Your Kickstarter project failing might be the best thing to happen to you
Failing to meet your funding goal isn’t a failure — it’s a great signal you can use to continue building your company.
With two successful Kickstarter campaigns in my past (one, two), I’m regularly asked to come speak about crowdfunding. One of the most common questions I’m asked is “But what if my project fails?” The honest answer is that if you did everything you could to make your campaign succeed, but it still fails to reach its funding goal, you may conceivably have had the best possible outcome.
I’m a strong believer in the idea of ‘failing fast’. In summary, the idea is to think about your project or business as a series of challenges, each of which have a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ state. In the ‘fail fast’ approach, you’d analyse each challenge by how big the risk is that it causes a failure — and you tackle the challenges that have the biggest chance of failing as soon as you can.
For example, say you’d want to build an app that takes photos of people from Facebook, analyses them, and organises them by who is the sexiest. Immediately, some sizeable challenges pop to mind: Will Facebook allow you access to the photos you need? Is it possible to analyse photos for sexiness? Would anybody use this? Would you be able to make money off this?
Instead of going away to start writing the app, you might do a couple of quick prototypes. You might find out that yes, this is something people would use; yes, you can make money off advertising; and yes, using various Facebook APIs, you could get access to the images. However, you discover that there’s no way of reliably getting a computer to assess sexiness. Assuming for a moment that there is no other way to analyse sexiness, if you’ve spent all your time creating a tool to download photos and selling advertising, you’ve in effect wasted a lot of time in money on something that’s a no-go. In other words: If you fail to solve the hardest problem first, it means you don’t have to worry yourself about the others. Write it off, brush yourself off, get back up, and try something else.
Kickstarter can be a crucial tool in failing as quickly as possible. Say you are trying to record a CD, for example. The first approach is to spend a godawful amount of money on recording your album in the studio, then having thousands of discs pressed, and finally discovering that nobody really wants your CD.
That isn’t to say that Kickstarter takes the pain away: Putting a project online and asking people to back it is a soul-baring exercise. If nobody is interested in buying your CD, it’s indubitably humiliating and depressing… But at least you don’t have an empty bank account and a closet full of compact discs.
Failing isn’t the end…
I’m not saying that not reaching your Kickstarter goal means that you should throw in the towel, though. Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and if your Kickstarter project fails to hit its goal, perhaps being sent back to the drawing board is the best thing that could happen. At the very least, it’ll give you the opportunity to learn, and to re-think how you can win the hearts and minds of your eagerly awaiting masses of fans!