The Kickstarter Experiment – a successful failure

In February, we launched a Kickstarter campaign on February 4th, 2015 which ultimately was unsuccessful at raising a $10,000 funding goal. However, this was not your ordinary Kickstarter…it was an experiment to test a few things, and the results were very interesting. Thus, we’re going to call this a “successful failure”.  Here’s what we were trying to determine:

  1. What is the minimal amount of effort to raise $10K on Kickstarter?
  2. Do people care about customized 3D printed products (the RaverRing)?
  3. Can we use consumer-based 3D printers to scalably manufacture a final product?

What is the minimal amount of effort to raise $10K on Kickstarter?

Well, in short, more than 40 man hours of work.  Here’s what we did in those 40 hours:

  1. Conceptualize, Design and Prototype the RaverRing product: 4 hours
  2. Show RaverRing to potential customers / collaborators: 4 hours
  3. Produce and optimize early-adopter version of RaverRings: 4 hours
  4. Procure components and materials: 2 hours
    1. LED Lights came from Radio Shack
    2. Filament was sponsored by the best 3D Printing Distributer: Cubicity.com
  5. Create Kickstarter Video: 6 hours
  6. Create Kickstarter Campaign: 5 hours
  7. Get rejected by Kickstarter: 1 minute
  8. Get re-instated by Kickstarter after our appeal: 59 minutes
  9. Promote Kickstarter Campaign: 14 hours
    1. Polluting Facebook
    2. Facebook Advertising
    3. Kickstarter Updates (5x)
    4. Polluting Twitter
    5. Making follow up videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEwIVtkW1co)

That translated into:

  1. 35 backers (13 of whom were unknown to me)
  2. 859 video views (17.23% finished video)
  3. One high-school produced promotional video (You3Dit Blog Post)
  4. Average pledge amount: $66.91, Max pledge amount: $1000 (can you guess who this was from?)
Kickstarter Funding Process

Organic growth did not take us to our $10K goal

Had we actually set a lower funding goal, we would have earned roughly $57/hr.  As can be seen in our funding progress chart above, our initial efforts to keep the momentum going and our last ditch effort to try and get some last minute backers helped but were insufficient.

The goal was to raise $10K to purchase 3-4 new, high quality, consumer-grade 3D Printers and 3D print all of the RaverRings ourselves after receiving the hand details from all of our backers.

It was clear that Kickstarter DID help bring in some of our backers but the predominant source was from our promotions on Facebook:

Kickstarter Referrer Analytics

Details of where on the internet our backers came from.

 

 

It’s pretty cool that Kickstarter offers this level of analytics on your project.

kickstarter-referrers

While about 20% of our backers found us via the Kickstarter platform, most of our backers came from our other sources like Facebook.

 

It is definitely fun receiving backing and support from people you don’t know.  That is the rush of business I suppose.

Conclusion on effort: Well it seems that with a “nice-to-have” style jewelry / wearable product, more than 40 hours of work was needed to reach our target…let alone a real product.  While this product did show potential in action (selling inside clubs / festivals for $10.00/ea) this product is also much more of an “impulse buy” and not something you would likely ever buy in advance on a platform like Kickstarter (which has a long lead time).  We were able to take advantage of the Radio Shack bankruptcy to not go broke buying hundreds of LED lights (purchased at $0.75/ea vs. $5.00/ea retail).  Our video was “fun” for some people but most failed to watch the entire video.  Clearly the one take and rushed editing was insufficient to keep our viewers engaged.

Also, when trying toin promote, giving away “free” samples does not work unless it’s done strategically.  Unless you use the “free gear” to get people to a location where they can bring friends and be a captive audience for a specific message you want this target audience to hear, then giving away things for free does not really lead to future sales or any real leads.

2.  Do people really care about customized 3D Printed products?

It’s hard to say why people didn’t necessarily buy RaverRings but the one thing that was for sure was that the “customization” piece didn’t draw in enough people to drive a successful funding campaign.  Our hypothesis was that the personalization options for ring color, the LED color and the specific fit to each backer’s hand would make the product more compelling and drive sales.

While we didn’t survey our backers, we DO know that the backers who did back us were not necessarily “RaverRing” fans, rather “Chris McCoy” fans in that no one purchased the RaverRing off of our Etsy Store after the campaign ended.

3.  Can we use 3D printers to scalably produce 3D printed products?

Well, sadly, we didn’t get to figure this out because our campaign was not funded.  We have had requests for RaverRings in the quantity levels of 3,500 units and there are DJs in Europe who are interested.  But how can we make profit?  Make the time investment work for everyone involved?

It’s a combination of timing, preparation, relevance and getting people to believe in you, your product and your story.  Hard to do in 40 hours.

In conclusion…

If I were going to do a Kickstarter Project again (and I will for sure), I would:

  1. Make sure all teammates are available during the time of the campaign to help out!
  2. Find and develop a product I really really care about so people get behind the story
  3. Plan ahead.  Get a series of tech bloggers your product in advance so they can blog about your campaign once you launch.  Peter Diamandis from his latest book Bold talks at length about launching Kickstarter Campaigns of $500,000+
    1. Peter Diamandis – Secrets to the Most Successful Kickstarter Campaign Ever
    2. Peter Diamandis – 5 Secrets to Unlock Crowdfunding
  4. Make the crowdfunding campaign my job for at least 30 days with the most critical during the campaign itself
  5. Do a better job on the video.  It needs to be succinct and to the point.  Get people excited about why you’re doing this project so they get inspired to see you succeed, but don’t make the video longer than it needs to be.  Plan out what you’re going to say.
  6. Use FOMO and learn from Derek Sivers’s talk on “How to make a movement

Reference Materials:

Did you enjoy the talk?  Download the slides here but first, fill out this Speaker Feedback form!

iManufacture – UC Berkeley – PDF

 

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