34% of startups fail due to lack of product-market fit. Learn how to avoid it for only $15!

❌ Failed startup
✅ Successful startup

3 years & $50,000 burnt on KOLOS, an iPad racing wheel nobody wanted

In 2012, Ivo started a 3-year journey building a business that sold iPad racing wheels, which would suck up $50,000 in personal and investor funds. The hardware accelerator he went through wasn't able to help turn his business into a success, neither was the Kickstarter campaign successful. Learning from the experience, today Ivo runs $1M+ crowdfunding campaigns. Read below to learn about his journey.

No Need

Ivaylo Kalburdzhiev

February 19, 2020

Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Want to take ownership over the growth of your business, but don't know where to start? Get 1-on-1 advice from vetted growth experts about your business.

NoGood is your on-demand growth squad, specializing in eCommerce, SaaS, and B2B brands. Ready to crush your 2021 growth goals? Schedule a call today!

A 5-minute read that's informative, witty and free? That's Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

Hi Ivaylo! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

Hey there!

My name is Ivaylo (Ivo) Kalburdzhiev, 31, living in Sofia, Bulgaria and in 2012 I spent 3 years of my life and $50,000 building something nobody wanted! 

Sounds familiar? 

KOLOS was the ‘world’s first’ iPad racing wheel that never was. You clamp it to any table, insert your 9.7” iPad and start playing your favorite tilt games instead of holding the tablet in the air. 

Kolos' product

I was the ‘genius’ (and CEO) behind the idea, and, as with any startup, I was doing a little bit of everything - marketing, business development, investor relations, customer support, prototyping, etc.

What motivated you to start Kolos?

Great question and one that many founders probably do not ask themselves but jump straight into building a business. 

My motive? 

Just the idea of having a startup. The idea that I was ‘brilliant’, and smart, and I was going to build something new and cool, and show it for the world to see. 

As a student, and working as a customer support rep at the time, I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, so there was my chance to ‘prove it’. 

Yet still, I had:

Zero previous knowledge of building startups and raising capital. 

Zero-knowledge of mobile gaming, hardware, and prototyping.

Just a big (read: useless) diploma in Marketing. 

Heck, I didn’t even own an iPad. I bought one after I came up with the idea.

'Brilliant', ey?

How did you build it?

Short answer? The wrong way. 

Instead of using DIY materials like wood or off-the-shelf parts of gaming accessories to test if the idea was even worth it, I went straight to the bank, took a huge loan and then paid industrial designers to start working on the 3D models. 

After those were done, I paid literally thousands of dollars for super expensive prototyping online (Shapeways.com) since the models were big and bulky to create. 

I also paid someone to write my own business plan, I used the loan money to fix my old car, and essentially found numerous ways to not spend the money wisely.  

At the time I was doing my day job and studying, so at some point after 2 years in development, I decided to launch it on Indiegogo.com.

Naturally, at around $100 a piece, no one bought it. I also had little idea of how to run a crowdfunding campaign. 

I still didn’t give up.

Later, after countless rejections from accelerators and investors, me and my co-founder got accepted into the Buildit hardware accelerator where we spent 3 months and another $20,000 on the business. 

Shortly after, we finally had to find a way to launch it as we were running out of money.

In early 2015, a Kickstarter campaign followed where we raised $4,000 and had to shut down the campaign shortly after.

Hire digital marketing interns. 40 hours for $49/month.

Learn More!


Your on-demand growth squad for SaaS, B2B, and eCommerce brands

NoGood combines open-minded creativity with a methodical, data-driven approach to find untapped growth opportunities for its clients. Specializing in eCommerce, SaaS, and B2B brands, we’ll help you crush your 2021 growth goals.

Learn More  👉

Reach +20,000 Startup Founders!

If you are looking to get your product in front of founders, CEOs, VPs, web and mobile developers, makers, consultants, marketers, bloggers, product managers, and many other thought leaders, then we can help you.

👉 Sponsorships

What marketing strategies did you use?

We didn’t ‘go to market’ so we used 2 main methods of acquiring leads prior to launching on crowdfunding.

Facebook ads and PR.

We sucked hard at ads as it’s complicated and successful Facebook campaigns require enough budget for testing (which we didn’t have). 

We were relatively good at PR (and something I used once KOLOS failed to get my first clients). P.S. my Paint skills were that good though:

Kolos PR

And since we were out of money, we were using some ‘creative’ growth hacking techniques like looking through Facebook groups of iPad gamers and sending them friend requests, then ‘pitching’ them KOLOS. 

Eventually we had an email list of less than 500 people which was way below what was needed for an even remotely successful launch on Kickstarter.

The conversion rates on the page were also pretty bad which was the main factor that contributed to the failure. 

Post-factum we found out people just don’t care about the problems we made-u… ehm, were ‘solving’ with the wheel. 

Which were the causes of Kolos failure?

No market need. 

Knowing what people want and are ready to pay for it needs to happen before you build your product, not after. 

So I would spend most of the entrepreneur’s initial journey on fanatically learning about customer needs and providing them a solution they actually care about, not one that the founder fell in love with. 

Founders also need to be brutally honest with themselves about what they are building and whether it actually makes a difference in people’s lives.

For example with KOLOS we weren’t hearing enough “I want and need this” but instead “I would get it for my son/nephew” (i.e. not the real customers). 

Right after the Kickstarter campaign ended in early 2015, we shut down the operations and parted ways. 

It was a natural decision that we didn’t even ‘take’ - we had decided if the Kickstarter doesn’t, there’s no need in pursuing anything beyond. 

Even before the crowdfunding campaign started, I felt ‘comfort’ inside that whatever happens, will be for the best and that it’s time to either fly or ‘die’.  

Which were your biggest mistakes and challenges you had to overcome?

First and foremost avoiding talking to customers.

When I say ‘avoiding’, I mean that I intuitively knew it was the right thing to do, but I still didn’t get the courage to do it in fears I would get rejected.

I also felt I knew better, thinking that I understood the problems people were facing, so there was just ‘no need’ for additional customer discovery talks. 

Why waste that precious time?

I also felt uncomfortable talking about it with strangers, so these are all fears founders must overcome in order to get good at getting to know their customers. 

The other huge mistake I made was to take out a loan to start the business. 

The failure rate among startups is so high that it’s simply not worth risking your own money. Instead aim for accelerators, incubators, and angel/VC money. 

Better yet, before even talking to them, I would focus on validating the demand first before ever jumping into those conversations which can usually take months.

Your one-stop shop for everything dev-related.

Anything you need, our devs can build: complex e-commerce solutions, custom software or SaaS, beautiful WordPress websites… anything. We’ll fix, upgrade & customize your website, so you never have to worry about troubleshooting web stuff ever again.

Let’s get to work!

Grow your business. Get 1-on-1 calls with +100 mentors.

Learn More!


Which were your expenses? Did you achieve some revenue? In the end, how much money did you lose?

We had ‘burned’ a total of $50,000. 

$30,000 was the loan money.

$20,000 was the investment done by the Buildit accelerator.

These don’t include the funds I had to take from friends and family to make ends meet. 

The Kickstarter campaign raised $4,000 total from 48 backers (some of which were my own friends who didn’t even have an iPad) which were then returned to the supporters since Kickstarter is an ‘all-or-nothing’ model.

Which are your favorite entrepreneurial resources?

Honestly, the entrepreneurial materials these days are so abundant that just reading the top 100 business/biography books on Amazon would skyrocket one’s chances of success 100x - the leverage is exponential, drawing from other people’s experience/failures/successes.

Still, nothing beats battles on the ground, so practice what you read and aim to be the best in your field, regardless of what you are building - it’s the only way to stand out and get noticed.  

Where can we go to learn more?

Since the KOLOS failure in early 2015, I’ve been helping numerous tech startups raise over $7M on Kickstarter and Indiegogo through my own consulting company: DayOneFunding.

I’ve also been the campaign manager for the 15th largest tech Kickstarter in history - Superscreen ($2.5M) and currently sit as the #1 'Most Viewed Writer' in Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunding on Quora. 

Since early 2019, I have been partnering with the superb 80+ team at TheCrowdfundingFormula to make million-dollar hardware campaigns. 

I would encourage anyone to get in touch if you/they know someone with an amazing gadget that could be the next big thing.  

✉️ Subscribe to our newsletter!

Invite us into your inbox and get immense learning and 80+ deals on tools to help you scale your startup (worth up to $50,000)!

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

👇 Other Interviews

Bugfender: Scaling an Internal Remote Logger to €9,000/Month
Jordi Giménez
February 21, 2019
Web Application
Up to 50K
SPUDS: Graduating and Raising $15,000 for a New Clothing Brand
Paul Dickey
February 21, 2019
United States
Up to 50K
Turning $8k into a $30k/mo Drug and Alcohol Testing Business
Chuck Marting
September 1, 2020
United States
Up to 50K
Making a Living by Helping Small Businesses Find Softwares
Carlos Crameri
August 5, 2020
United States
Web Application
No Data
LeadsBridge: Bootstrapping a $150,000/Month Lead Generation Business
Stefan Des
February 21, 2019
Below 150K
Addressbin: Problems of Being a Technical Solo Founder
Adam Bard
March 16, 2018
Web Application
Bad Marketing
No Passion
Onepagetrip: Monetizing a Startup Is Not That Easy
Ana Santos
March 16, 2018
No MVP Validation
Monetizing Issues
Making $12k/mo & Spending 50k/mo - Behind the Failed “Evernote for Rental”
Steven Glod
July 22, 2020
United States
Business Model
People Management
Community Coders: Failing to build a profitable business while in University
Kaito Cunningham
January 29, 2020
People Management
Bad Marketing
Birdy: No Monetizing Plan = Failure
Corey Maass
March 16, 2018
United States
Monetizing Issues
Ink: Burning $16,000 in an Online Tool for Designers
Andrew Askins
April 28, 2018
United States
Web Application
Bad Marketing