Thursday, July 19, 2012

Crowdfunding & Kickstarter tips


 For those not familiar, a Kickstarter campaign is a project that a founder sets up, to try and raise money for something they think is a good idea, but don't have funds for.  If the idea is good, and others pledge past a certain threshold to contribute to the idea, the founder is delivered the funds and gets to chase down their dream.  If there's not enough interest, no funds are transferred, and the founder has hopefully saved some time in realizing there might be a lack of demand for their project.

(Mild) Justification for Tip-giving

Over the past year and a half, I've contributed to a number of KickStarter campaigns, from environmental in nature, to just plain silly, to high tech in nature.  Sometimes I'm late to the show and am happy to push founders over the edge, and other times I can't pledge fast enough when the project goes live.  (In those cases, I really wish the project was listed on, and I could gain equity in the company!  More on that in later posts!)  One such project which I'm funding is the uber-successful Pebble: E-Paper Watch, which I pledged to a full month before it's close.  In short, I review crowdfunding sites frequently, and pledge to what I believe are excellent ideas which need to see the light of day.

Separate from my own funding of ideas, I've had a few friends run KickStarter campaigns.  While some have done well, others have learned there isn't quite the market of which they'd dreamed.  I've gathered some of their feedback here, in the hopes that it might help other, great-idea-people find the success they're after.

Finally, I've been doing some reading.  Here are two of the recent articles which reference lessons learned in KickStarting:


  • Launch with Momentum - before you 'go live' and deploy your project, take the time to build a buzz with eager buyers.  Prime your family and friends that this project is coming, and that you'd love their support, and get their feedback.  As Seth Godin (here's his KickStarter campaign) and Jeanne said:  “Kickstarter is the last step, not the first one.” Kickstarter is not a way for you to attract attention to your project. It is a way to “organize and activate [your] tribe”. But you have to build your tribe first.   Many seem to hope and rely on the deeper web for support: blogs and random visitors who might stumble on your site after a websearch.  In all likelyhood, you will get some of these, but these folks will probably only count for a small portion of your support - realize this!    

Launch with Momentum!
(We'll say the yellow line is 'pent-up-buzz/people waiting to pledge' and green is dollars invested (yours being the first few).)  I realize this is a horrible graphic.
  • Make second-degree sales easy - Your friends and family may happily support you financially,  but this may not fully enable you to reach your goals.  Put some serious time and tools into really leveraging the second-degree of your social network.  Make it as easy for your first-degrees to pitch your project to their first-degree network - use this in conjunction of the primer as well!  You may find someone who wants to help you make an amazing video, before you've even made your mediocre video!  After these second-degree tools are proven on a small scale, and the project is deployed, then ASK for them to promote.  After all, it's your friends' and families' product now, too, and they want it to tip!    Give them tools, and ask them to use them!
Make second-degree sales easy!  Give friends and family the tools to promote you!
Image from:
  • If possible, have a separate web presence from your actual fundraising page.  While fundraising pages present a comfortable environment for prospective supporters to learn about your project, many will want to gauge whether you'll be effective with their money.  By linking your full Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn profiles, you'll show that you've been down this path before, that the project is within your grasp, and that their money is going to a worthwhile cause.  Related: Why not register the domain and host a landing page - to show you're serious and in it for the long haul.  This shouldn't cost you more than $20, often much less (I've got a bunch for ~$10 each).

Domain Registrations starting at $9.98*
Get an easy domain / website.
(Yeah, it's an affiliate link.  A kid can dream.)
  • Of course, if you don't have a long history in the field, and this is really a fresh start, then your website won't have any content.  In that case, why not use the snarky domain you've picked out to help attract new supporters?  Have the domain forward to the fundraiser site - and spend $50 (or get some free) business cards with QR codes to hand out at related venues (kiosks in malls? clubs?  It's all product-dependent, but these are cheap and are somewhat sticky.  ( will give you free ones if you have an acct!)
Have one, central presence on the web, to which you can refer friends, fundraisers, and acquaintances.  I like

  • As Jeanne said, "Make sure you have a video. All else being equal, a project without a video only has a 15% chance of success while a project with video has a 37% chance of success."  Related to this, make it easy for people to see what they're getting into.  If it's a simple product, the product photo is only half the equation - the price is the other half!  Don't make them dig, make it easy to pull out they Paypal password: On the title frame that shows before/after the movie, put the price in the corner, if it's low.  Make it easy for them to think about supporting!
  • Now, this is getting nitpicky, but point out that there's a movie.  Some fundraisers just use an image, so some viewers don't even notice the movie.  And we know that movies work!  Keep people on your site, glued to the screen.  It opens wallets.

    • Finally, two things:
    Feel free to share your project with me, before or after it's launched!  I'm always up for giving feedback, and may want to pledge to your project as well!

    Lastly, know that there's a plethora of different websites out there for crowdsourcing your project.  Here's an excellent resource to find some!  Now go start your project!

    Here's just some search words:
    BEZL: the iPhone anti-case,
    Cryoscope: A touch-based weather communicating Device, Pebble: E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android, A Moveable Feast, Meet the Hugalopes - the future of fluffy, fluffy fun..., Twine: Listen to your world, talk to the internet, BirdProject: Biodiesel Glycerin Soaps for BP Oil Spill Cleanup, Facebook


    1. Just to add to this - more info on successful crowdfunding campaigns:

      Specifically, I liked reading about what size to make the goals. Simply put: "You’ll need at least five times the amount you’re shooting for in “capacity.”" (Meaning people pledge at roughly 1/5th of what you estimate they will.)

      Also: "As Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler said, he didn’t know what was the reason, but 90% of campaigns that get to 30% funding eventually succeed. I think it’s because everyone believes if the central figure in the campaign believes — and that’s critical mass."


    2. Get ready for r&d ideas during launch: people will continue to offer you new ideas, and it behooves you to stay a bit flexible, if possible after launch.

      Many times, your potential funders may be interested in donating their time and talents to your (ahem: their) product. Check their history / success stories and remember that advice is free to give, but can be expensive to follow!

      Always set realistic goals.

      Always set a limits on funders. This is one way to ensure you're not caught off-guard and so that you don't want to get caught in the "Pit of Despair":

      Two kinds of rewards to keep in mind: digital rewards (songs, movies, code, etc.) - they are free to copy & distribute, as well as your own time as a reward.

      If possible, make it easy on backers: an "All of the Above" strategy is great for rewards

      The reader should understand your project without reading. Test: Scroll up and down through page, is that enough? Let pictures tell the story.

      Make a video, and limit it to less than two minutes

      Look for parallel niches and markets. Nathan Wills, maker of the Torch bike helmet (link below) noted that he didn't get much coverage/traction in the biking magazines (and little result when they did get coverage), but that when it was picked up by a men's fashion magazine, business boomed.

      Average pledge is 50 dollars.

      Only 20 (?) percent of eyeballs pledge to a project.

      Book recommendation (I haven't read it yet): Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant

      Finally, check out this Quora answer:


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