of the same material as a Rolex’
Daan van der Lecq
It’s a pity. Orders are still coming in, but due to the Covid-19 situation, Stas and Van der Lecq will probably only be able to deliver the nearly 10,000 Bucqles sold in December. And thus the frauds are slowly catching up. If he had known that those Chinese would like to benefit of the success of Bucqle so quickly, he would have simplified the animation on Kickstarter about how the product works, says Van der Lecq.
‘Is this Bananasplit or something?’ (Dutch Prank TV Program)
But we are still way ahead of them, he says optimistically. ‘Look, the fake is made of a cheap material, zinc. Ours made of the same material as a Rolex. And you cannot adjust this. Ours is adjustable by the millimetre.'
They won't be put off anyway, he says. They will begin production this month, an even further improved version. They have over 17,000 followers of their brand around the world. 'Do you know what it is? We are young, this is our first success, we have no family to take care of. Every time we are really dumbfounded, but we also laugh. What have we ended up in again? Is this Bananasplit or something? They won't stop us.'