Ride The Win: The Quad Lock Story | #177

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Rob shares Quad Lock’s scaling journey and the beauty of fucking up

EP 177
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Nathan Bush is a director at eCommerce talent agency, eSuite. He has led eCommerce for businesses with revenue $100m+ and has been recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 People in eCommerce four years in a row. You can contact Nathan on LinkedIn, Twitter or via email.


Rob is a qualified Toolmaker turned entrepreneur and now CEO and Dad.

You can contact Rob at LinkedIn

In this episode of Add To Cart, we are joined by Rob Ward, Co-founder and CEO of Quad Lock. Now, ten years old, Quad Lock is a case-mounting system for people with active lifestyles – whether this be driving, riding, cruising, running, golfing, cycling or even singing. Quad Lock has all your phone mounting needs covered. Quad Lock is now sold in over a hundred countries and has annual revenue exceeding $100m. Better still, it has entered the vernacular with many people no longer mounting their phones, but rather ‘Quad Locking’ their phones. Today Rob takes us on the journey of how he started Quad Lock with his Co-founder Chris. It’s a brilliant story given they have been completely bootstrapped and have scaled responsibly – I really enjoyed hearing Rob’s approach to scale. You wouldn’t believe it starts with a novelty bottle opener. We also discuss how they approach Quad Lock rip offs, the beauty of having limited SKU’s and why they are focusing on a direct to consumer model to serve their customers better. 

“Keeping a website offline, waiting until everything’s perfect, it’s never gonna be perfect.  Get something up, that’s when you start learning””

Rob Ward

Questions answered in this episode include
  • With a mixture of B2B, DTC and wholesale – which sales model is most important to Quad Lock?
  • How do you protect your designs from being ripped off? 
  • Can you share what a typical customer journey looks like for your customers?

Love it or hate it

“We came up with the idea of an iPhone bottle opener called the Opener Case, and we launched that on Kickstarter. It was our experiment into e-Commerce, consumers, shipping a product, Facebook, all these things that were sort of new…transacting online, Shopify…all this stuff we sort of take for granted now. It wasn’t as easy as it is now, but it was all just starting to become accessible. And the barriers to entry were coming down.

Kickstarter was a part of that. So, we thought we’ve got an idea, let’s really use Kickstarter to validate it. Back then, Kickstarter was really a validation tool. Here’s my idea, I don’t have the capital, do you guys like it? If so, pre-buy them and we’ll go from there. And that’s sort of how we started. So, we did that with the Opener. It took off, did really well. 

It was quite a polarizing product, which we liked. People either loved it or they hated it, but they talked about it. So, it was perfect.

People hated it. I’m telling you, people hated it and it was perfect because they talked more about it, they clicked on it, and they told their friends how much they hate it, then their friends came to buy it. So, it was perfect. And it was just polarizing. Then there were  people who loved it and just they sold themselves, so to speak, which we needed, because we had no money!”

Super sticky

“We literally lock them in. What happens is you buy a product from your first passion category, say it’s for your motorcycle. Then you go, “I love it on my motorcycle. Why don’t I have it in my car?” And then I have it beside my bed at night while it’s charging, just sitting there, then you have these multiple mounts. So, it actually becomes like the barrier to exit is quite large because if you got rid of that case, you’d have to go buy all these other mounts. And the other thing is people like the product, they get sold on it more and more, the more they use it, and it just becomes part of your daily life. So, from a product sense, it’s worked really well. 

And then prioritizing that relationship with the customer, which we’ve done for so long.  Trying to look after the customer, comms, these kind of things, it’s just the easy option. They know that when the new iPhone comes out, the new Galaxy comes out, we have the case ready to go straight away. They can jump online, order that case. It’s going to rock up a few days later, no matter where in the world they are.

It’s just an easy relationship, and we see customers coming back time and time again. And one of the great things is the more products we’ve had and the bigger we’ve gotten, we’re actually getting stickier and stickier.”

Back to a focus on D2C

“You sort of think, “Oh, we’ve got to do the normal thing. We should be in stores. We should be selling to these distributors. We should be in JB Hi-Fi.” And you start to think that’s maybe what success is. So, you start going down that route and we went down that route around the world with mixed results.  A lot of different markets. Some markets just got completely out of control. Some markets like Australia have done great. We’ve had good partners here for quite a while. And it’s like the more we sell online, the more we market. The more they sell, the more they sell in store, the more we sell, and it’s just like the rising tide raises all ships, which is the model you want, I believe, in this day and age.

But we didn’t get it right. And what we did is, in about 2017/18, we turned a lot of it off. We just turned it off. We had to pay our way out of different contracts and things like that, but we just turned a lot of it off and we just thought, right, we’ve got to get back to doing what we do best, which is advertising, acquiring a customer, spending the money we make from that customer on more advertising and buying more product, developing more.  We did that and we almost doubled in the next year from turning it off and going back to just D2C.”

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