Smart Parka breaks Canadian KickStarter record, earning $3M

Jamil Khan capitalized on Canada's frigid winters and his mad software skills to shatter the country's Kickstarter record by earning more than $3.25 million in online fundraising to create the perfect parka.

Jamil Khan created an analytics program to track who was buying coats

Startup North Aware promises the perfect parka, but its CEO credits the firm's crowdfunding success to his programming skills, which allowed him to target advertising to those who showed interest in the coat. (North Aware/Facebook)

Jamil Khan capitalized on Canada's frigid winters and his mad software skills to shatter this country's Kickstarter record by earning more than $3.25 million in online fundraising to create the perfect parka.

"My vision was clear," he told Metro Morning on Tuesday. "I really knew what I wanted."

That's because as orders for the jacket — which features built-in gloves and a scarf, a pocket for a hat, and pouches for a phone and a tablet — started rolling in, the tech entrepreneur created an analytics program to track who was responding to the fundraising campaign. 

Jamil Khan, the CEO for start-up North Aware, said his vision was clear when it came to designing a 'smart' parka. (CBC)

That meant that Khan, the CEO for start-up North Aware, and his team could then target that demographic with their advertising, something that he credits for the project's success as much as the parka's cool factor.

"It went to $2 million and then $3 million so quickly, we were in disbelief, but we barely had the time to get surprised," he said of the crowdfunding response.

Ignoring the naysayers

Khan said his former colleagues tried to talk him out of leaving his tech job, but he said he knew he had a great design idea — and that he could really market it.

"I think we presented our idea very clearly through the video and pitched it right," he said. "That was the key difference."

The team spent six months testing out designs before settling on leather gloves thin enough to zip into the parka's sleeves without creating any bulk, but warm enough to handle winter's fury, according to the campaign.

"I was just pissed that I had to always shove my gloves into my jacket and then go out looking like a puffy mess," he said.

Khan said the coat also has a removable inner layer so that people can make changes depending on the temperature.

The team spent six months designing their winter parka, which includes lots of pockets and built-in gloves and a scarf. (North Aware/Facebook)

Most of the Kickstarter campaign's coats, which are being offered for roughly $200 compared to an eventual retail price of $800, have already sold out. Khan had promised to have the parkas made in Canada if more than 7,000 got sold, something that he said he thinks has happened.

North Aware has promised its backers that their parkas should arrive around August.

But Khan said the experience has taught him more about marketing than it has about spotting a good product.

"Now when I hear an idea, I don't just care about how great the idea is," he said. "I think more about the numbers [and] how can we figure out the type of people who would be interested in it — and how big can that reach be."

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