In addition to being the president of Digital Aptitude, I’m the co-founder of a new company that raised $115,000 in 22 days on Kickstarter, and I want to share with you how we did it.
Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding community in the world, where companies can launch a product and get market validation and cash to develop the product.
I’ve asked my partner Ryan Frayne to write a blog post on what made our campaign a success to share it with our community. I hope you enjoy it.

The Ups and Downs of Kickstarter

Ryans-Facebook-cover-pic-v2Running a Kickstarter campaign is an amazing experience. It’s like a business startup on steroids. In just 15 days, I’ve been able to raise almost $100,000! And as important as the money is, the market validation that Kickstarter has provided my product has been priceless. All the buzz, media attention, customer feedback and support you get from a successful Kickstarter allows a brand new product to go from unknown to must-have in the blink of an eye.
It’s been a little over 2 weeks since my Kickstarter began and already I’ve learned more, done more, and experienced greater highs and lower lows than any other creative endeavor I’ve ever taken on. In part 1 of this 2 part blog post, I share with you some of the ups and downs that I’ve experienced so far, as well as my strategy for successfully launching a Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarting Your Kickstarter

Launch day is a pretty big deal for any Kickstarter, and doubly important if you’re launching a completely new product like the Windcatcher Air Pad. In my case I was launching my entire company that day, so I knew I had to get it right.
The Saturday before the launch, I sent out a Facebook invite to every one of my Facebook friends; inviting them to my product unveiling on Tuesday May 14th. To build their curiosity they we’re given a quick elevator pitch but not much else. Rather than have my business partner create a separate event, which would have cut the buzz in half, he invited all of his friends to the unveiling as well.
FB invite to kickstarter launch
On the day of the Kickstarter, I sent a Facebook message to each friend that signed up, thanking them for signing up and including a link directly to the Kickstarter page. The results of this strategy were awesome! Because everyone was forced to converge on Facebook to get the link to our Kickstarter, it was easy for them to share the Kickstarter with their friends too. With everyone chatting and talking about the Windcatcher, it became a big party. When people’s coworkers and other onlookers saw all the commotion, they too began checking it out.

Don’t Give Up

Though we started off really strong, we began to falter very quickly. Frankly, I’m super lucky to have been able to reach my goal of $50,000 in just 8 days. Especially considering how bad the campaign was going just two days before our biggest day yet, raising over $26,000 in one day!
As you can see in the chart above, the buzz we generated on launch day quickly evaporated. Having studied many other campaigns, I knew we were in big trouble. Just six days into the campaign, I seriously considered canceling it so we could regroup and try again.

The Perfect Storm

Monday morning; the seventh day of the campaign, everything came together. We were selected as a Kickstarter staff pick, which was crazy huge! We had two great write ups on the blogs Core 77 and GizMag. And we started to use Reddit which turned out to be one of our top referral sites. I went to sleep pretty happy and just hoped that Tuesday would be as great.

Tuesdays Are Awesome!

When I woke up the next day, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Our Kickstarter had gone absolutely bananas!! In addition to raising a ton of money, having so much activity on a single day got a ton of peoples attention. Emails for angel investors, international distributors, and the Press came flooding in.
The crazy thing is that nothing new happend on Tuesday. It just took an extra day for Monday’s events to turn into a real buzz. I suspect this is because people are too busy catching up with everything that happened on the weekend, to really sit down and procrastinate. It’s when people are killing time; browsing Kickstarter, reading blogs, looking on Reddit and checking Facebook, that they’ll discover your Kickstarter and also share it with their friends (who are also killing time).
There’s nothing wrong with canceling a failing Kickstarter campaign. In fact, I’ve talked with creators that have done just that and have come back and knocked it out of the park the next time. But you owe it to yourself not to panic and give yourself at least a couple weeks before throwing in the towel. If I had given up, I would have missed the most amazing opportunity of my life!

Making a Video Without Any Fancy Equipment

The most important part of any Kickstarter project is its video. In many cases, it is the only thing anyone visiting your Kickstarter page will see. If you’re trying to raise money to write a book or art project, it might be OK to shoot everything in one-take on your laptop’s camera. But if you’re trying to Kickstart an actual product that just won’t cut it! Potential backers, bloggers, angel investors, and future business partners will judge your product (and company) based on the video you put on the page.
The video for Windcatcher isn’t perfect but it does get the key elements right.

  • Short: Less is More- If your video is over four minutes long, some people won’t even both clicking
  • Get to the point ASAP- Once you’ve hooked a person, they’ll be willing to watch the rest of the video or even better, stop watching to immediately to back your project
  • Quality Matters- If the lighting or audio in your video is bad or distracting, people will be less likely to take you serious. You don’t need a fancy camera. We shot our video on an iPhone, a makeshift tripod mount, and recorded the audio on a laptop.
  • Editing- You’ll need to use the magic of editing to bring everything together and make your video look better than it actually is. Fortunately editing programs like iMovie are easy to learn. If you don’t have any editing software just find a friend a with a Macbook and beg them to help you out.

We made a ton of mistakes when shooting our video, requiring a lot of reshooting and re-editing. Save yourself a lot of time and learn from our initial mistakes.

Get Feedback Soon and Often- After shooting the entire video and editing everything together, we showed it to friends and family. Their reaction “This is an Air Pad. Why are you in a kitchen?”. We ended up reshooting every indoor scene. Had we sought out feedback sooner, we would have caught this obvious problem early on and saved a ton of time.
Shooting Outdoors is a Huge Challenge- We thought shooting on a sunny day would be a good idea. Turns out it’s a terrible idea! As you can see in the picture above, colors like the red on our Air Pad became way overblown or hot. If you have to shoot outdoors, do so when the sun is at 45 degrees in the sky (early morning or just before sunset)
Contrast Matters: Wearing a dark shirt and shooting the scene on a black counter top made it difficult to see the demo bag.
High Quality Audio is a Must- We didn’t have any fancy wearable microphones, so all the audio we initially recorded was pretty terrible; both indoors and outside. To overcome this, we shot all of our on-screen scenes indoors and recorded the audio with a laptop, located just a foot away from the person talking.
Work with What You Got: To make it look like we were outside I setup a tent indoors. This allowed us to record really high quality audio without any wind or other distracting noises.

Get to the Point- We knew that once people saw the demo of the Windcatcher valve, they were sold. Though we really liked the clip above, it was cut because it didn’t communicate anything useful and was just delaying us from getting to the demo.
Final Video- It required us to make hard choices and redo a lot of work. But given the feedback we’ve received, making sure the video was done right was well worth it!