To succeed on Kickstarter, be very prepared
Setting a realistic goal and having an interesting product help too
Eric Ely, co-founder of MidAir Technologies, Ely has run two successful Kickstarter campaigns, a third didn’t reach its goal.
Photo by Liisa Rajala
Creating an interesting product is just one of many steps in a successful Kickstarter campaign. Beyond that, entrepreneurs need a professional video, a press release and a live event to increase branding and outreach. And the process must start six to eight weeks before the campaign launches.
“In general, it’s a lot of fun; it’s a lot of work,” said Eric Ely, co-founder of MidAir Technologies, who led the Launch Series presentation at Alpha Loft on Kickstarter tips, and participates in the Accelerate NH program.
With his cousin and fellow co-founder Ben Harris, Ely has run three Kickstarter campaigns, two of which successfully reached their goal.
Ely’s third campaign ended Tuesday, for what he called an “Internet of Things” product called Bluz. Bluz is a cloud-connected, Bluetooth device that operates Ely’s first product, GoGlove, a glove that allows remote control use of GoPro cameras.
When GoGlove first launched on Kickstarter in July 2014, it missed its $50,000 goal by half, resulting in no funding. Ely said they fell short due to a lack of branding and marketing.
The second time around, in November 2014, GoGlove had a $40,000 goal, which it surpassed by $5,000.
By comparison, Bluz hit its $20,000 goal in four hours, and ended up with $67,000 by Tuesday.
The goal really depends on what is necessary to bring the product to market, but there is something to aiming it not too high and not too low, says Ely. Generally Kickstarter campaigns run for 30 days, but receive most of the funding in the first day or two.
“The faster you fill up that little green bar, the more successful you’re going to be, at least in our experience,” said Ely.
Timing is important, too, with 11 a.m. one of the best times to launch a campaign, and attract donors browsing the Web.
The idea with Kickstarter is to give people incentives, like T-shirts with the company’s logo, in exchange for their donation. As the campaign goes on, some entrepreneurs offer additional goodies to stretch goals, which donors can add on to their existing donation. But Ely stressed to make them manageable in terms of the cost and time it will require the company to make and send the gifts.
With funding stagnant by the second week, Ely suggests cross-promoting with another company (as Bluz sold a product with a component from app maker Blynk), which exposes the product to a new audience. Or attending a live event to promote the product face-to-face, as Bluz did at the MakerFaire in San Francisco, which added a boost at the tail end of its campaign.
But most of the work needs to occur weeks before the campaign launches. A product or company website with a method to collect email addresses and Facebook and Twitter account should be launched six to eight weeks prior to the campaign. A videographer should be hired to film the product, which will be displayed at the top of the Kickstarter page. Since it can run a few thousand dollars, Ely recommended paying some up front and then portioning a percentage of the funds to the videographer, and/or writing the script and editing to save money.
Kickstarter pages must be sent for approval two to seven days before the campaign start date. Ely suggests submitting sooner rather than later. Once he was denied for a computer-aided design drawing that Kickstarter flagged. (Kickstarter does not approve of funding products that do not exist.)
Dan Habib, a filmmaker employed by the University of New Hampshire, said Kickstarter denied his documentary outreach campaign because it was too cause-oriented. It was later approved after Habib edited the description.
You can always change the content of the campaign while it’s operating, even after submitting for approval, but the campaign dates and goals are permanent, says Ely.
And so is the Kickstarter page, once the campaign ends. A week before the deadline, entrepreneurs should insert a link to their permanent website, redirecting those who missed the campaign to presales.
“We received $600 in presales after our campaign so it’s important to set that up immediately,” says Ely.
Monthly updates are important as well.
“Keep them in the loop and be as transparent as possible. If you go silent, they will get mad. If you tell them you’ll be delayed by a month, they won’t be so mad. It’s much better to be up front and honest and be transparent than it is to try to hide anything.”
While entrepreneurs lose 8 percent of their funds (5 percent commission to Kickstarter and 3 percent to credit card processors), plus another 5 percent lost to bad credit cards, Ely still finds Kickstarter worthwhile.
There are no SEC regulations on the rewards-based funding, with the limit as high as $20 million.