Folding is one of the most common techniques of design. For Bezalel graduate and industrial designer Ori Mishkal, his mastering skills at folding cardboard has put his company, POPIN playgrounds, in the toy market’s spotlight.
Mishkal’s Tel Aviv-based company is behind a foldable in-home playground that enables large play structures to pop-up for playtime and be easily stored away when not in use.
There’s a pretend play kitchen, activity table, playhouse (including a slide!), and, ‘first steps’ car.
“I’ve always loved folding and the art of Origami and pop-up books. After seeing my two sisters struggle to maintain their living spaces free of their children’s toys, I knew that if I could make these playthings foldable, it will help my sisters a lot, and probably others with the same needs,” says Mishkal, who spent a year-and-a-half working in a cardboard factory to learn and master the uses of this material.
In April, the POPIN team launched an international crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Within five days, they surpassed their $36,000 funding goal. This came after POPIN secured $350,000 on ExitValley.
“That was an amazing feeling! All the hard work of the past year got recognition, and to see how well the market perceived us brings so much joy to me, you cannot imagine,” he tells NoCamels.
Mishkal founded POPIN in 2016. The indoor playground, made of recycled materials, was available for purchase through a local, Israeli crowdfunding site for entrepreneurs. The company sold about 500 playground pieces, according to its crowdfunding page. The Kickstarter campaign now underway marks the company’s first, official retail release.
“This was an extremely exciting launch, way beyond our expectations,” Niv Borenstein co-founder and CMO, tells NoCamels.
Many crowdfunding campaigns have been known to promise the world but end up disappointing their supporters. Borenstein says POPIN will not fall down this rabbit hole.
“Unlike other campaigns that might have this risk, as they ask pledges for prototypes and half-baked dreams, we are fully mature and ripe in that sense of ‘readiness’ to produce, we have all the know-how, the team, the cooperation, signed a deal with the factory and the fulfillment plan in place. Our plan is to wrap up the Kickstarter campaign at the end of May and get the goods rolling be September. It’s a tight schedule, but we can make it,” he says.
Israeli entrepreneurs aren’t leaders in the toy market but do hold good standing. Every year, new Hebrew-speaking representatives showcase their ideas and games at the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nuremberg, the leading intercontinental fair for toys, hobbies, and leisure.
Actually, it was at that fair that Mishkal and Borenstein met. Mishkal was in Germany to show his POPIN prototype and garner industry opinions. Borenstein was there to promote Kazooloo, an augmented reality app that combined with a physical product to make a very exciting video game.
“We clicked,” says Borenstein, “and said to each other that if the time comes, we should cooperate.”
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The time, of course, came. Eight months ago, Borenstein joined Mishkal as co-founder of POPIN and set out on this latest venture in the toy industry.
What makes POPIN’s eco-friendly foldable toys unique is a groundbreaking folding mechanism termed StrongFold that allows the play structures to hold up to 50 kg/110 lbs. And they are quite durable and do not easily tear or bend (for any parents concerned about children’s capacity for quick destruction.)
In its short history, POPIN has already won numerous design awards, including the 2019 Green Product Award and the IDA Design Award.
The four-person team behind POPIN – Mishkal, Borenstein, Yechiel Kurtz, Active Chairman (BOD), investor, and Aharon Edoute, the director of operations – are already looking beyond the crowdfunding campaign to bigger goals.
Borenstein says they hope to have an up-and-running Amazon listing in all the major markets before Christmas 2019, “including the US, Canada, EU, Australia, and Japan.”
POPIN’s foldable toys hold ASTM and EN71 toy safety standards.
The toys feature bright colors and fun designs. And they’re easy to put in the car too.
“As a parent, I know how hard it is to travel with kids. POPIN toys make it even easier to take their favorite toys along. No matter where they’re going – a weekend at grandma’s, a vacation that includes a hotel stay or even a sleepover at a friend’s house, POPIN toys travel easily and take up minimal space,” reads a blog post about POPIN toys on Mom Blog Society.
“Our vision is to allow all children to enjoy the full playground experience in small, urban apartments,” says Mishkal. “We predict the growth of our toy segment of ‘storable/foldable toys’ to grow exponentially in exact correlation with the small house’s market. Whoever will offer the best solution for this rising market can take between $3-9B in potential, we intend to be that player.”
“In five years from now, we want to be a worldwide brand, a synonym for space-saving toys. We like to think of it as what IKEA did to furniture, we will do for toys,” says Borenstein.
Viva Sarah Press is a journalist and speaker. She writes and talks about the creativity and innovation taking place in Israel and beyond. www.vivaspress.com