Dog & Bone Cases

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When gadgetry specialist Lee Ranchod founded technology company Dog & Bone Cases in 2012, he looked for a niche in the market that his company could fill – and found one in waterproof cases for smart phones.

The start-up produced the world’s first direct touch waterproof mobile case. It then went on to creating keyless smart padlocks that could be operated by Bluetooth. Their range went from heavy-duty padlocks for sheds or gates, to lighter padlocks for school lockers, and ones designed for travellers to use on suitcases or backpacks.

“We now export to 86 countries, including countries in Europe and Australia, Canada, and the US,” Lee says.

Testing and collaborating

Lee says that Dog & Bone Cases always had its eye on the lucrative US market, but were fortunate enough to test their products in Australia first.

“We’ve discovered that what works in the Australian market works in the US – and vice versa,” Lee says.

They were less successful with cases in the European market, who were after slimmer, more fashionable designs. However, by the time they entered Europe, Dog & Bone Cases were moving into the padlock market, which resonated well with the UK market.

The company’s next move is into the audio space. They’ve just completed their intellectual property (IP) patents and proof of concepts for customisable audio headphones.

“Our headphones can be heated so they mould and fit perfectly into the user’s ears,” he says. “We’re now talking with two major companies. We think it makes more sense to produce our earphones through these bigger multinationals than by ourselves.”

To help break into overseas markets, Dog & Bone Cases invested time and effort into building relationships with other businesses.

Says Lee: “At Las Vegas trade shows, I’d chat to CEOs or product development teams from like-minded companies, looking at where we could create synergies and build relationships. It all comes down to your approach – everyone wants to make money, work with good people and get into market quicker by leveraging other’s strengths.”

Meeting the funding challenge

One of Dog & Bone Cases’ big breaks was scoring a A$800,000 deal with a large US wholesaler. For the deal to go through, the high-growth business needed $250,000 so they could pay their suppliers while they were waiting for payment from their customer.

“As a high-growth business, our balance sheet doesn’t look fantastic, so our bank couldn’t help us – but they told us about Export Finance Australia,” Lee explains. “We met with the team at Export Finance Australia and they provided us with the funding we needed to push that deal through. They were fantastic – it went through really smoothly.”

We were able to provide Dog & Bone Cases with a $250,000 Export Contract Loan to help with the delivery of their large export order.

Export Finance Australia’s the best port of call for Australian businesses trying to grow and export their product overseas.

Lee Ranchod, Founder, Dog & Bone Cases

Lessons learned

The world of tech start-ups is notoriously tough and Lee says that Dog & Bone Cases has faced its share of daunting challenges. One of these is the shift that’s currently happening in consumer behaviour, from buying at retail stores to purchasing mostly online.

“We started by distributing through retail partners, and managing online channels through our website. But now, we don’t do much retail. We’ve split our company in two: one part sells our own brand online, and the other half focuses on design and development for multinationals. It’s tough now, but it’s the right way forward.”

Another expensive challenge has been protecting their IP from larger competitors.

While patents are vital, Lee says companies need to know when to litigate and when not to. He also advises that young businesses engage a strong patent attorney who understands how to get them the best protection.

The other area where start-ups frequently fall down, says Lee, is their lack of experience around commercialising their product – and working out how much it will really cost them.

“Start-ups need to do their market research thoroughly: to understand their market, and how retailers and consumers think, and what their customer is willing to pay for their product. They should work backwards from that so they can ensure their design costs don’t blow out.”

Despite the challenges, Dog & Bone Cases are successfully competing in markets across the world, and now have multinational companies approaching them to work together. They’re grateful for Export Finance Australia’s help in getting them to get where they are today.

“Export Finance Australia’s the best port of call for Australian businesses trying to grow and export their product overseas,” says Lee. “I think it’s a fantastic government initiative.”

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