The Colugo stroller was designed to meet the needs of busy parents who want to bring their babies for adventures in the city: It was lightweight, easy to fold or expand with a single hand motion, and equipped with clever accessories like a rain cover that folds into a little bag. While most stroller brands sell through a network of retailers, Iobst built Colugo as a direct-to-consumer brand with no middleman markup, allowing him to sell the stroller for $285, about a third less than comparable models on the market.
Yet Iobst knew he was facing an uphill battle. After all, new parents are among the toughest customers there are, and industry incumbents, like Graco, Chicco, and Bugaboo, have been around for decades. In a flooded market, Colugo focused on parents who wanted something simpler than a stroller loaded with unnecessary accessories (like basket organizers) that drive up the price and the weight, or designs that were difficult to maneuver up and down subway steps.
Serena Williams was one of Colugo’s early fans; the tennis star has been fairly vocal about the struggles of finding a good stroller after her daughter Olympia was born. “I’ve conquered a lot of things… blood clots in my lungs- twice… knee and foot surgeries… winning grand slams being down match point… to name just a FEW but I found out by far the hardest is figuring out a stroller,” she tweeted in January 2018. By December, she was posting pictures on Instagram of Olympia dozing in a Colugo.
Colugo has grown quickly over the last year. The brand says that by the end of its first year, its revenues were seven times what they were at the end of the first quarter, and the company has brought on a bevy of new investors, many of whom are parents themselves. Katia Beauchamp, cofounder of Birchbox, and Brian Spaly, cofounder of Bonobos and Trunk Club, liked their Colugos so much that they decided to invest. (Jen Rubio, the cofounder of Away, is also a high-profile investor.)
With all of this momentum and cash, Colugo is now expanding its product line. Today, the brand launches a full-size stroller called “the Complete” for $445, which is about 30% less expensive than the most comparable product on the market. Like the original Compact, the Complete is designed to be easy to fold and maneuver, but engineered for more intense usage. Think: all-day outings or going out into more rugged terrain.
Iobst says that every part of the stroller was designed based on customer feedback. Many customers said that while the compact stroller was good for traveling abroad or quick trips around town, it wasn’t as good for long trips where you might want more basket space and a more comfortable seat for the baby. “One benefit of being a direct-to-consumer brand is that we have a direct channel of communication to our customers,” he says. “And on Instagram and Facebook, we were asked over and over about whether we could make a full-size stroller.”
Designer Rob Spalding was tasked with incorporating all of the customer feedback into his design process. Most was fairly straightforward: Customers asked for larger basket, a plusher seat, and a larger sun cover. It needed it to be compatible with an infant car seat. And they wanted to make sure it had all their favorite components of the compact stroller, including the rain cover and machine-washable printed textiles.
But it was important to Iobst and Spalding that they continue to focus on price, too—for instance, not charging for accessories like a cup holder. Concerns over cost also drove the development of the stroller’s unusual bassinet. Newborns cannot sit up, so for the first few months of a baby’s life, they need to be able to lie down in the stroller. Some brands simply click an infant car seat onto the stroller, while others have elaborate bassinets that you attach to the stroller and replace with a full seat when the child is older. Instead, Colugo developed a design that can be converted from a bassinet directly into a seat—the main portion can recline to 175 degrees, and a barrier prevents the infant from rolling out.
Iobst says this simple design tweak shaves several hundred dollars off of the price. While Colugo’s conversion kit still costs $50, comparable bassinets cost four or five times that. Colugo’s design wastes less, too, since babies only use the bassinet for a few months before they graduate to a seat.
In the months after Colugo launched in 2018, other direct-to-consumer stroller brands have entered the market: In the spring of 2019, Lalo, launched with a $615 stroller and Mockingbird launched with a $350 stroller. Iobst doesn’t see these new competitors as a threat, but rather as an encouraging sign. Ultimately, he says, this is evidence that consumers are increasingly willing to trust startups like his for almost everything—including the products they will use on their children. “I think these brands just validate that there’s a market out there,” he says. “That’s good news.”