Are you thinking about trying to raise some money for a tech (or other) project on Kickstarter? Well today is your lucky day! We asked the creative folks behind some of the most-funded tech projects on the site to spill the beans about what it really takes to get funded. Actually, we only asked for the opinions of founders whose projects were over 500% funded. So, these people really know what they are talking about. After reading through these quotes, I think it’s safe to say that nobody should start a Kickstarter project without first consulting this post.
Do you have any questions you’d like to ask our contributors or do you have any advice to add yourself? Leave a comment!
Come Alive and Be Authentic
Kickstarter stats: MaKey MaKey was 2,272% funded with $568,106 pledged by 11,124 backers.
The most obvious and yet non-obvious thing someone can do is to come alive. There’s a saying: If you want to help the world, don’t think, “What does the world need?” Instead think, “What makes me come alive?” Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. People on Kickstarter want to be part of something that makes their whole body tingle.
The other advice I have is to speak to people visually while being authentic. Try making your video without words, or with as few words as possible. Then you’re talking to an international audience, and also Americans, such as myself, who are just overwhelmed with verbage. I edited the MaKey MaKey video frame by frame, especially in the early seconds of the video. The first 60 seconds of the video are so tight that there’s no wasted time.
People can’t hear you unless you’re telling a story. Reveal that story step by step in the video in a way that the first 10 seconds tells a complete story, the next 20 seconds tells the story again but in a more surprising way, and the next 30 seconds blows the roof off the house. You can’t do that unless your project makes you come alive.
For us, the driving idea was that everyone can be an inventor. But more importantly, we want to live in a world that is created by everyone, not just by a few people. If everyone around me is making their part of the world a little better, a little more unique the way they want it, that makes me happy to live here. That’s how nature works, and nature is beautiful. So we made something that could contribute toward that core idea. That core idea makes my whole body tingle. So it’s not hard for me to be stoked about it, and then I can’t wait to tell people about it.
Don’t Underemphasize the Value of a Good Video
Contributed by: Stephen McGuigan, Co-Founder, Bitbanger Labs
Kickstarter stats: Remee was 1,636% funded with $572,891 pledged by 6,657 backers.
Lots of projects tend to underemphasize the importance of the Kickstarter video. A good product or project, presented badly, is far less likely to generate support. This means obvious things like coherence and editing, and less obvious things like sound quality. A tinny video recorded with your MacBook often won’t cut it. Don’t have a good camera and microphone? Rent one! If you aren’t cinematically inclined, enlist the help of someone who knows how to shoot and edit video to get your presentation as professional as possible – after all, if you were presenting to a venture capital group, you wouldn’t do a little soft-shoe behind the podium and ad-lib something to say. You’d prepare meticulously. Just because the number of investors is potentially much higher and the amount they are investing is much lower doesn’t mean they should be treated any differently than people whose support you’d be trying to rally in a more professional setting. These are your backers – respect them, inform them, interest them, and, if possible, entertain them!
Include These 4 Ingredients for Success
Contributed by: Elijah Parker, creator of Timelapse+
Kickstarter stats: TimeLapse+ was 828% funded with $165,730 pledged by 1,248 backers.
Here are 4 things that I think were important in my Kickstarter campaign:
1. Have a Functional Demo I’ve seen a lot of projects go nowhere with funding when there’s no real-life proof-of-concept demo involved. I think it’s very important to have some form of a working demo, even if it’s not complete or perfect.
2. Present a Clear Scope/Goal When presenting the product, even if it’s not complete, the scope and goal should be clearly defined. It should show that you’ve thought everything through and have at least some idea of what you’re getting into. Creating a new product is no small task! It was more involved than I even realized getting into it.
3. Post Regular Updates Even during the funding phase, it’s good to know the creators are still at work and involved in the project. I think at least once a week is a good guideline. This also notifies those who have added the project to their favorites but haven’t yet backed it, so they are again reminded of it.
4. Get the Word Out Finally, getting the word out about the project is very important. About half of my funds came through Kickstarter, which is really impressive, but it was only really noticed on Kickstarter due to popularity after being featured on engadget.com’s Insert Coin column (on day 3), which really kickstarted the campaign.
Be Responsive (and Positive)
Contributed by: Justin Shaw, maker of ClockTHREE Jr.
Kickstarter stats: ClockTHREE Jr. was 1,454% funded with $36,365 pledged by 209 backers.
First, you must have a good video (which is a huge pain). We eventually said close is good enough and just pulled the trigger to kick off the campaign. The quirkiness turned out to work to our advantage.
Next tell all your friends through Facebook, Google+, tech forums (for us Arduino tech forums) and lean on your friends to repost/tweet/blog to help get the word out.
Think of you “goal” as the minimum you’d be willing to accept and still do the project. This is not really a goal, but a minimum threshold. If only 90% was pledged, would you be relieved that you don’t have to do all that work or would wish you had set your threshold lower? People want to buy it like it is on EBAY and a high threshold will slow early sales. And people keep buying after the threshold is surpassed too so you are shooting yourself in the foot to set it high. This is the most common mistake I see.
Be responsive and positive to all inquiries. Answering questions the same minute they are asked makes a huge impression and customers are more likely to mention you to others even if they do not pledge. With each interaction, try to maintain the excitement you have for the project, ask people to help “get the word out”, “we are really doing this”, “this is going to work”. You are in a collaboration with each backer, let them in on it however you can. Make the feel like part of your team.
Finally we were very lucky with the timing. We were selling $500/day for the first week (greatly exceeding our expectations) then 2 KS projects exceed $1,000,000 back-to-back. All of the publicity brought more customers in and that more than doubled our sales throughout the rest of the month.
Make Progress (Any Progress) Before Starting a Project
Contributed by: Max Cantor, creator of the Beautiful Vim Cheat Sheet Poster
Kickstarter stats: The Beautiful Vim Cheat Sheet Poster was 1,202% funded with $12,023 pledged by 467 backers.
Most importantly, make some progress on your project, however small, before you even think about launching a Kickstarter fund. If you’re trying to publish a poster, try to finish the design first. If you need money to buy video equipment for a film project, can you show people the script? Can you make any of the costumes or special effects first? Do as much as you can: it will build momentum and help people understand why your project is unique. You need to have something to show your potential backers when they discover your project; it shows that you’re devoted to making it happen whether you get funding or not, and that you are the kind of person who gets things done. Look at it this way: when you buy something online, you’re way more likely to buy it if you can see exactly what it looks like first.
Talk to lots of people about your project; if you can’t get anyone excited about it, then either your idea isn’t something people want, or you need to figure out how to explain it so people understand why it’s cool. Also, follow all of the suggestions in Kickstarter’s “Kickstarter school” document, including making a video. Once your funding period begins, give your backers copious updates, and make them public: this will please your current backers, and show potential backers that you’re making it happen!
Concept is Everything
Contributed by: Chelsea Thompson, Marketing & Sales at QU-BD
Kickstarter stats: The Open Source Universal 3D Printer Extruder was 1,467% funded with $73,361 pledged by 763 backers.
I believe that there are two primary factors that decide whether a project gets funded (or even overfunded by large margins). The first of course is the concept. If there is a strong enough demand, people seem to disregard lead times, technological hurdles and perhaps even a little common sense because of desire. Market research is key! Unfortunately, for a lot of the Kickstarter project this also leads to a relatively high failure rate and disappointment on the backers end. The other factor is the ability to take your project to completion. Having a well thought out, peer-reviewed business plan, with accurate information (and costs!!!) not only lends confidence to backers, but will eliminate a lot of headache on the creators end too.
Don’t Treat Kickstarter Rewards As Party Favors
Contributed by: Mathew Lippincott, Director of Production, Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science and Partner, MDML Design
Kickstarter stats: Matthew’s Ballon Mapping Kits were 550% funded with $34,646 pledged by 463 backers.
We went 550% over our Kickstarter goal because 300 people wanted our balloon kits—far fewer people wanted our t-shirts, posters, prints of maps, or other stylish ephemera. The Reward they wanted was our esoteric collection of hardware to affordably fly cameras, get aerial imagery, and make high-resolution maps themselves. What Kickstarter does best is help small groups get the funding together to produce unique products. Don’t think of Kickstarter Rewards as party favors for supporting your project, think of them as retail offerings. Your Kickstarter pitch is there to sell a product– so while you need to explain who you are and why what you’re doing is cool, first and foremost explain why your audience needs your Kickstarter Reward.
Don’t Get Greedy
Contributed by: AJ Quick, Owner of A Quick CNC
Kickstarter stats: The Modular Desktop CNC Machine was 476% funded with $47,608 pledged by 69 backers.
Don’t aim to make a profit off of your Kickstarter project. Kickstarter allows you to get a project off the ground that you would otherwise be unable to. Don’t get greedy. If your project is a commercial product, consider selling it at cost (plus a few dollars to cover fees and expenses). More times than not, you will find that by creating an honestly priced project you will have much more support than you would from an overinflated profit generating project. The goal is a large number of backers and supporters, not large dollar signs. If you set a reasonable price, you will most likely make more money (profit and all) than you would have otherwise. Also, set a reasonable goal for your project. A number of good projects have failed because they over estimated the amount they needed to raise or wanted to raise. Set your goal as the bare minimum you need to do the project, be it to cover the expenses, or the amount you need to allow yourself to focus your attention fully on the project.