Coming from India, I had no idea of what a Kickstarter project is. I had heard vaguely about it when people mentioned it during some design conversations, but I had always thought of it more like a verb than a noun. (Kickstarting a project) Which meant that its founders very aptly named it. And my expectations out of my Entrepreneurial Design class was also unknown. I had an idea that we need to raise a thousand dollars in this class but had no idea how. Through this course at School of Visual Arts, I got the opportunity to understand what it means to start a Kickstarter project. And it was not easy by any means to reach out to so many people and convince them of your idea. Moreover, I was fascinated to explore the Kickstarter platform and see the wide variety of things that people had to share. I always thought that you need very tangible items to sell and make money and that people would only be interested if it benefited them directly. I was proved wrong when I got to see the diverse variety of projects that people funded on this platform. This was more like a place which nurtures exciting ideas that may or may not directly benefit the backers. Some people may back you to encourage you to keep working in a positive direction. That was a surprising delight for me. This makes Kickstarter a great place to showcase your new ideas to the world and connect with like-minded people.
My Kickstarter topic and its relevance
Coming to my topic of Kickstarter, I along with my friend Crystal Wang came up with an idea of organizing a workshop about AR/VR for designers who wanted to foray into this new world from their traditional arena of 2D screens. The reason for this was purely because I am fascinated by the richness and possibilities of the AR/VR world, and I want to get into this space. So we tried to kill two birds with one stone. Organizing this workshop gave us the opportunity to dig more into the topic and connect with people and organisations that were doing some exemplary creative work in this field. It also helped us to network with talented people from this field. What I found even more interesting was the fact that there were reals people in this world who wanted to share their learnings and thoughts with others. All the speakers that we contacted were kind enough to share their wealth of knowledge with budding talented students. For me, this was a very promising and assuring start to my design innings here in the US.
My Kickstarter campaign
I owe a big thanks to my partner Crystal Wang for collaborating with me on this project. We both had our strengths and weaknesses, and we teamed up well to compliment each other on our skills. We had many sessions of iteration before we finally came up with the idea of this workshop. We knew that we wanted to do something interesting in this domain but did not know what and how. Our instructors, Gary and Christina, helped us immensely in narrowing down to something possible in the scope of the time.
Once we had an idea of what we wanted to do, the next step was to get in touch with people and companies who were working in this space. This was the time I unravelled the power of another hidden gem — the social media. I had never used Twitter before as it was not very popular within my friend circle. But through this project, I got a taste of the power of social media (especially twitter) and how it is now a significant tool in connecting to the world and getting your idea across. The medium was like a magnet and thanks to the algorithms, and it was extremely easy to find and connect with like-minded people and organisation. This helped us to reach to a lot of people and get a right amount of support from them. This itself was a big win for me.
I also got a lot of love from all my friends, relatives and mentors from India. The support that I got from them was terrific. Their primary motivation in backing my project had nothing to do with the workshop itself. Instead, they were all supportive of me as an individual. They were intrigued by the fact that I was trying something new and wanted to encourage me in the process. This was also the time I got a sense of the immense support that I had of all my friends and well-wishers. I hope with the successful completion of the workshop, I can make them proud.
Hurdles and Successes
Having outlined the process, I need to add here that although we reached our goal in 2 weeks, the process was laborious and there were many roadblocks too. The first draft which we had created for our project did not get us many backers. Christina helped us understand what was missing in our draft and what stopped people from backing our project. Very quick edits to the draft and making it visually rich enabled us to get some backers. Both me and Crystal made an exhaustive list of our networks and reached out to them through all our social media handles. (Apologies for spamming our friends’ timelines with posters and banners of our project). Although we reached and connected with a lot of people through Twitter, we did not get significant sponsors or backers from that channel. What really came handy was my good old Whatsapp and Facebook. Almost 80 % of all our backing came from these 2 mediums. And by the end of the 2 weeks, we were in a race to finish and reach our final goal. The last few bucks came from a dear friend and that was the pinnacle of my happiness. I had no idea that the project would reach its goal when we started out. But here it was, a success.
My learnings from this project
My learnings from this entire experience was manyfold. First and foremost it taught me that if you have a vision, there are many people who would support it. You just need to have a right platform and the proper understanding of your target audience. Second, I learnt that you need not always polish your offering to bring it out to people, it is OK to bring the idea out in its inception stage and keep improving upon it as you move along. And third, it is always a good idea to collaborate with your target audience in co-creating the product. This not only makes the product richer, it also helps your target audience to associate themselves with the outcome and support it in its journey.
This entire experience left many germs in me for some prospective future action. I now know of a platform which can help me connect with like-minded people and collaborate with them in creating unique offerings/experiences. I hope this is a start of a really successful journey where I can directly connect with my audience.
I would like to thank my instructors Gary Chou and Christina Xu along with all my wonderful classmates from MFA IXD. And a huge shout out to all my backers who helped us run a successful campaign. Thank you!